Decade of Aggression (Alara Reborn Standard)

As an exercise in fully exploring a new set, I’m taking a stab at making a series of Standard decks this week using and taking into account new options from Alara Reborn. For the first deck of the week, I’m going to pitch a white-red-green aggro build that I’m perhaps not-so-cleverly calling “Decade of Aggression” (from here). In this build, I’m using thirteen Alara Reborn cards in the main and four more in the sideboard, which is a pretty chunky contribution from this new set.
Click through to the extended entry for deck list and commentary.

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A trace of ramp

Trace of Abundance initially seemed like a very exciting card, right up until I remembered a key bit of wording. Let’s take a look…
The upside
Shroud, man, shroud.
One of the significant downsides of Fertile Ground is that it converts the enchanted land into a super-high-value target. Destroy it and you gain card and tempo advantage; bounce it and you gain tempo advantage and get to trade your bounce card for a card, instead of merely trading your bounce card for tempo. It is, in a word, painful. Nonetheless, ramp archetypes since the release of Lorwyn have relied heavily on Fertile Ground. Trace can replace Fertile Ground with a color-appropriate enchantment that keeps its enchanted land safe, preventing 2-for-1s and tempo-for-1s.
The downside
This is where my reverie ended, as I suddenly recalled that Garruk targets. Fertile Ground is favored over other ramp methods (e.g. Rampant Growth) because of the synergy between Ground and Garruk. Since Trace has Shroud rather than semi-Shroud (aka Troll ability), it blocks Garruk, which is unfortunate.
The outcome
I think the net effect of Shroud on Trace is to keep it out of many Standard ramp decks, since they benefit so much from the presence of Garruk. That said, there’s extensive deck design space to use this sucker in Block, and if you happen to want to build a Garruk-less ramp deck, Trace is a good choice.

Alara Reborn in Gatherer

Alara Reborn is available in Gatherer now. If you’re not doing something else (e.g. being in the wedding party for your good friend, which is what I’ll be up to tomorrow) you can hit up a prerelease and check out the cards in person. Whether you can make it or not, you can check out the cards that way I’m doing right now by clicking here.

From the finals of GP Kobe 2009

Courtesy of a heads up from Top 8 Magic, here is game one of the finals from GP Kobe 2009:

I thought their method of resolving Desire was interesting and unexpected. Thanks to Brian for the heads up, and Naoaki Umesaki for taking the video and putting it together nicely (notice the helpful tracking of life totals, cards played, mana pools, and storm counts). Apparently the remaining games from the final match will be posted as well. I’m looking forward to it.

From the era of random maulings

From a thread discussing older versus newer editions of D&D at RPGnet, with an eventual focus on whether earlier D&D tried to be ‘realistic’ –
Travel times is another one of those weird spots where it’s become some what vestigial. Once upon a time how long it took you to get from A to B mattered a whole hell of a lot since every 8 hours (or whatever) you stood a chance of getting randomly mauled by a rampaging owlbear or a horde of orcs. Which, by the way, doesn’t simulate shit unless you honestly think everyone who travels gets eaten by a grue every 10 miles. But as random encounters fall by the wayside the real reason for wanting to know how long it takes to get from A to B becomes a whole lot less important except for time-critical style adventures. Lo is born the scene based travel challenges and planned possible encounters to keep up the mystery of travel, and so dies the art of the overland map and careful management of how long travel takes.
I like it.

Pulse for the people

Mike Flores previewed this card earlier this week:
I was interested in this at a basic level, as it’s sort of a Vindicate -/+. Minus, because it can’t hit a land, plus because of the “echoing” feature.
The big question is where the Pulse fits in. Although our initial impulse might be to slot it into the Pernicious Deed position in a B/G rock-style deck, it isn’t nearly as reliable in that role, since it’s only a sweeper in those instances where your opponent has run out many of the same token (or, even rarer, many of the same card).
That said, it can still assassinate a planeswalker, and is even more versatile than Pithing Needle, which is our other reasonable choice in a pure B/G deck. With that in mind, I threw a B/G deck together and did a little testing. Click through to the extended entry for the list.

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Two from Channel Fireball

Clearly I haven’t been in a position to write a lot in the last week; I was thinking of going to a Standard tournament, but that did not happen. However, I’d like to point people toward two good articles at We have:
Initial Technology – First Thoughts on Alara Reborn – Luis Scott-Vargas walks through the Alara Reborn cards that have been spoiled so far and highlights some of the likely hits.
The Riki Rules – PTQing for Fun and no Profit – Riki Hayashi talks about his experience at this PTQ, and why a judge might want to play at a PTQ, even without a high likelihood of actually winning the event.

A midrange Standard

Over at Channel Fireball, Gerry T breaks down the current Standard, including a discussion of how it’s all about the midrange, and how that and a lack of super-powerful card drawing in most decks has made individual card quality very important (and how this tends to null Thoughtseize a lot, e.g.).
This is a helpful breakdown of Standard as it is right now. Expect (hope?) that Alara Reborn will mix this up, but in the mean time, if you’re going to a Standard event – for example, a $1K at Superstars – then the article gives a clear, cogent overview of the traits and specific decks of Standard.

Palladium, digitally

In a pleasant surprise, Palladium has decided to monetize its back catalog by starting digital sales of its RPG line at DriveThruRPG. You can click here to see the available Palladium line. Nicely enough, the PDFs are discounted, meaning you can, for example, pick up the original Rifts core rulebook for $12.49.
The ability to monetize your past products by offering them in digital form is a good thing; the discounts and the convenience of not adding more physical products to my shelves mean that I’m inclined to blow a couple bucks from time to time on an older book that I may have been interested in years ago, and can now mine for ideas or just read with a sense of appreciation for the history of RPGs.