Naya Kites! (an M2010 Standard deck)

Banefire.jpegBogardanHellkite.jpegHallowedBurial.jpeg
One of the cards I was most tickled to see among the spoilers was Bogardan Hellkite. Hellkite is an elegant, very effective card – effective in game play terms, as a flash critter that can clear the board or dome the opponent, and effective in card design terms, as it’s a dragon that burns things as it flies in from above. How cool is that?
Knowing that Hellkites were back in, I was intent on seeing if they had a place. Given the new dual lands, the most likely home for a Hellkite is in a deck somewhere on the G/x axis, whether that’s Jund (B/R/G), Naya (W/R/G), pure red-green (hm…R/G)…or in five-color control, as a means of diversifying your finishers. After all, you can recur a Hellkite with a Cruel Ultimatum, right?
At the moment, I’m happiest with a Naya take on “stuff with Hellkites.” Specifically, this is a control deck featuring Hellkites and all manner of high-powered Naya goodies. Click through to the extended entry for a deck list and some commentary.

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Valkyria

In general, I don’t like console and computer games. My main complaints boil down to the assertion that grinding is not gameplay, and the idea that repeatedly attempting the exact same task is mind-numbingly dull. Thus my appreciation for Magic, wargames, and roleplaying games. Each of these game categories (and you can read Magic as “CMGs” if you like) generates novel challenges in each game, or at a minimum novel experiences. Watching my friends try the same damn level in some Resident Evil game over and over again just hurts me.
Thus, I’ve been pleased by the experience of first watching and then playing Valkyria Chronicles on the PS3. Valkyria is a “tactics” game, which is to say it’s a standard wargame. From that perspective, it’s quite conventional, being an igo-ugo system (that is, all my dudes take their actions, then all yours do), but it spices things up with a command point system (so it’s not so much “all my dudes” as it is “all my command points”) and by properly capitalizing on the things a computer or console system can offer. To wit, it has hidden movement by enemy units (impractical in board wargames unless you want to take the time to play double blind with a referee) and an elegant opportunity fire system. Whereas opportunity fire in conventional board wargames can be clunky (although the classic game Space Hulk has a pretty smooth execution for opportunity fire in a boardgame), with pauses and people asking you to back up moves, in Valkyria the enemy units just, well, fire while you move. Clean. It does, humorously, mean they’ll keep shooting your unit if you just have it stand there while you think about what you want to do with it. We call that motivation.
Overall, Valkyria plays nicely as a solid traditional wargame interspersed with story, sans the usually (for me) mind-crushing combination of repetition and grinding that I tend to find in console games. Plus, there’s the joy of watching your troops run around and shoot up the enemy, in a visceral That-Chess-Game-From-New-Hope kind of way.
My friends enjoy the compare-contrast of how each of us plays the game. We have one person taking chances, and another gunning for exploits (for example, in some scenarios it works well to run a single person forward like a lunatic and just gun down the enemy while taking fire). I apparently run it like a ‘real’ battle, advancing my soldiers behind their armored support, and using bounding overwatches to cover the battlefield.
I haven’t found a lot of wargames I enjoy on computer and console systems. Too many times I’ve been disappointed (most often by the warped RTS trait of making me build units during the battle – why am I doing that in Dawn of War?). Valkyria is a lot of fun, and really captures what I do like about wargames, while adding in a fun story and leveraging the things a console can do well that a board can’t.
So, hey, if you have a PS3 lying around, give it a shot. 🙂

Fear no more

As it happens, the comprehensive changes to the comprehensive rules (as outlined in the July 2009 update bulletin) contain some gems. Thanks to SSO for pointing this one out (I admit I kind of glanced for a couple seconds at the page describing comprehensive rules updates):
702.11
This is intimidate, an evergreen keyword that doesn’t quite exist yet. A creature with intimidate can’t be blocked except by artifact creatures and/or creatures that share a color with it. It’s coming soon, so rather than renumber everything in a few months, it was added in early. (It essentially takes the place of fear, which will remain in place but won’t appear on new cards.)

Mark Rosewater has talked previously about how he didn’t like that the Fear keyword was linked to black, but that it would be too problematic a change to try and modify how Fear works. Generating a new keyword seems like a good plan, and Intimidate is a very appropriate name now that it’s generic across the colors.
I notice that they haven’t yet modified the Oracle text of Skirk Shaman to reflect that it does, indeed, have Intimidate.

“Just thought you should know…” July 2009 update bulltein

The July update bulletin is up here. Unsurprisingly, there are a lot of card changes (changing zone names will do that), and the usual Mark Gottlieb funnies:
How do you play Coal Stoker as a land? Simple: Have a Coal Stoker already on the battlefield, equip it with Runed Stalactite so it’s a Saproling, control Life and Limb so it’s also a land, and play Vesuva copying it. Sadly, you’ll no longer get any mana in this situation. Just thought you should know.

A random consequence of M2010

If you take a quick glance at the Cascade Pulse build (here), you’ll see that it only loses four cards with the rotation – the four copies of Wrath of God. Hm. So what do we do about that?
What is valued in a Wrath effect differs deck by deck. In the case of Cascade Pulse, we place a premium on Wrath’s ability to hit on turn four (or five with too many Vivids) to rescue us from very aggressive starts by opposing decks. Secondarily, its ability to kill anything is tremendously useful. With this in mind, how do the alternatives pan out?
Hallowed Burial – One turn slower, but otherwise it does everything we want a Wrath to do in this deck (with the bonus of being somewhat better against Lark).
Austere Command – The ability to clear pesky enchantments and artifacts is nice, but coming down no sooner than turn six means that we’re going to get rolled significantly more often by various explosive aggro decks.
Planar Cleansing – Straight-up terrible for this deck. The ability to sweep permanents is significantly less awesome in a deck that wants to have planeswalkers in play.
So, the upshot is that our best bet, absent Wrath of God, is Hallowed Burial. One turn slower will mean more losses, which is unfortunate. I’m not sure if there are other modifications we’ll want to make to the deck to offset that.
That said, the move from Wrath to Burial has a fascinating knock-on effect that did not occur to me ahead of time, but which became evident in play.
You can’t cascade into Hallowed Burial.
In the old Cascade Pulse build, it was possible to cast Bituminous Blast and cascade into Wrath of God (indeed, Blast could cascade into everything in the deck except for Liliana, Cruel Ultimatum, and other Blasts). Is it good to cascade into your Wrath effect? Mostly, no. It’s annoying to be Blasting away the one creature on the opponent’s board only to see a useless Wrath kicked up instead of, say, a Bloodbraid or Garruk. There are some cases where it would be handy to be able to find a Wrath, but then you can’t rely on it (since you’re more likely to hit any one of twenty other cards than however many remaining Wraths you have).
Thus, now that we’ve been forced to push from four to five mana, we will no longer uselessly cascade into our Wrath effect. Is that good enough to offset the one-turn delay? So far, I’m not sure, but it’s a fascinating and, for me at least, unexpected consequence of the core set change.