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Gameplay Variations February 2, 2010

Posted by Norm in Casual.
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Last week I read about some alternative game formats on The Magic Gameplan Blog. I shot Zach an email asking if I could re-post and he gave me the thumbs up. The original source o these game variations came from one of his readers, Lydios. So thanks to Lydios and The Magic Gameplan Blog for these gameplay variation.

Cross-Fire (two-headed giant variant)

-Two persons per team sitting diagonal from one another:

Team A(2)     Team B(2)
Team B(1)     Team A(1)

- The players turns are taken individually in clockwise rotation.

- There is an attack direction stipulation also.  The direction is determined by the player who deals combat damage to a player or when lethal combat damage is dealt to a creature and it is   sent to the graveyard (regeneration counts as going to graveyard).

-As for direction all players must follow the attack direction set by the player who deals combat damage first (*Burn spells can not set direction*). If a player A(1) attacks B(2) and damage  is dealt of something goes to the graveyard, then the attack direction is counter-clock wise. If A(1) had attacked and done damage to B(1) then the attack direction is set to be clockwise.    Once the direction is set, it can not be change.

- Players on the same team can not see the other team member’s hand.  If one member wishes to show a card, he/she must reveal the card to all players in the game.  So, A(1) can not    show A(2) a card in his/her hand without revealing it to both members of Team B as well.

- Like two-headed giant, the players on the same team share life (30). We have tried playing with each player starts at 20 life, but then it becomes more of a free-for-all than team play.     However, in the 20 life games the individual members can be eliminated making it a 2-on-1 game.  So if A(1) is eliminated, it is left to A(2) to try and win, however, both players from B can  attack A(2) on their individual turns. We called the 20 life games “Knock-Out”.

- To win, one team’s life total must become zero or both team member’s life totals must become zero, depending on the format.

Peasant EDH

-Player’s decks are constructed using the 100 card rule from normal EDH

-No multiple cards, only one of each in a single deck.

-The restrictions are based on the rarity of the cards themselves.  In the Deck there can only be, at most, 5 rare/mythic rare cards, 10 uncommon, and the rest are common cards. Rares     can be downgraded to become uncommon cards but not the other way around, and similarly, uncommon can become commons, etc. (i.e.  you can make a deck with 3 rare/mythic, 12     uncommon, and 85 commons…. NOT 8 rare/mythic, 7 uncommon and 85 common)

- There is also no general in this format. Which means there are no color restrictions in the deck’s colors.  There can be a Figure of Destiny in a mono-red deck, and it would be fine, etc.

-The win condition is the same, except for the general damage rule. Players start with 30-40 life,depending on preference, and play as normal.

52 Decks – Evil Nights January 23, 2010

Posted by Norm in 52 Decks.
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Deck 3 - Evil Nights

Welcome back to 52 Decks. The post series where I build a new deck each week for one year.

Recently I’ve been looking at casual extended builds. Even now I’ve got some extended builds in the works, but this week I wanted to get back to standard and tinker with an idea that’s been in the back of my mind for a while, Sanguine Bond and Invincible Hymn. Awesome right, just get the mana and it is gonna be an instant kill with Hymn. Right! Wrong.

As I was jotting down cards to fill out the deck list I thought Invincible Hymn read “Gain life equal to the number of cards in your Library.” Oops not quite. Hymn actually reads, “Count the number of cards in your library. Your life total becomes that number.” Not the same thing at all. So this little combo doesn’t work, which is too bad because when you could play both spells there is little your opponent could do to stop from loosing 40ish life when you play the Hymn in to Bond. Lets face it I probably wouldn’t have been the one to first exploit this combo if it worked.

Sanguine Bond is still pretty awesome so I decided to forge ahead and pull a bunch of cards together. Also early in this build process I wanted to see if I could get both Black Knight and White Knight in a tag team effort. My initial four cards were the knights, bond and hymn so that’s when I named the deck Evil Nights. The following is a list of cards I pulled together to start building.

White Knight
Black Knight
Child of Night
Vampire Nighthawk
Tidehollow Sculler
Soul Warden

Sanguine Bond
Invincible Hymn

Shadow feed
Soul's Grace

Necromancers Covenant
Zealous Persecution

Path to Exile
Doom Blade
Tainted Sigil
Tendrils of Corruption
Wall of Reverence

After pulling more cards together I realized that the knights were going to be difficult to cast consistently as well as they don’t have Lifelink. Vampires and Zombies are going to be a better fit for this situation, also where Necromancer’s Covennant comes in. Wall of Reverence was a last minute inclusion as I was thinking about ditching the knights and looking for more life gain options.

I feel that the removal is kind of weak. Yes Path to Exile is good but I’m wondering if Day of Judgment wouldn’t be excellent here. I want to run Tendrils of Corruption to “gain life” and had considered Doom Blade. Perhaps Zealous Persecution is a little over zealous and four wrath effects vs tricks might be a better play.  Anyway here is the list and I’ll let you know how it plays when I get some games in.

4 Soul Warden
4 Wall of Reverence
4 Child of Night
4 Vampire Nighthawk

1 Necromancer’s Covennant
4 Sanguine Bond

4 Path to Exile
3 Soul’s Grace
4 Tendrils of Corruption
4 Zealous Persecution

4 Marsh Flats
10 Planes
10 Swamps

Thanks to Scitzophrenic in the comments, he pointed out that in the Gatherer Invincible Hymn does work. The Hymn effect causes you to gain life, not mystically alter your life total. As I consider updating the deck list for the combo I thinking that is isn’t as simple as cutting a few spells and slapping in they Hymn.

I’m actually thinking about how to play Hymn for free. In an extended environment I could play Windbrisk Heights and Spectral Procession or something (needs more creatures). A quick switch to this deck would be to cut 4 Zealous Persecution and add 2 Day of Judgment and 2 Invincible Hymn.

Zendikar Art Spoiler August 14, 2009

Posted by Norm in Spoilers, Zendikar.
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In a unique twist for spoilers each day this week in the Wizard’s Daily Magic articles was a poll box called “You Decide.” Readers could choose different parts of a card in the poll. This being the first week it seems art was the #1 choice of the voters. I have a feeling that name will be next followed by rules. Here is the art:


Pretty wicked isn’t he. My first thought was new planeswalker. But since there was probaby a power/toughness choice in the poll (I can’t remember exactly) I’m assuming he is just some badass vampire ready to eat your annoying little sister.

Or perhaps he’s Liliana’s exboyfriend come back from the dead and ready to trash her new fling, Vampire Nocturnus.

Planechase Spoilers August 11, 2009

Posted by Norm in Casual, Spoilers.
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This week is one of those big weeks of announcements over at Wizards of the Coast. Zendicar textless lands and Planechase spoilers galore. Here are two of the plane cards we got to see on Monday.



Not only did we get to see these cards we also got the rules rundown for these new cards and multiplayer format. I’m gonna sum up the rules in general but make sure you read the official announcement for the complete rundown.

Basically the Planar cards are a new type of card that is not a permanent and resides in its own game zone, the Command Zone. From what I’ve seen the Planar cards each contain two triggered abilities. One that triggers on it’s own  and another that happens when you choose to roll the new Planar Die.


The die rolling feature is one of my favorite new accompaniments to Planechase. Basically at sorcery speed you can choose to roll one of the die, which does not use the stack, but effects of the die roll (ie triggers from the Planar card do use the stack). You can roll the die multiple times per turn but each one after the first (that turn) costs +1 mana each time. So if it is the third time this turn you are choosing to roll the Planar die you must pay 2 colorless mana to roll. Check out the official announcement for the full rules on rolling the die.

Great so how do you actually put a Planar card into the Command Zone? Glad you asked, when you buy your Planechase game pack you will get 10 planar cards that go with a 60 card deck that also comes in the game pack. Naturally you can mix and match decks and planar cards, but you have to start with 10 planar cards per player. They sit in their own stack called your “Planar Deck” and is in a seperate pile from your library. The starting player puts their top planar card into the command zone and that card stays there until a player rolls the planeswalk symbol on the die.

This is a very interesting new take on multiplayer and I can’t wait to try it out myself!

Tonight I played constructed August 6, 2009

Posted by Norm in Casual, Constructed.
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Tonight I went to play at a local shop, Mr Nice Guy Games, where I’ve never played before. I recently learned about their Wednesday night constructed with excellent prizes. I finished 2-2 out of the main prizes (a box of m10 going to #1, woot!) but picked up a random prize Nicol Bolas play mat. Ya good deal.

I played a cleaned up version of the Red Lightning deck I’ve been talking about. I was unfamiliar with the meta game there and I was really looking to test the red deck so game on. Being a new player to mono red I’ve got to say first off that the pure power of red when you have the right hand is really exciting. A starting hand of two or three lands with solid drops four turns in a row can really destroy your opponents game plan. Ball Lighting is serious and usually got in for 6 (at least tonight). I played with Lightning Elemental, which I felt was my weakest creature, at four mana and kept a few fireballs in the sideboard.

Each match I won came at 2-0 with decent opening hands and little mid game action, meaning I won quickly and finished with a Flame Javalin or hasting creature. Each match I lost went 1-2 where I did mull down to 6 for the final loss. I felt that my inexperience with this deck was in making opening hand decisions. I probably should have mulled to 5 cards a few times.

Match one I lost to basically a G/W exalted deal splashing for Rhox War Monk featuring Baneslayer Angel. The Angel is one card where I didn’t have a good answer. It is basically a two for one against me. I lost the match because I believe I kept bad hands.

Game two my deck and hands were hot. Playing a four color cascade hybrid with vivid lands. I was never really in trouble against this deck and I felt that the mana was very complicated and it was trying to be too much of a control deck that couldn’t slow down my early beats and late burn.

Game three I played another red deck with Ashenmoor Gouger. I felt that my creatures were just a little bit faster and I was able to stay in control and up on tempo both games. I felt that we had almost the same decks but I just had better draws.

Fourth round I played another red deck with a lot of the same cards but he was playing green with Rip Clan Crasher (probably Bloodbraid Elf, although I never saw one) and Colossal Might. My opponent was able to generate almost the same kind of explosive early turns that I could. Game one he just had the tempo and I didn’t have a great hand to start. Second game was probably my favorite of the night. We both had good opening hands but I was able to keep huge tempo with drawing double Magma Spray, one for his Ball Lightning and Hellspark Elemental. I won with double Boggart Ramgang and Ball Lighting etc. The final game he had a really strong opener and I mulled to 6 keeping an iffy hand.

All in all a fun night of constructed. The top two finishers were playing Elves and Time Sieve. It was really interesting to watch the Time Sieve combo go off. I might have been able to beat it but I didn’t get a chance.

Overall for me it was a great chance to hang out in a store with a lot of Magic happening simultaniously. Constructed downstairs and teem drafting happening upstairs. Fun night.

Beating Up 5 Color July 29, 2009

Posted by Norm in Casual.
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Wondering what you guys are thinking about Jacob Van Lunen’s article today Beating Up 5 Color?

Seems pretty good and it did beat three of the best decks in the format.


Slivers the Latest in Premium Decks July 29, 2009

Posted by Norm in Spoilers.
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Wizards of the Coast announced a Premium Deck Series: Slivers yesterday. I think the Slivers idea is pretty cool. Here are the deck specs:

  • 60-card premium foil deck, including 5 rare cards and 1 mythic rare
  • Exclusive Spindown(tm) life counter
  • Foil deck box
  • Strategy insert
  • Magic “learn to play” guide

Premium Deck Series: Slivers will be available world-wide in English only, and will have a limited print run.

Each card will be a black bordered foil and tournament legal. This means that these cards are legal for use in any tournaments where the original printings are still legal.

Deck Design and Development Team: Ken Nagle and Mike Turian
Release date: November 20, 2009
MSRP: $34.99

Some of the inital musting’s I’ve heard about this release is excitment over the foils, yet distain at the limited print run. It does kind of suck that these are so hard to find. I wanted to get the Angles vs Demons duel decks but it was sold out and I’m out of luck.

Slivers are near and dear to many hearts. One of the guys who taught me how to cast my first spell loves the sliver deck (old school slivers mind you, not the timespiral stuff). I don’t know what his thoughts are on this release. I’ll find out when we see the decklist.

Personally I’m hoping the deck will contain one copy of every card. The new slivers will be interesting and I’m really curious as to what the are making mythic in rarity or including.

Red Lightning 1.2 July 25, 2009

Posted by Norm in Constructed.
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I’ve been working on updating my Red Lightning  here is what I phosted a week or so ago.

4x Hellspark Elemental
4x Lightning Elemental
4x Boggart Ram-Gang
4x Tattermunge Maniac
4x Ball Lightning

4x Flame Javelin
4x Lightning Bolt
2x Banefire
4x Pyroclasm

26x Mountain

Since theen I’ve gotten a few suggestions and I’ve made a few tweeks. Behold 1.2.

4x Hellspark Elemental
4x Changeling Berserker
4x Boggart Ram-Gang
4x Tattermunge Maniac
4x Ball Lightning

4x Flame Javelin
4x Lightning Bolt
2x Fireball
4x Magma Spray
2x Spiteful Visions

24x Mountain

First changes in creatures. I dropped Lightning Elemental for Changeling Berserker. I felt that for the same mana cost the 5/3 was a little more stable and can champion a Tatttermung Maniac or Boggart Ram-Gang.

On Dillion’s suggestion I added Magma Spray and I can see why Exiling a creature is better than simply killing it, but I think that Lashout might be better. Also he suggested Howling Mine, a really cool idea to keep the red hand full of spells and land. So what if instead we played Spiteful Visions? Might not be that great but helps our aggro process. Finally I switched Banefire for Fireball, the ability to hit multiple creatures if nessecary is a bonus plus I’m not expecting to have enough mana to make banefire uncounterable.

I’ll get a few test games under my belt and let you know how it goes.

Casual Magic Remembers Scarecrows July 24, 2009

Posted by Norm in Casual.
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This week my apartment is getting a little renovation. Well it isn’t really renovation as much as a fix to the hole in my ceiling because the landlord let a leak go untended. The leak is in our dining room where I also keep a shelf full of magic cards. Now in general I’m pretty good about keeping my cards organized, so when I had to get everything covered up for the demolition it was a short but efficient task for me.

One thing I tend to do is keep deck ideas open on a shelf. This just sort of happens – I’ll get an idea not have all the cards and set it down until I can get back to it. Or I’ll get a deck made play it and then put it on said shelf for easy access. Today while organizing that shelf I found my scarecrow deck from Shadowmoor.

reaper-kingEver since putting the deck away I’ve had scarecrows on my mind. Remember when the creature type was first spoiled? What excitement and speculation was wrapped into that type. Some even said they would bring back affinity. Knowing what we know now that is laughable. Seriously for me scarecrows were such a great idea. I tried playing the deck that sucked for weeks because of my infatuation with Reaper King.

I kept telling myself that Prismatic Omen makes it all possible…

Well since picking up that deck list I’ve got another idea. This maybe possible now thanks to Polymorph and a bit of better deck building on my part. So with out further adieu check out Scarecrow 2.0:

Reaper King x 2
Scarecrone x 4
Scuttlemutt x 4
Heapdoll x 4
Pili-pala x 4
Esperzoa x 4

Prismatic Omen x 2
Polymorph x 4
Innundate x 2
Primal Command x 3
Negate x 3

Forest x 12
Island x 12
(land does need some work :))

So the plan is to get out a Reaper King as soon as I can play Polymorph. Innudate works well with Reaper King because if he is out any creature your opponent plays is ready to fall with your hand full of scarecrows. Primal Command works really well in getting Reaper King, Scarecrone or Esperzoa.



So as I’m revisiting this idea, I’m realizing that this isn’t going to work because I forgot exactly how Polymorph works. Kinda bummed because I thought I was onto something really exciting. Still working out some ideas, like using ponder with more Reaper Kings and more Primal Command. Less creatures…

I’d also like to wish everyone who is at Nationals good luck. I’ve been keeping an eye on some of the coverage via Twitter. I was one match away from qualifying for nats so I’ll be watching with longing eys.

Melissa Benson – The Interview July 21, 2009

Posted by Norm in Artist Interview, Casual.
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400th Post!

The other day I received an email from Cory (creator of the late Magic web comic Tap to Laugh) who passed along an interview with artist Melissa Benson. Melissa worked on a number of cards printed from Alpha through 9th Edition. The original art for Lord of Atlantis, Nightmare, and Shivan Dragon are probably the most famous although there are a lot of notable cards she has worked on. You can see all the cards Melissa brought to life in the Gatherer. So thanks Cory for passing this along and thanks Melissa for giving an interview.

How did you get into creating artwork for Magic the Gathering?

I had sent out numerous query letters looking for work from gaming manufacturers. Wizards of the Coast was among them. At the time they were called Garfield Games. Jesper Myfors who was the Art Director called and told me there was a project coming up called Magic: the Gathering, and that my style looked like it would work well for the game. I told him I was interested and when we hung up I thought that was the last I would hear from him. So often projects like this fall through for one reason or another.

What is your favorite art for a card that you have worked on?

I don’t have one specific favorite piece. I do have favorites in each Magic expansion. The same is true of card art for other card games I’ve worked on.

Are there any cards that you have worked on that have a funny or interesting story/ history to them. i.e. any hidden images, special models used, or just were frustrating to create?

Let’s see. The Ichneumon Druid card was impossible for my model to pose for the way I saw it in my head. So we had to prop him up with his butt on a small step stool, take two different shots and merge them together. For the Touch of Death card I borrowed a scythe from a friend that wouldn’t fit inside my car so my husband held onto it from the passenger side window for the short ride home. He was also responsible for the pair of dice in the Hand of Justice card. The most frustrating card was Rain of Daggers. There was a specific armor design that prevented the character from raising his arms above his head so I had to strategically place shards of rock to hide this.

The original artwork that you did for Nightmare and Shivan Dragon are pretty famous with old time magic players like myself. How many emails or letters have you received containing other peoples attempts at copying your art, not counting my Nightmare that I sent you?

I honestly can’t say. There have been too many to count.

And does it surprise you the amount of fans that Magic has brought you?

Yes it does. I’m still not sure if it is because of the art or because I happened to pick some really cool iconic cards to do.

What are you doing now, and, how can we show you our support?

I am doing mostly RPG commissions and selling my artwork on several Print on Demand sites. (Zazzle.com, CafePress.com,Printfection.com,and FineArtAmerica.com.) At the moment I’m doing some dragons for Z-Man Games new game Council of Wyrms. You can support me by buying my stuff and my commissions are not all that expensive considering the price people have paid for alpha and beta cards. You can also write the current Art Director of Wizards of the Coast and tell them that you would like to see my art back on the cards.

How did working on Magic card art differ from your other work? What was your process when working on Magic cards?

Magic art was small. Very small. About 6 x 7 inches. At that time I was painting in oils on 22 x 28 inch masonite sheets. I can’t paint in oil that small so I switched to Dr Martin’s Dyes and color pencils. The dyes give great color saturation and I put in the detail with the pencils.

In the Alpha set and several expansions after that the art director would call up with a list of titles. I chose the cards that appealed to me. I did pencil sketches that were faxed in for approval. Once they were approved I worked on all the cards as a group. I cut the paper for all the cards, transfered all the sketches, masked off what had to be masked off, did all the airbrush work (which I don’t do anymore), finished them all up to a loose finish and then fine-tuned them. It usually averages out to about three to five days per card once the sketches are done.

Who are your influences? And are there any Magic artists who’s artwork you enjoy?

Influences… Where to start. Frank Frazetta of course, Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Alphonse Mucha, Roy Krenkel, Alex Ross, Mike Kaluta the list goes on. Of the Magic artists Quinton Hoover is my favorite. I really like Rob Alexanders landscapes. I love Eddie Beard’s art too.

Is there anything else you would like to say or anything you would like to say to your fans?

I occasionally attend shows and many people come up and ask for a critique on their art work. I can make some recommendations right off. Look at George Bridgeman and Andrew Loomis for guidance on your figure work and please, I don’t know anything about Anime or Manga so I won’t be any help there at all. Your best bet is to go to art school. Honestly it is. There are always grants that go begging along with Federal and State money for tuition.

You can check out Melissa’s other work on her website.


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