Rules: Mulligans

I have already discussed mulligans peripherally in a few articles. That they come up so frequently even aren’t the actual topic of conversation says that I’m terrible at staying on track, they’re tremendously important, or possibly both. When it comes to a game that has such a huge element of chance, the ability to mitigate that chance with a do-over of your opening hand is going to have a huge impact. It’s also something ingrained into Magic culture as every format (including the best format of all, the Shahrazad sub-game) offers mulligans of some sort, so players who aren’t familiar with Infinity Magic are expecting them.

For those expecting some kind of hilarious non-Magic photo here, I tried Google Image search for ‘mulligan’ and all I got were images of this worried-looking presumably-famous woman, which bored me so badly I actually fell unconscious for about a half-hour. On with the article. Continue reading

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Review: Lay Bare

Draft Priority: 4

Impact: 4

Stack Status: 4
Staple fo sho. Again, unconditional counterspells are always welcome; expensive ones with extra abilities even more so.

Discussion:

Imagine:

My usual Magic group more or less

You’re sitting at the velvet-covered mahogany table of your local Magic: The Gathering and Equestrian Sporting Society. Between sips from the brandy sifter and repositioning your $45,000 cufflinks, you note the beautiful person (well, everyone here is beautiful, of course) across from you throw a single card onto the table with a practiced elegance. “Insurrection,” the androgynous Adonis says with hint of challenge.

Through a gold-encrusted spectacle, you survey the board; heavy-hitting creatures populate the table’s impossibly soft surface, now turned against their impeccably dressed masters. A soft gasp of shock escapes the lips of the elder socialite lady at the table, whose servant promptly begins cooling her with a hand fan made of unicorn horn and the Magna Carta.

You smile—not arrogantly, but confidently—and reveal your own play. “Lay Bare.”

The Insurrection caster’s teeth softly clamp down on a white-gloved hand as your eyes lock. The sexual tension in the room would require a servant to get Excalibur off the wall behind you to cut.

“My word… is this strip Magic now?” Says the youngest man at the table as he leans forward, raising an eyebrow.

CUT TO NASTY RICH PEOPLE ORGY

Now, stop imagining. You’re playing Magic on the carpet floor at Andy’s apartment, surrounded by sweating nerds desperately trying to outdo one another in a reverse-hygiene contest. The strip Magic prospect makes you vomit a lung.

Welcome back to the real world son. Anyway, can’t go wrong with a little Lay Bare. It not only mangles somebody’s plan, but because most cards in Type 4 tend to be tremendously threatening, it can also turn the table against somebody in a flash. In this sense, it’s actually very good to counter an early play to draw attention to a specific opponent. Countering their Opt and causing them to show a hand of Dominate, Vengeful Archon and Cabal Conditioning can only work in your favour.

Overall: Four impossibly elegant designer dresses ruined by passionate sex out of five

Review: Artisan of Kozilek

Draft Priority: *6*

Impact: *6*

Stack Status: *6*
Stacker Pentecost. Man, there’s been a lot of these lately. I shouldn’t have to explain why. PRO TIP: MOST ELDRAZI WILL GET THIS SCORE

Discussion:

The Eldrazi were supposed to represent sanity-bending, Lovecraftian monsters in Magic that came from beyond our comprehension and squashed worlds without really noticing their existence.  While they certainly captured that feel to me, they also made me wonder is a certain degree of Lovecraftian madness had gotten into the R&D department. They all but confirmed the stranglehold of the Design nWo and to me signaled that what I once understood about creature design was exploded and scattered like Marvin’s brains in Pulp Fiction.

Kicking things off with being a 10/9 for 9 mana, this shit is already a bit wonky, but not terribly out of line I supposed. There seems to be some kind of value compression in Power and Toughness to mana cost once the mana values go beyond 5. But the Artisan also carries a four-mana (often five) ability along with him as an afterthought, and then packs in Annihilator 2 (which I have no idea how to correctly cost).

Did I mention this is COLOURLESS mana, the most worthless of all mana? It’s the pesos of mana. Null Brooch costs six mana and YOUR ENTIRE HAND to replicate the effect of a UU spell. While this is probably the most extreme example of colourless mana needing to trade up to approximate the value of coloured mana, it’s still a thing.

So I don’t understand how cards are valued mana-wise anymore. No big deal. This stuff might even seem normal to people who started playing after Mirrodin. It still blows my mind.

Overall: Five whiny nostalgic Magic players out of five, Stacker Pentecost glare of approval

Review: Dismal Failure

Draft Priority: 5

Impact: 4

Stack Status: 5
Boss. An unconditional but expensive counterspell that produces card advantage? C’mon son.

Discussion:

There was a while where the American version of “The Office” having something as a topic was a great indicator as to something being totally played out. Network TV being arguably the slowest-adapting limb of old media’s withering husk, you know saying something was an “epic fail” had utterly run it’s course when Ed Helms as Andy was talking about it.

Getting hit by Dismal Failure on a key spell is almost as painful as watching one of the later Andy-centric episodes of The Office, so I guess it’s fitting. A strong counterspell in a format that needs them to be playable, there’s no excuse not to run this in your stack.

Overall: Five stocks in the Michael Scott Paper Company out of five

Construction: Stack Size

I draw a lot of parallels between Type 4 and Cube because Cube is the only thing in Magic I can really see many similarities to. They’re both player-constructed limited formats. …that’s about it. There are a lot of lessons to be learned from Cube building. Since being introduced to ‘serious’ Magic players and being subjected to the naturally-accompanying over-analysis that Magic websites need to deliver daily ‘content’, there is a lot of discussion on how to build and hone a Cube to your vision of perfection. There’s also a lot of gibberish, but we’re not going to address that at the Academy today (or ever probably). Instead we’re going to zero in on Stack sizes, and here, we can also have a sort of drive-by glimpse at what our Cubing brothers are up to on the sane side of the player-created limited world.

Continue reading

Review: Chancellor of the Spires

Draft Priority: *6*

Impact: 5

Stack Status: *6*
Stacker Pentecost. This guy is a champion in all kinds of casual Magic, but his mill ability is super-relevant here as the decks are small and games certainly do some down to empty libraries.

Discussion:

A superstar for all kinds of reasons. Herp derp I’m a sphinx? Yep. Free potential massive value spell wen it enters the battlefield? Of course. Big evasive body for your trouble? Of course.

An nWo design from top to bottom, this Chancellor is one of the best Type 4 creatures there is. There’s no cleverness or effort involved. It’s just amazing. Snatch it up.

Overall: Five derps out of five, Stacker Pentecost glare of approval

Review: Djinn of Wishes

Draft Priority: *6*

Impact: *6*

Stack Status: *6*
Stacker Pentecost all the way. One of the best cards in Type 4. Perfect for the rules, fun, and powerful.

Discussion:

Dr. Manhattan shows up and brothers take note. He’s a jacked, naked, blue dude—sure, that would get attention by itself. But he also has the power to turn the world to ash, or make a crazy floating clockwork joint on Mars. Whatever. Djinn of Wishes is similar in Type 4. He can turn the whole game around, and if your opponents are unprepared, he will come into play, Zack Snyder slo-mo ensures, and you win the game.

Three free spells, plus a fairly large evasive body? Plenty of potential for repeatability of the trick with bounce and blink spells? He belongs with Bosh, Griselbrand, and Jareth in an elite club of Type 4’s most dominant creatures.

Overall: Five blue energy dongs out of five, Stacker Pentecost glare of approval

Review: Geist Snatch

Draft Priority: 4

Impact: 3

Stack Status: 5
It’s a conditional counterspell that will almost always have good targets that also gives the caster something. The perfect type of counterspell for Type 4.

Discussion:

I’m pretty sure that ghost is slam dancing.

This card is a good, solid pick that gives you a bonus twerp. I could just recount exactly what it does and treat you like you can’t read, but if you need that you can probably read a set review from anywhere.

Overall: Four houses about to burn down because of poor candle discipline out of five

Review: Whitemane Lion

Draft Priority: 2

Impact: 3

Stack Status: 2
Questionable. I just put in all the creatures with Flash for the most part.

Discussion:

Imagine you’re a creature in a game of Magic. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and say you’re Glory Seeker, though you no doubt see yourself more along the lines of Mirran Crusader or something (get over yourself). Anyway, you’re out Glory Seeking with a few of bros (let’s say Raise the Alarm tokens) and you hear awful, eldritch screams and echoing footsteps in the distance.

Ulamog’s Crusher on the horizon! It takes note of the fancy, robe-clad planeswalker behind you who plucked you from your home and life and plunged you into a world of mindless servitude in an attempt to drain his “opponent’s life total”, whatever that means. The mountain or terror turns to face the planeswalker and charges, it’s footsteps rending the earth beneath it as the laws of the natural world fall away to the utter madness that is this creature.

The two bros you were just walking with explode into red mist. Now the planeswalker tells you “jump in front of that charging mass of alien death.”

“oh ya np” you reply, through no volition of your own. Your bowels similarly stop obeying your brain and let loose.

Your pitiful worldly frame positions itself before the oncoming Eldrazi, sundering the world itself as it advances, and you realize, “it’s all over… if this thing kills me, do I even die? Am I reconstituted as some impossible, sanity-bending monster’s leg? If I had some of that badass 3D maneuver gear, could I kill it? Do I become fuel for this otherworldly scourge?”

Then, your phone plays a snippet of the chorus from Katy Perry’s “Roar”. Incoming text message. Oh, cool. It’s not like your sword even interacts with the Crusher on a meaningful level, so you might as well tell whoever’s texting you “gettin squished ;P ttyl”

You flip open your Nokia flip phone (your iPhone broke down after you blocked a saproling earlier, and the planeswalker has like twenty of these things in a bag). Text message from: Derfington, PW. “jump in2 prtl”

What?

Then, behind you, an orange mirage materializes from the aether. The portal? Well, the planewalker said jump in. But who just jumps into a portal?

The Ulamog’s Crusher is in front of you. It’s footsteps rattle your teeth, the booming echo reverberating in your chest and dirty adult diaper. The impossible noise it eminates makes the world itself waver as a nightmarish version of physics imposes itself over natural laws. It is death, it is the apocalypse, and it is upon you.

The glowing portal looks pretty good. The planeswalker gave you a burner phone. You can trust him.

You jump into the portal, knowing you were dead anyway. A brilliant flash overwhelms your vision briefly OH SHIT A LION COMING STRAIGHT FOR ME

Later on, everyone explains the Ulamog’s Crusher inexplicably stopped where you were standing earlier, a lion came out of the portal, said “chill bro I got this” and then some fruit with facepaint on stabbed the Crusher in the armpit, killing it.

Whitemane Lion is mediocre in Type 4.

Overall: Two burner phones out of five

Rules: Custom Cards

There are over 13000 different Magic cards printed in the history of the game. A small percentage of them see actual play with the vast majority discarded like a boxer must discard roll after roll of sweaty, useless disgusting flab before he can win the title. As designed has streamlined with the nWo’s full force bearing down on R&D, most of the ‘good’ cards are now universally good across formats; today’s Standard staple is also likely to get plenty of use in Commander, Cube, 60×4 casuals and Highlander decks. While it’s all well and good to see so many high quality cards, it also means that anybody who buys cards in quantity for any reason essentially owns a lot of garbage–unusual piles of crap like Pillarfield Ox, which never would have been playable, but also stuff like Lavaborn Muse which might have seen use in some cornercase application somewhere, but has just been muscled out. The same goes for once-iconic cards like Force of Nature, which is pretty much chillin’ in a Magic card nursing home these days shitting it’s pants and wondering when the tooth fairy is coming by next.

Alternative formats are, ideally, the Special Olympics of Magic in that they provide opportunity to cards that don’t get to shine elsewhere. There’s so many unloved cards out there that ideally, a new format offers more than just rules, but a beer-goggles lens that changes the way we perceive these disadvantaged abominations. And there’s plenty to go around.

So, in Type 4–which is one of the oldest and best formats that still gives cards nobody likes a time to shine–I can’t understand why people are compelled to design ‘custom cards’ to play with.

You may or may not have figured out the thrust of what I’m going to way with that line, in which case you might as well not click on the link to expand the article unless you really enjoy my searing wit and twenty-year-old pop-culture references. Continue reading