Standard Coming to a Close and the Love of a Horned Beast

It is that time of year again, rotation is impending as the release for the new fall set draws closer. This time a year ago, I was begging for rotation. If a deck could not beat thoughtseize into pack rat, thassa into master of waves, or a sphinix’s revelation for 6 then it was not a passable deck in standard. As it turns out, many decks could not pass that test. Therefore, standard become stale and new sets hardly changed the metagame.

Standard this season could not have been more different. The variation in decks and archetypes is vast. Yes, decks from Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir remained stable through out the whole season, Abzan and Jeskai most notably. However, the archetypes did change greatly. There were friendly and unfriendly metas for all decks. Furthermore, new decks emerged all the time through out the season. U/R Mill just won a Grand Prix for crying out loud! I thoroughly enjoyed playing standard this whole season, but my personal joy for the format is more about a relationship with one card.

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Now there is a magic card! Siege Rhino stood out to me as a good card when it was spoiled, but I did not realize how insane it was until I played with it. Any card that is fundamentally great against aggro and control strategies is going to see play and siege rhino is a premium example of that type of card. Siege rhino has stabilized for me as much as it has closed out games. It almost always has a powerful impact on the game. With the exception of a brief stint with Jeskai tokens, I have played Siege Rhino decks since the card was printed.

A quick aside about Jeskai tokens. The deck was a ton of fun to play and there is no doubt that it is incredibly powerful. However, I found it to be extremely inconsistent and fragile. The same cannot be said of Siege Rhino though.

There were three flavors of Siege Rhino deck with which I become intimately familair: abzan aggro, abzan midrange/control, and abzan reanimator. However, I do think it is important to note that all these decks are just different versions of the same deck, which as whole has been an incredibly powerful and popular deck this season. There was also an abzan megamorph deck with popped up which I never got a chance to try out but seemed great.

Early in the season I started playing and having success with Abzan reanimator. The deck was appealing because of the powerfully ability to go over the top of mid-range decks while still having a great match up against aggressive strategies and control decks. I won my first preliminary pro tour qualifier with Abzan reanimator and really enjoyed playing it. Soul of Theros and Whip of Erebos are super fun to play with. However, I grew away from the deck because the mirror was grueling and it happened way to often. I have always felt awkward rushing my opponents even when they need to be rushed. This led me to a faster version of Abzan: Abzan aggro.

Abzan aggro was a deck which I was so attracted to because it was an aggressive deck whose threats were powerful early and late. This is a rare and powerful effect for an aggressive deck. Additionally, there were many cards in the deck which were very well positioned such as Anafenza and Wingmate roc. The ability to play powerfully sideboard cards with almost not drawback, such as back to nature and drown in sorrow, also drew me to the deck. The downside to the deck was the mana was miserable. Any deck playing two urborgs is not were you want to be. Not to mention there were many color requirements in other cards such as elsepth, brimaz, and all the traditional two and three drops which were color intensive. Most of the time I lost, the deck would beat itself because of the mana base. However, there was another bad match up which led to me toying around with another version of Abzan.

Abzan midrange! The tried and true version of Abzan. It won the pro tour and continued to a strong player the whole standard season. It preyed on the aggro deck because it was a bigger more powerful version with bigger spells. Plus it had the ultimate trump card in Elspeth: suns champion. Abzan aggro has a serious problem with Elspeth especially when caught unprepared. Cards such as wingedmate roc, glare of hersey,  and hero’s downfall could certainly help but at times the aggro decks trimmed on these cards.

For the last half of the season I played abzan midrange and was totally satisfied with the deck. The flexibility to adjust to any deck or metagame was wonderful. Furthermore, the most experience I got with the deck, the more I confident I became with it. I ended my standard season by winning a game day at Deck Factory with Abzan midrange. The experience I had with the game and my build made it possible for me to do well the event. I certainly would not have been able to make some of the plays I did without the time I had put into the deck.

Fortunately, the future looks bright for Abzan post-rotation! I mean how can they not print good cards for three colors. Siege rhino will still be played and I will be playing it. Hopefully the new dual lands in battle for zenidkar are great as I am most worried about Abzan’s manabase going forward. As much as I love playing three colors, espcially Abzan, the mana takes a serious toll when getting the benefits of the best spells the colors have to offer. There will be big losses to the deck such as courser of Kruphix, the scry lands, Elspeth, and ,my personal favorite, thoughtseize. However, I am confident there will be cards to compensate these losses. Solid discard and mana is what I will be looking for the most.

What did you thin of standard this season? What are you looking forward to about rotation? Which cards were your favorite? Leave any thoughts and comments below. I look forward to the discussion and the coming standard rotation!

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Thoughts on modern U/B faeries

Modern has been a very enjoyable and diverse format lately. Every single type of deck is playable. There are solid control decks (jeskai, Grixis, faeries), aggro decks (burn, affinity, zoo), all kinds of combo (ad nauseam, abzan company, amulet bloom), midrange (Jund, abzan) and everything else in between (twin, elves). I have just barely scratched the surface of the decks in modern, but today I’d like to talk about the deck I’ve been grinding and testing for awhile now, U/B faeries.

After trying different decks in modern, I had settled on playing twin. I was enjoying the deck quite a bit but a good friend of mine showed me and played his faeries deck against me. I knew barely anything about the deck or how it works but it seemed very enjoyable. I was initially drawn to it because the twin matchup was very good and i enjoy playing control decks. The diverse decisions trees make each match unique and I relish the challenge of solving the puzzles which control decks present. Therefore, I was convinced to build the deck and grind it for the modern Pretq season. 

I played in three pretqs with this deck to low degrees of success. I lost in top 8 in one then went 3-2 in the other two. One thing I liked about the deck was that I had been in mostly all the games I had lost. The only exceptions to this were in my worst matchups where I got over powered by linear aggro decks such as burn. Most of my matches I lost were due to player error. I lost to twin at times when I had unnecessarily tapped out or had been to liberal with my removal and counter spells. Twin is a matchup I really should not lose against. Having disruption, counter magic, and removal to back a turn 2 bitter blossom is a great recipe to beat twin. However, as I discovered with this matchup and many others, I would have to play exceptionally well to win while my opponents would have to play average or below to win. 

There are no free wins with faeries. Each win is earned carefully. I won’t combo on turn 4 or just win through damage or poison early in the game. This does make wins more satisfying though. It is very challenging to correctly pilot the deck though. While i have been enjoying the challenge, I am going to try out Grixis control. The deck plays out very similar to faeries as both are aggro/control decks but it has trumps such as kologhans command to destroy all grindy matchups and powerfully delve threats to close games quickly. The closing speed of bolts and snap casters is also very appealing.  Let me know what you all think of modern, my thoughts, or magic in general! 
Until next time! 
Here is a sample list of the u/b faeries deck I used for a Pretq: 

  

My Top 8 Favorite Magic Cards

My Top 8 Magic Cards and Why

Jim Davis posted an article on StartCityGames.com about his top 8 favorite magic cards. After reading it, I was inspired to write my own top 8. Here is the list I came up with.

  1. Thoughtseize- I have greatly enjoyed playing this card ever since it was reprinted in Theros block, when I really discovered the card for the first time. I enjoy how it is a very skill intensive card which can be extremely punishing if the wrong decision is made. Gerard Fabiano described this card as a card that makes all of your other cards better and I could not agree more. Thoughtseize allows you to resolve spells and is the best disruption card every printed.
  2. Siege Rhino – Siege Rhino is the more unfair, fair magic card ever printed. A big beater who stabilizes in the aggressive matchups and provides a quick clock in others. With a few exceptions I have played this card in my standard decks ever since it was printed. It helped me get my first big tournament win and I have had the amazing pleasure of top decking it when an opponent was at 3 life. I expect to play this card for years to come and always be happy with it.
  3. Lightning Bolt- Simply put bolt is the best removal spell of all time. The only other card which comes close is swords to plowshares however in addition to killing creatures bolt can directly win the game which swords cannot do on its own. Additionally, it provides outs to many situations just by being in a deck.
  4. Snapcaster Mage – One of the things I love to do in magic is get extreme value out of my cards, giving any one of my spells flashback at instant speed is an insane way to get more value. So many amazing new lines of play are opened up just by having snapcaster mage. There is the classic bolt, snap, bolt combo. Pershaps one my favorite is comboing this with another one of my favorite cards, Thoughtseize, to pull far ahead and be left with a 2/1 when all is said and done. The possibilities are endless though and I love a card that opens up those new lines of play.
  5. Brainstorm – This is the most powerful card/interaction (with fetchlands of course) in the best format in magic which, is in my opinion, legacy. The card advantage and selection it provides are unparalleled in magic. Peeling off three at instant speed then being able to ship back the bad cards is so satisfying. I especially enjoying brainstorm into a fetch land for surprise value.
  6. Force of Will – The most powerful counter spell in magic in my opinion. A great name for a card in addition to all that. I like the idea that I am either forcing my will by getting my spells through or forcing my opponents spells to be countered. This was the first big ticket legacy card I ever bought and I will admit I enjoy pulling them out from time to time to take a look at them. The art is fantastic and next to brainstorming it is the most fun card for me to cast in legacy, the best format.
  7. Geist of Saint Traft- Although I do not always keep up with magic lore, it has always been something that is of interest to me. Geist is the biggest flavor win card ever in my opinion. A cleric whose prayers were rewarded by having an angel to his aid each and every time he attacked. Furthermore, the card is insanely powerful. It also represents my biggest regret about magic which is not playing sooner, especially when this card was in standard.
  8. Hero’s Downfall – Although this card will only ever see play in standard I have played the crap out of it. The card is insanely powerfully and versatile. I probably have killed more creatures or planeswalkers with this card than anything else in my magic career. Planeswalkers incredibly powerful and being able to keep them in check with this card has been great. I also just enjoy removal and this has been my most casted removal spell.

I hope you enjoyed my discussion of my favorite cards. Let me know what your top 8 magic cards and why!

Gravity Film Review

Gravity Film Review

I’ll admit I was reluctant at first to watch Gravity because after watching the trailer it seemed to be a movie about astronauts suffocating in space and that terrified me. After I got over my worries about the movie and actually watched it, I found myself caught up in the experience that is Gravity. My breath was constantly taken away by the visuals and I was on the edge of seat hoping to see if Ryan Stone and Kowalski would make it back to earth.

The reason that I was so swept up with the movie was because it was a technically brilliant movie. There was groundbreaking technology used and there has never been a movie quite like it. Granted Gravity is an animated movie because everything with the exception of the ending scene it is filmed with a green screen. The visuals that are created are unbelievable. Gravity is a great example of fine craftsmanship in film making. This led to the films winning 7 academy awards.

I really enjoyed the images of rebirth throughout the film. The most notable of these scenes include the scene in the space station when Ryan curls up in the fetal position. This is scene filmed beautifully. The sound and cinematography come together for a great effect. Each article of clothing that is taken off adds to the effect. I like how the camera slightly rotates throughout the scene to remind the audience that it is still taking place in space.

I did have a few problems with Gravity though. One was that I felt that my experience was detracted by not seeing the movie in IMAX 3D. This was clearly how the movie was meant to be experienced and I only saw it on Blu-ray. I definitely felt that it would have been a more impactful experience in the theaters and I did realize how important that was for the viewing of the film. Another thing I wanted to point out but not something I necessarily take issue with is that Gravity is a science fiction story.  There are problems with it that would not really happen in real life and should be viewing as a story. For example, the way the flames worked with the space station is not how they really would have interacted in space. Also, I’m not sure how the world would recover for all those satellites and space stations being destroyed or from the debris that was still circling the planet.

Gravity was really enjoyable because it presented a nice theme that what can go wrong in life with go wrong, but how each person learns to navigate the drifting and pitfalls is what really matters. Alfonso Cuarón had the brilliant idea of having space be the media for this story and it was an amazing effect. I have never been so swept away be explosions in a film and I relished this experience.