MTG Arena


I have had the opportunity to play the new Magic: The Gathering online client MTG Arena. I will say it is a fun and engaging experience. There are some things I like and some things I dislike about the system.
To begin, in Arena you are given a decent amount of cards to start and they are formulated into introduction pack type decks for you to use from the first moment you sign on. These decks are fun and can be a great way to learn the game. In addition, there are booster packs available for you to open and edit the decks provided or make new ones yourself. However, this is one of the main problems with Arena. In order to upgrade your decks, you must either pay for packs, or win packs by grinding games online. There is no trading (currently) in Arena, and thus, in order to make a deck to the specifications you want, you need to pull the appropriate cards from your packs. There is a wild card system in place where one of the cards in your pack may be a wild card, thus allowing you to turn it into any card of the same rarity (which is a one-time use), but they do help with securing playsets. The ability to purchase packs for cash also skews the game in favor of those willing to spend the cash in most cases. The cards are still randomly slotted into the packs, so there is no guarantee you will get the cards you need. I have thoroughly enjoyed grinding games and watching my deck get better incrementally as I pull new cards and it has made the opening of digital packs a much more exciting experience. I prefer it to simply going online and buying cards from an online vendor to have them traded to me. That being said, I can see the in game economy getting out of whack pretty quickly, once players start to secure bona fide decks since there would be no real separation from the participants playing some form of the intro decks. Winning, not just playing, games or completing the challenges are the only way to earn packs or coins, so at some point the underpowered decks will find it more and more difficult to upgrade.
When it comes to game play, the graphics and mechanics engine is great. The animations, look and feel realistic and music score make it a truly engaging experience. Set stables such as; Hazoret or Glorybringer have full animations that come out of the cards, planeswalkers have voices, and the combat graphics make the game far more engaging than something like MTGO and are much closer to the dynamic feel of Duels of the Planeswalkers. The turn mechanics are also very good and are set up to expedite gameplay. The game automatically yields to the opponent if there is no possible play, taps mana for you upon castings spells and will skip phases of combat if nothing can be done. The key here is this can all be turned off manually if you want to, but leaving it on does not come with the risk of clicking through an important phase by accident.
So something that I do hope is expanded upon in the future is the number of cards available in Arena. Currently, there is a limited card pool that does not even encompass standard, the oldest set in the system is Amonkhet. Also, the current set up for draft is extremely infrequent and thus really holds back the system. I am sure this is something that will be added after the Beta, so for now, I will not gripe about it too much.
The thing I may be looking most forward to is finally being able to play this against my friends with Macs and even counsels in the future, since this was designed on an engine that can be used across platforms.
All in all, I have enjoyed the Arena Beta and am looking forward to see how it develops in the future and post Beta. I do hope the potential economy issues are fixed in its next iteration, but nevertheless, I think this is a great step forward for online play.
If you get paired against OsoGladiator, that’s me!

See you on the sand!

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Vona’s Crusade into Brawl (Deck Tech)

When the Dusk Legion came to seek the Immortal Sun, A warrior of great renown was at their front.

This is a Deck Tech for the new format Brawl, that will be legal with the launch of Dominaria.

I know there are plenty of ideas out there about the format, but a new format means a new chance to have some fun brewing.

Vona has a nice ability, but with its high cost you’re only going to want to use it when absolutely necissary. However, being a 4/4 for 5 with Vigilance and Lifelink means she has some survivability and can mix it up with a lot of things in combat. She also gives you more bandwidth to use her ability if she is attacking and blocking. When she cannot save herself, we can hit her with sheltering light to try and keep her around.

Supporting her will be a host of her Vampire Conquestadors.

Having creatures that can trigger hitting all opponents can help close out the game or put more people on defense. Which is where you want them. Vicious Conquestador, Sanctum Seeker and Twilight Profit are very good for this. Twilight Profit can even give us a little card advantage. In addition to creatures, we can also use spells to set the table back. Arterial Flow and Vona’s Hunger, are not only on flavor, but allow you to hit everyone at once.

With the Legion being assembled, we need to get them pumped up and ready to battle with larger beasts. Using Legion Lieutenant, Radiant Destiny and Vanquisher’s Banner give them little bumps. Also Radiant Destiny can give Vigilance and Vanquisher’s Banner can supply some card draw.

With this deck we want to establish a board presence early, grab the cities blessing as early as we can, and start trying to manipulate the attacks of others by presenting an unfavorable target in us. Vona and many of the other vampires have Lifelink which can help us stay in the game.

If you would like to see the whole deck list, it can be viewed here.

Vona’s Crusade into Brawl

Feel free to find me on Instagram or Twitter (@OsoGladiator). I am always open to feedback, questions and suggestions.

If you are looking for vampires in standard, check out my other deck tech here.

Magic and Story Telling

I recently had the great experience of playing in a 6 person commander game where everyone was playing with a mono colored deck and one was playing all colorless. The game was a lot of fun and it really reminded me of the fun you can have with story telling through a game of magic. So often when playing formats like Standard or Modern (Or even sometimes EDH) we get caught up in the competitive game we are playing and forget to enjoy all the flavor and backstory we are given.

As I sat there and watched my army of soldiers get blasted back to my hand by the blue wizard who was trying to summon Tromokratis with his cyclonic rift and soon a whelming wave as he built up his mana to bring out the big Kraken.

Tromokratis

I started to think about what this battle would actually look like if the wizards had gone to war. It may seem silly to those Spikes out there , and that is totally fine, but I really enjoyed it. In that game it was a lot of fun to turn the game into a story. The black wizard releasing his Relentless Rats into the darksteel halls of the grand artificer. The artificer unleashing his thopters, lead by his ace, the Hope of Ghirapur to defend his works, soon the rats were everywhere. Inside the darksteel walls, the indestructible fortress no longer protecting him. He turned power onto all of his creations and soon even the Hope of Ghirapur was pulled from the sky as he swooped in to try and protect his master. With nothing left in their way, the Rats consumed the halls, leaving nothing but a hollow city in their wake.

HopeRats.jpg

Simultaneously the Goblins went to war with the Elves. The Elves did not take the threat seriously at first, using their natural magic to instill their warriors with to more power than the Goblins could muster. Looking past the Goblins, the Elves left the safety of their woods to infiltrate the swamps. Wading through filth and Rats alike, the Elves finally found their quarry. As the Elves fought off wave after wave of rats, finally one of them got through to the wizard and ended his pestilence once and for all. The Rats slowly returned to the muck from whence they came.

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When the elves returned to their sacred forest they were stunned to see the numbers of Goblins and grown at an impossible rate. Worse yet these new recruits were not weary from their training, they were charging down the mountain’s with fervor and burning the forest as they went. Krenko leading his band of mischievous zealots into the Elven camp, slew no Elves himself but just watched as his horde cut through them before lashing the green wizard to a tree and burning him at the stake.

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The Elves may have held the Goblins at bay had they not spent a good amount of their magic to take out the horde of rats assembling in the swamps. With the Artificer gone, the Rat keeper lifeless and the Elf mage dead, the Goblins took site at the blue and white wizards. The blue wizard cast up his walls and began bolstering his defenses. Odric and his soldiers stood strong, knowing the Goblins would not have a tactical strategy, but also knowing that their numbers in the end would win. This threat needed to be dealt with before that could happen. They moved in, with a tactical strike of coordinated air and ground forces, they by passed the brutish Goblin defenses. The Goblin wizard lashed out in a furry knowing he was all but doomed. In a last ditch effort he tried to cast a final spell on the white wizard to finish him off, but found that the white wizard could not be targeted. He had some form of protection from the Goblin’s Hex. Not wanting to be defeated, he decided to go out on his own terms, deciding to detonate the spell on himself. Krenko’s Mobb saw their master fall and soon began to withdraw back into the mountains.

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The blue wizard starred down the white wizard, and suddenly called forth from the depths, not his prized Kraken, but instead Ulamog!

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The Soldiers Shuttered at the sound as they saw Odric, their General, banished into some other worldly torment and their Sun’s Champion Elspeth felled as well. As The Ceaseless hunger crashed in, the very halls of the white wizards library shook. The Soldiers rallied and the white wizard brought back Odric from his exile. Without a way to destroy this new threat, they decided they had to go for it’s summoner. Forsaking defense they attacked, laying siege to the blue wizard’s island, but yet he stood. Unrelenting, he called for his creature to attack again. This time his ally, Jace, thrashing the white wizards mind with torment. The towers of the white wizard’s library shook to their foundations and his knowledge and spells seemed to be pulled from his mind, now useless. Then, with his master on the brink of destruction and his fellow Soldiers fighting bitterly on the battlefield, Gideon stepped forward. He beckoned to the Creature, “the next time you come this way you come through me.” With that Ulamog crashed in and devoured the heroic soldier.

jacegide.jpg

The blue wizard was assured of his victory now. Until… no… wait… he saw them, Odric and his Soldiers flying over the tops of the towers, over the creatures in the sea that defended his island. Gideon’s sacrifice was a distraction! Suddenly they were on him, a vampire, a dwarf, the alliance of Solders were dragging him down.

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The white wizard held his ground, he had trust in his Soldiers, they would make it in time. As Ulamog came charging in once again. The he sudden vanished, his very substance departing as the one who summoned him lay dead. Odric and his Soldiers raised up a cheer! Battle Cries turned to jubilation. They had won the battle and the day! They would be able to return to their camp on the plains and enjoy, at least for now, peace.

I know this is a a lot different than my usual posts, but I really enjoy the backstory of Magic the Gathering and think that the game can have a lot added to it if we spend time to appreciate the story we are telling in each game. At least once in a while.

Look for more deck techs soon. I will of course post them on Twitter (@OsoGladiator). If you have anything you would like me to see or review, a specific card you are trying to break in a deck, let me know, maybe I can take a look at it next time I am brewing up. Until then, cheers!

Jund Midnight Madness (Deck Tech)

So I put a twitter poll up a few days ago and the chosen format was Pauper. If you dont follow me you can find me as @OsoGladiator on both Instagram and Twitter.

So pauper, for those who don’t know, pauper is a mtg format that uses cards that are commons only. (Must have been printed at common at some point).

For this deck I decided to go with one of my favorite archetypes and on of my favorite mechanics; Madness and Burn.

To start off we need a burn package and no burn package is complete without Lightning Bolt.

In addition to Lightning Bolt we use 3 other one mana spells to deal 3 to our opponent’s head. Bump in the night is a easy way to hit for 3 and if its in the bin late on, it can be flashed back for another 3.

The other two are actually 3 mana cards, but can both be cast for one if you can trigger madness. Alms of the Vein and Fiery Temper can give us another set of Bump in the night and Lightning Bolt respectively.

So next comes triggering madness. Madness triggers if you discard the card, so we are going to use a few cards to do that.

We have a couple of card draw/selection engines in Cathartic Reunion and Faithless Looting. Since both of these require us to discard cards, we want to use them when we have mana open to take advantage of madness, or if we don’t have madness cards we can ditch extra lands to make room for spells.

In addition to using our burn as removal we can also use Lightning Axe since we don’t mind the discard. Lightning Axe conveniently kills Gurmag Anglar, which is one of the big bads we are likely to see. We will also use Insolent Neonate as another way to card select and/or trigger madness. Use him as a chump blocker and then sac to loot. Many times you end up taking no damage and give yourself the ability to hit them for 3. With Menace, he can also sneak in for a few points of damage early game.

Two of our creatures have madness. The first is Bloodmad Vampire. If she is not killed right away she can deal some serious damage and also trades up very well.

So maybe you are asking where the green is. Well, the second is Basking Rootwalla. This little guy can get bigger when you need him to if you can get your forest out, but does not need to. Since he can madness for 0, most of the time its just a free little piece of board presence in place of a discard.

We are also running one copy of Rummaging Goblin. He just fits all the things we need. A consistant discard outlet and a body when we need him.

To support this package we are also running 21 lands.

4x Swamp
2x Bloodfell Caves
9x Mountain
1x Forest
4x Evolving Wilds
1x Bojuka Bog.

As for the sideboard options, we are going with mostly removal to make sure we can keep the opponents threats in check while we burn them out. Being able to sideboard in the answers we need. We are also running two Gurmag anglars since we will often have a full graveyard and many times people won’t sideboard in yard hate just for our two flashback cards. So it can be a good way to muck up the board or beat face.

2x Electrickery
2x Gurmag Angler
3x Magma Spray
4x Smash to Smithereens
4x Tragic Slip

As always, please share your feedback here or via twitter @OsoGladiator.

Full Decklist

here

Happy Gaming!

The Vampire Conquistadors (Deck Teck: Rivals of Ixalan)

So are you ready to command the Dusk Legion to victory?

This deck goes straight beat down. Every single card here is meant to put vampires on the battlefield and use them to slaughter your opponent.

Starting out quick with Skymarcher Aspirant who has the potential to gain flying quickly if you can get tokens going.

Backing up the Aspirant is the Martyr of Dusk. This guy can sneak in for a lot of damage and even if he gets blown up in combat, you still get a lifelinking body to replace it.

The bulk of the list is vampires. Getting bodies on the ground to do some throat tearing and blood draining. Guys like Gifted Aetherborn can also help you stave off aggro or any big hitting threats your opponent may drop while you are going wide and Adanto Vangaurd can help your board survive sweepers and big blockers.

Using Dusk Martyr and Legion’s Landing to make tokens means you’ll want to grow those tokens into the soldiers they were meant to be, that means good leadership is necessary.

New Arrival Legion Lieutenant fills this spot perfectly. A 2/2 beater for 2 that also makes everyone else bigger, yes please. This will help you wear down your opponents, if not finish them outright.

In addition, you can also drop a radiant destiny, and when you get up to 10 permanents, it can really give the token deck the ability to survive late game.

Finally, once you have driven your opponents back, you use Sanctum Seeker to finish the job. He can easily drain someone in one turn.

In addition to Sanctum Seeker, I added two copies of Twilight Prophet to be a late game finisher.

This works especially well if you can get the cities blessing early with a Skymarcher Aspirant.

As for removal, we are running 4 Fatal Push. Plain and simple.

For side board, here is what I am currently running:

2x Authority of the Consuls
4x Duress
3x Ixalan’s Binding
2x Lost Legacy
2x Dusk / Dawn
2x Kambal, Consul of Allocation

There you have it. I hope you enjoy! Feel free to send me some feedback on Twitter @OsoGladiator

Full Decklist and Sideboard

Mono-Red Invades Ixalan (Deck Tech)

Update 1/15/2018
Ramunap Ruins and Rampaging Ferocidon are now banned in standard. They had a good run…

Check out my “The Vampire Conquistadors” deck for a new take on aggro. The Vampire Conquistadors

If you are still up for some casual play games, the list is below.

So its time for a new release with Ixalan. My prefered play style in Standard is to be as agressive as possible. So let’s jump in.

Ramunap Red was a break out deck towards the end of the last rotation. However, despite using some of those pieces this deck is a bit different, although… it is still Red, so the differences are subtle. There was also a budget in mond with this deck, trying to keep it around $100.

So to begin, here is the list.

Creature (25)
4x Ahn-Crop Crasher
4x Bomat Courier
4x Earthshaker Khenra
2x Hazoret the Fervent
3x Kari Zev, Skyship Raider
4x Rampaging Ferocidon
4x Soul-Scar Mage

Instant (14)
2x Abrade
4x Lightning Strike
4x Shock
4x Sure Strike

Land (21)
13x Mountain
4x Ramunap Ruins
4x Sunscorched Desert

http://tappedout.net/mtg-decks/red-burn-ixalan/

So as mentioned a lot of the same pieces from Ramunap Red are back. It is hard to be a Red deck without them. So what are some of the othet pieces. Rampaging Ferocidon is a creature I am really excited to try. I really like the no gaining life clause being an aggro deck with a burn package, and them getting pinged for their creatures is great. This is a card that will certainlynot be a 4 of in game 2 against control, but can be a good on curve beater with evaision and a good ability against all others.

Another good meta game player is Soul-Scar Mage. So lacking Haste it is no Monastery Swiftspear, but prowess does let it grow as you burn our opponents, which will be very useful. Also his ability to shrink Dinos will certainly be useful, it turns all that burn into combat tricks.

With bigger creatures than ours running around, I really like Sure Strike in this deck. Since you want to be agressive anyway, having a good combat trick will be nice, especially one that allows your Ahn-Crop Crashers and Rampaging Ferocidons to kill a Carnage Tyrant.

This deck really wants to smash in early, but with big creatures and conrol being an issue, a good burn package is necissary to finish people off. Because of this, I have included 4 ofs of Shock and Lightning Strike. Its nice to know you have 20 damage worth of burn available to you.

The damage doesn’t end with spells and creatures. In the land package we have 8 that deal damage too. Ramunap Ruins and Sunscorched Desert represent a way to hit and or finish off opponents as well.

I am excited for this Standard environment, and I am very excited to keep bolting people with Red!

The Blacksmith Soldier (Deck Tech)

So the Commander of this deck is Dakkon Blackblade. 

He is a character from way back in Magic, his story is very interesting, and I suggest you look him up. However, the part that matters for this Deck Tech is his ability, and for Dakkon there is only one; “Dakkon Blackblade’s power and toughness are equal to the number of lands you control.” So that seems simple enough right, we want to get lands on the battlefield and let him bang away at opponents. So let’s break that strategy down into a few smaller points.

First, Dakkon is an Esper commander, so even though that gives us access to a lot of fun tools, we do not benefit from Green’s ramp abilities. So we will need to be creative on how we get lands on the battlefield. The way that I have chosen to do that is in two ways, the simplest way to do this is with artifacts. Since Dakkon’s ability relies heavily on having lands on the battlefield, lands matter. So when we look at artifacts we cannot just look at mana rocks. Though those will help ramp us into casting our 6 mana commander, they are not what are going to make Dakkon into a one or two shot killer. Instead, we are going to use cards like Armillary Sphere, Journeyer’s Kite, and good old Solemn Simulacrum to get the lands out there (The full complement of land finders listed in the decklist). 

These cards will do one of two things, either ramp us into more lands, or ensure we are hitting all of our land drops, both of which are extremely important to making sure Dakkon is a powerhouse the moment he comes down. The second way to do this is through a land card like Thawing Glaciers. 

Even though this is a slower process, it does allow us to accumulate lands onto the battle field at a faster rate in the long run. The final part of the lands matter equation is making sure you can get lands back from the Graveyard if they are destroyed because this not only sets you back like it does other players, but it cripples your commander. For that reason I run Crucible of Worlds in the deck. 

This is a high priced card I understand so I will point out is I not necessary if you are looking to keep the budget down.

So now we know how we are going to ramp and make sure Dakkon is the beat stick we want him to be; now we need to protect him. So for protection, we will be running a few counter spells in case they are needed, but the main source will be trying to us a Whispersilk Cloak, Lighting Greaves or Swiftfoot Boots to do so. 

These are nice because they will not only avoid him getting Pathed or otherwise removed, but Whispersilk will give him Unblockable and the others will give him haste, either way that’s a win and a problem for your opponents.

Since we are using artifacts to ramp and to protect our commander it is pretty obvious we are going to have a lot of them in the deck, 41 to be exact. So that means that not only do lands mattet, but artifacts too. This lead me to start looking for artifact synergy as well. First I looked to cards like Efficient Construction and Contraband Kingpin to get some added value off of the artifacts being cast or entering the battlefield. 

I also added Metalwork Colossus to be an extra beater if Dakkon gets stonewalled. 

Finally I was looking for a way to get back my lost artifacts if they were sacrificed or destroyed. There were a lot of ootions here, Argivian Archaeologist and Hanna, Ships Navagator fill this role nicely, 

as well as lands like Achedamy Ruins and Buried ruin. This artifacts matter suite can really help grind out value in a late game when it is needed most, or even as a way to ramp at an accelerated rate.

Fianlly, With all of these value engines producing card draw and small creatures, I added Elspeth, Sun’s Champion to potentially take advantage of a go wide strategy should it present itself. 

To all of this I added a basic removal pacakge, a few combos to make mana or more 1/1s and the usual card draw to make the deck more competitive. The deck does its best when it is grinding out value and then either going for the allstar finish with Dakkon or by chipping away with all the value 1/1s.

Below is the full decklist, please fell free to take a look and comment!

http://tappedout.net/mtg-decks/the-blacksmith-soldier/

Artifact (31)

Land (35)

Instant (11)

Commander

Creature (15)

Enchantment (5)

Planeswalker (2)