Fortress of Solitude

America’s Moat Wanted

I’ve been trying to update this blog as often as I have time for. It’s actually a lot of fun and I wish I could do it more. Anyway, here’s an Oath list I’ve been working on. This is an update of a deck I wrote about in June.

The idea here is to be a control deck first and an Oath deck second. We’ve got Moat in the list to make life miserable for much of the format, and we’ve got a second Moat that we can Oath into play called “Blazing (Saddles) Archon”.

My original list didn’t run Supreme Verdict and I was using Sensei’s Divining Top instead of Sylvan Library. I think Verdict is a good option to have in order to deal with Mentor and Pyromancer decks, and it’s another way to protect big daddy Mind Sculptor.

moat-oath

I played a version of this deck in the past and it performed pretty well. The Moat plan worked pretty well, but I ended up having some trouble against Gush decks that I hadn’t anticipated.

The problem I found was that the deck was slow to close out a game. The glacially slow progression tended to give my opponent time to exploit a weakness in my defenses.Blazing Archon and Dragonlord Dromoka are great, but five damage is sort of a slow clock in the Vintage world. I’m not convinced that this is a deal breaker though, the deck still has a lot of positive matchups.

Sylvan Library

I’m hoping that between Griselbrand and Dragonlord Dromoka’s lifelink I’ll be able to draw extra cards with Sylvan without having to worry about paying so much life. Sylvan is insane with Jace and Library of Alexandria, and hopefully it’s enough to keep up with the draw engines that the rest of the format has.

Sylvan Library

Initially I wanted Divining Top instead because I could use it to “hide” cards from Duress or Cabal Therapy by floating them on the top of my deck. In practice this doesn’t come up all that much, and I have found Divining Top to be much easier for my opponent to counter or disrupt.

The somewhat limited test games have shown that Sylvan is absolutely amazing in control mirrors. Against decks that can pressure your life total quickly, it’s not nearly as good. Still I feel comfortable running one at this point.

Cantrips

I made sure to max out on  cantrips to make up for the loss of Demonic and Vampiric Tutor. Four Preordains and the single Ponder/Brainstorm worked pretty well. Lately I have decided to try playing Gitaxian Probe in addition to the other blue cantrips. I had to cut a Preordain and go down to three Mental Missteps to make it work.

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Potential Candidates for Creatures

I’ve been wondering if playing Blazing Archon in the main deck is needed or not and recently I have been trying a list that’s essentially the same as the one I posted above but with Consecrated Sphinx in the main deck instead of Archon (moving Archon to the sideboard).

Consecrated Sphinx

I haven’t tested Consecrated Sphinx enough to be sure if I like it or not, but there are a few things about it that I like. Sphinx is easy to cast for this deck, just like Dromoka. I love the idea of having two castable creatures that function well in control matchups. My theory is that I should be able to simply ignore cards like Grafdigger’s Cage and Containment Priest if I have to by landing a Dromoka or Sphinx and controlling the board with Moat or Supreme Verdict.

I’m not particularly excited about the four power on Consecrated Sphinx though. I’ve had more than a few games where I stayed ahead on cards and controlled the board, but couldn’t win fast enough for my tastes. Blazing Archon is a four-turn clock, and Sphinx takes five turns to deal lethal damage.

Sideboard

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I’m reasonably content with this sideboard, but I’ll be making changes if I decide I need them.

There aren’t that many dedicated anti-Dredge cards, but there’s a reason for that. I’ve already got Moat, Blazing Archon, and Supreme Verdict in the main deck. If I bring in Pithing Needles, Balance, Strip Mine, Tormod’s Crypt, and Rest in Peace I think that’s more than enough to buy me some time to win.

Against Shops I have Nature’s Claim and Swords to Plowshares, plus Steel Sabotage. I can also bring in Strip Mine to go up to sixteen lands. Pithing Needle is also an option depending on what kind of Workshop deck they’re playing.

I feel that the worst problem is that the slow speed of the deck could make the combo matchups a lot less favorable. Arcane Laboratory is one potential solution, but I’m going to keep brainstorming ideas. It might just be that combo decks are a weakness I’ll have to accept.

Member Berry Pie

I really enjoy playing this deck, and I hope if proves to be good and not just fun. I have a special fondness for Moat and Mana Drain, so perhaps my nostalgia is clouding my judgment! I plan on updating this post or writing a follow up as I gather more information about the decks performance, so stay tuned!

If you’d like to support more content and help me get to Vintage Champs in 2017, click here. Special Thanks to all of you who have become Patrons, helped me build decks, or just been cool and supportive people. I appreciate it more than you know.

My Favorites

Over the past few years I’ve done quite a few articles. In some respects things can become repetitive, but there are also certain articles that stick out to me for various reasons. Here are a few of the articles that I have written that I really enjoyed:

Art of Darkness with Jesper Myrfors

Of all the things I have written, this article is possibly my favorite of all time. This was the second time I interviewed Jesper, and I always enjoyed talking to him about the history of Magic: the Gathering and his involvement in it.

The Dark is often remembered as a sub-par set, but I think of it as a magnificent achievement. I have always been a fan of heavy metal and the “Goth” subculture, so the dark themes in this set made me fall in love with it.

I also like to let the world know just how important that Jesper Myrfors was to the success of Magic. The people making the decisions at Wizards of the Coast wanted to lower overhead on the production costs of MTG by using recycled art from old Dungeons and Dragons sets! The recycled art would have looked “good”, but it would have been generic and not had that original element that made the early sets so memorable.

The art in contemporary Magic sets is excellent, but all the digital art and unyielding art direction makes for a highly homogenized look for each new release. On one hand this does tie all the cards in a set together very well, but on the other hand we lose some of the iconic and unique card arts that we used to get.

Vintage 101: Prison Break

I wrote this article because a reader had asked me for some tips to help him defeat Mishra’s Workshop Prison decks. He let me know that he was a new Vintage player and he found it frustrating and nearly impossible to beat all the Shops decks he was facing. Instead of writing him some hints directly, I let him know that I would dedicate an entire article on how to approach the matchup.

Before writing this article I consulted with various skilled Vintage players to brainstorm ideas. I like to think I’m a decent player, but I’m also willing to admit I’m far from the best out there. People like Niels Thiim, Thomas Dixon, and Ryan Eberhart were kind enough to discuss this topic with me. The combination of my knowledge and theirs added up to something that I think is a useful resource for new Vintage players.

The Eternal Spotlight: Eternal Weekend at Bernies

This article was one of the last articles I wrote for PureMTGO before moving to MTGGoldfish. It’s one of my favorites because several of the decks (and their pilots) that I featured in this article ended up making top eight in that year’s Vintage Championships.

I picked the decks to highlight because I felt that they had been doing well at the time, and because I knew from following the format that those players were very good. Brian Kelly had written a very good article about his Salvager’s Oath deck and after reading it I knew he was a tremendous player. Ryan Eberhart was (and is still) a very talented player, and I felt like Jeskai Delver was the best Gush deck that the format had to offer at the time. Sullivan Brophy had just won the NYSE with Dredge, and I felt like he had the skill and deck list to have another fantastic finish.

Image result for dragonlord dromoka

I wrongly assumed that Martello Shops would be the best performing Workshop deck, and I also didn’t think that Grixis Thieves had the goods to win the event. I wasn’t as aware of the development of Ravager MUD as I should have been though. Grixis combo/control Time Vault decks had been doing poorly on MTGO around that time so I guess I wrote it off.

Vintage 101: Time to Golem

Most of the time I have to keep my opinions somewhat in check. I wasn’t able to just flat-out say that I didn’t want Lodestone Golem restricted, so I focused on presenting both sides of the argument. I do want people to have fun playing Vintage, but I also don’t want to cripple the prison decks in the format either. Luckily Shops have survived in other incarnations, so the world is safe for now (until something ridiculous like Thorn of Amethyst goes on the chopping block).

To the Vintage Community…

I loved writing these articles and I hope you enjoyed reading them just as much. Thanks for all your continued support over the past two years, I really have to say that the entire community has been amazing to me.

There’s also another thing I’d like to state for the record. I’m certainly nobody special and I’m far from the best player out there. I have a ton of respect for the talented players (and Vintage writers) that have come before me. I frequently do research for my work by reading old articles by Menendian, Mark Hornung, Matt Elias, Andrew Probasco, and many more. Without all of you awesome people I simply couldn’t do any of this. I’m really hoping I can make it to Eternal Weekend 2017 so that I can get to feel like part of the entire scene instead of just a faceless MTGO personality too.

If you’d like to see more blog posts and different kinds of content, or if you’d like to support my trip to Champs in 2017 click here.

 

Some Thoughts on MTGO

The comments expressed in this blog are my own, and in no way reflect the opinions of anyone other than myself. Strap on your tinfoil hat and crack a moxie, because here we go. 

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Magic Online, A Love/Hate Relationship

I love Magic Online, I really do. I’ve tried Cockatrice and Xmage, and it’s a good thing those programs are free because I can’t imagine wanting to pay to play them. I love that MTGO allows me to play Vintage every day, and the client has allowed me to become a skilled Vintage player in a relatively short amount of time. I’ve defeated world-class players in my time on MTGO, and I think that’s due to the fact that I can practice so often.

Now that I’ve made it clear that I do indeed love Magic Online, I’d like to go into the things about it that I absolutely do not like, or that I think should change.

Prizes on MTGO

When Magic Online introduced Play Points I was very unhappy with that change. I didn’t like getting untradeable objects as prizes because they are not nearly as useful as the event tickets they’re supposed to be emulating.

Image result for mtgo play points

 I’ve since accepted the play points change, and for someone like me they aren’t the worst thing in the world. I win a healthy percentage of my matches, but I lose enough to not have to worry about collecting thousands of points. Unfortunately not all players can say such things.

Rich Shay has almost five thousand  play points in his account! In order for him to be able to “spend” them he would have to join multiple limited queues at once, drop during round one, and sell the winnings. It would take hours and hours just to try to eke out some value from that pile of play points. The average value of Magic Online cards is so low that you couldn’t possibly hope to turn play points into an amount of Tickets that was even close to the same value! For example, I once turned a drafts worth of play points (140 I think) into about five tickets. This is much, much lower than the fourteen tickets that 140 play points is allegedly equivalent to.

Rich was kind enough to take a picture of his Play Point total for me…

Doubling Up on Event Costs

The other thing I didn’t like about the play points update was that the cost of daily events doubled! When events cost twice as much it really hurts the players with low win percentages. When events were six tickets a mediocre player didn’t have to feel so hopeless when they paid for an event. Nowadays spending twelve tickets must be a tough sell for those players that rarely win anything! It is no surprise to me that Dailies never increased in popularity after the change.

Image result for mtgo treasure chests

Recently us players got Treasure Chests added to our prize pools. Lucky us! I haven’t been playing dailies for a little while so I haven’t opened any chests, but I have heard a ton of stories about how bad the contents of these things are! Sure, sometimes you’ll win the lottery, but most of the time you’ll be left with a cruddy digital scratch ticket in your hands.

The plan to “fix” treasure chests is to make them tradeable. How will that POSSIBLY fix the problem? Booster packs are tradeable, but they’re worth money because people can enter them in drafts not because people actually open the things! The only people who will want to buy your Treasure Chests from you are casual people who don’t know or don’t care that they’re hemorrhaging money by opening the chests. The chests will end up like the MTGO prize packs were and they’ll be dirt cheap to purchase. I mean, you’ll know how much the prizes you’re playing for are worth, but you won’t be happy with that number.

So, us Magic Online players are now paying more to play and we’re getting less in return. I don’t like that. I know that Wizards can’t give everybody tons and tons of prizes, otherwise that would make those prizes worthless, but I do feel like we could be getting treated better. I have a few ideas about that.

Use Treasure Chests as Bonuses. 

Instead of making the chests replace a known-value prize, just add one or two to the prize pool for the best finishers of an event. I’m not sure what the  exact perfect ratio would be, but I think it could be something like this: For the low-level drafts (pack per win or whatever they’re called now) first place gets a treasure chest. For a Daily Event, going undefeated earns you a chest or two, maybe 3-1 gives you one.

The two-player, heads up queues currently only pay out in play points, which is beyond unexciting. Once upon a time I’d play the heads up queues until I won a draft set, then I’d draft the packs. I can’t bring myself to play one of these things when the only prize is more boring play points. How about finding a way to give the winner something interesting? If you win three of these matches in a row you could win a Treasure Chest. If you participate in say, 30 of these in a month, you get a Treasure Chest when the next MOPR (Magic Online Player Rewards) promos are given out. Leagues should go back to the prizes they used to have, but add some chests to the prize pool.

The idea of opening these Treasure Chests is not inherently bad, they just need to be done in the proper way. If the chests are a bonus, people aren’t going to get so mad when their contents are worthless! People might actually become excited to see the things, and that’s a good thing.

On the topic of the MOPR program (and other promo programs like MOCS). I really feel like the player base could and should be getting more for their money. There are no more six ticket events. The cheapest event is an eight ticket league, and the offerings get more and more expensive as you go on.

I love that MTGO rewards store activity, but I feel like this could be improved. Most of the promos are just not exciting. The promos that I have been excited for were cool enough that I spent twenty or forty dollars in the MTGO store to get them. The event participation promos cost a minimum of sixteen dollars to earn, yet they’re often lackluster as well.

I know it’s not possible to give away something crazy like a Black Lotus in the player rewards program, but I think that there are cheap-ish staples that could easily be made into MOPR cards. Gush was a promo recently, and that’s the kind of thing I’d like to see more of! Also, this program could also be used to give out a single Treasure Chest each month as well. The odds of getting something valuable seem pretty low, and if the threshold for earning one is high enough (say $40-$60 in the MTGO store or something) then there’s no reason you couldn’t get some.

Image result for mtg gush mopr

 

Redemption and Selling Cards/Collections

I’ve never redeemed a set before, but this program is vital to the health of MTGO. When a new player talks to me about wanting to buy in to Magic Online there’s one concern the all seem to voice. People are afraid to plunk down money on digital objects because if MTGO were to go belly up they’d lose their investment.

I always tell prospective players that buying in to MTGO is safe for a few reasons. I explain that it’s easy to sell off your MTGO account to a dealer like MTGOTraders or Cardhoarder. If people know that it’s easy to convert digital cards into paper money they’re more likely to feel comfortable buying digital objects. Redemption is yet another way that digital objects are turned into physical product, and this does a lot to alleviate people’s completely rational concerns about the digital Magic medium.

Any steps to make redemption harder should be reversed. I know that the redemption policy is a pain for WotC, but without it they could kill their golden goose. After all, selling complete sets also benefits dealers, and dealers are extremely important to the health of Magic Online. Without reputable dealers selling cards through the web it would be difficult to get what you need to build a deck. The fact that you can buy (or trade into) a new deck in ten minutes makes MTGO an incredible asset to anyone looking to test specific decks.

A lot of people seem to be afraid that the redemption policy will be destroyed altogether eventually. I certainly hope that is not the case, because too many cards in the system is not good for anyone. Draft chaff is already cluttering up people’s collections to the point where some folks have multiple accounts just to hold junk cards. Too many extra cards make the common and uncommon staples lower in price than they otherwise would be, which could problem for the value of collections.

The addition of Play Points into the MTGO economy also has affected this aspect of the platform. When Event Tickets were the only currency it made cashing out an account even easier. Under the new system all accounts that participated in any form of constructed tournament will have untradeable objects they’ll be stuck with when they sell their collections. For some folks this won’t be a huge detriment,  but I know that there are plenty of players who have gone infinite several times over with a product they literally cannot give away!

Final Thoughts

Play Points are not all bad. In some ways they have balanced out the prize values for events. If Wizards of the Coast could work on finding a way for people to turn extra play points into something useful then they would be perfectly fine for everyone. I really think that being able to buy packs from the MTGO store with play points would help a lot, or perhaps a prize wall.

Too many prizes would devalue people’s collections, but we are very far away from that being an issue. I sincerely believe that the prize pool across all the tournament offerings could be increased, if only slightly. Giving people more prizes will increase their desire to play, as long as those prizes remain rare enough to be valuable. Perhaps people could be given avatars for participating in events like the Power Nine Challenge or Legacy Challenge. I wouldn’t mind if a play mat feature was added, it sure would be a lot more relevant than that deck box feature (seriously, who cares if Karn or Jace is on the deck box for your Stax deck?).

I sincerely hope that this doesn’t come off as too negative. I really do love MTGO and I play it every day. I think that there are a lot of great people working to make things better, and I know they have a tough job on their hands. Hopefully improvements will be made and the eternal constructed formats I love so much will continue to grow.

Thanks for reading! If you’d like to help support this blog, or to help me travel to Vintage Champs 2017, click here! Feel free to leave any comments, or just send me some delicious spam. Smash me in Vintage on MTGO as Islandswamp, or heckle me on Twitter @josephfiorinijr – Rumble McSkirmish

 

 

Eternal Weekend 2017

Hello all!

I’ve been working very hard lately at cranking out additional content and it’s been exhausting but enjoyable. I hope that you all enjoyed reading the two articles I put out last week, and I look forward to releasing a couple more this week. I will also try to do another blog post each week, hopefully a longer one than this.

My new goal for 2017 is to attend Eternal Weekend, and hopefully play a real deck in the Vintage Championships. If you’d like to help with that goal, you can check out my Patreon page here: https://www.patreon.com/user?u=4271290

I originally stated that I was going to try to get some equipment for producing Vintage videos, but it’s pretty clear that isn’t going to happen any time soon. However I still may be able to make it to E.W. 2017 if I start saving for it now.

This year’s event was pretty great, although it was a little bittersweet watching the action and thinking of how badly I wanted to be there. Thanks to all of you that sent me stories and pics from the events!

Last but not least, thanks to Carl Rodel and Boba Gra for becoming Patrons. I very much appreciate it! I’d also like to thank all the folks who donated physical cards, and all the folks who helped me out when I went to the TMD Open.

I’ll be posting something else soon, or updating this post as I find the time. Thanks!

Help me get to E.W. 2017