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PostPosted: Mon May 02, 2016 9:25 pm 
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Zerris here, caving to pressure and being a conformist.

Time to build a 4-Color Walker deck. In part because every time I read through the mana base of any other 4 or 5-Color Walker deck and compare it to the cards they're trying to cast, it gives me an aneurysm. Let's see if we can make a deck that doesn't concede to its own lands.

Preface: Why 4-Color Walkers?
If you don't care about deck-building theory and just want a netdeck, skip to the section labeled "~~~ Decklist ~~~" in big font. Nothing here is relevant to you.

Alright, imagine you had no idea what the meta of Magic Duels was, and you just wanted to build a powerful deck. Further, let's imagine that you have access to magical "rainbow lands" that can tap for any color of mana or colorless. Given that, what deck would you build?

If you wanted to build a midrange-y proactive deck, it might look something like this:

Midrange Rainbow Lands Deck ()
2x Knight of the White Orchid
2x Sylvan Advocate
1x Nissa, Vastwood Seer
2x Tireless Tracker
2x Matter Reshaper
1x Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
1x Archangel of Tithes
1x Erebos's Titan
1x Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
2x Woodland Wanderer
2x Thought-Knot Seer
1x Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
1x Nahiri, the Harbinger
1x Arlinn Kord
1x Archangel Avacyn
2x Reality Smasher
1x Jace, Unraveler of Secrets
1x Ob Nixilis Reignited
1x Linvala, the Preserver
1x Woodland Bellower
1x Chandra, Flamecaller
1x Sorin, Grim Nemesis

6x Removal Spells

25x Rainbow Land

That's a nice deck, it's got a good curve, let's go build it in Duels!

Wait.

Where are my rainbow lands?

Oh right, they were theoretical. Well, back to the drawing board.

Now, instead, let's try to build that deck using real mana. First, remove all the obviously unplayable cards due to mana considerations. There's only one blue card, and it's double blue, so get it out. Double white on turn two is a non-starter in a multi-colored deck. Colorless splashes really badly with three+ colors, because there are no pain lands (i.e., Colored+Colorless dual lands) in Magic Duels. If you think Crumbling Vestige counts, you haven't played with it yet. Warped Landscape is closer, but can seriously hamper your development as a midrange deck - I don't think it's worth the payoffs, though I welcome some testing. My initial spitballing suggests we could get four Warped Landscape + four Evolving Wilds + four Sylvan Rangers + Wastes for a reasonable shot at turn four Thought-Knot Seer, but the fifth color means that the Evolving Wilds and Sylvan Rangers probably don't even count as 3/4s of a colored source for each color any more and you'd stunt your development a lot cracking Warped Landscapes on turn three/four. I suspect you'd need to drop every card (or every card) for mana reasons to allow this - although that might be an acceptable swap. Anyway, it's all theoretical for the moment, because I'm not doing it here.

So, what does our deck look like now?

Conservative Midrange Rainbow Lands Deck ()
2x Sylvan Advocate
1x Nissa, Vastwood Seer
2x Tireless Tracker
1x Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
1x Archangel of Tithes
1x Erebos's Titan
1x Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
2x Woodland Wanderer
1x Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
1x Nahiri, the Harbinger
1x Arlinn Kord
1x Archangel Avacyn
1x Ob Nixilis Reignited
1x Linvala, the Preserver
1x Woodland Bellower
1x Chandra, Flamecaller
1x Sorin, Grim Nemesis

Alright, how close can we come to giving this a real mana base?

Relevant Link to Mana Math

In Duels, we have four fetch lands - let's call those a total of 3 sources for each color. In order to play fetch lands, we need basics to fetch - we probably want about two per color to meet all our mana requirements. That's 12 lands already; add in 13 dual lands and you have a total of 46 sources of colored mana - distributed relatively evenly, because of all the basics and fetches, alongside the limit on true dual lands. If you instead made your entire deck dual lands (which will mostly come into play tapped) you'd only get up to 50, so there's not a lot of room to improve. This gives you - on average - 12 sources of each color. This is enough to cast single colored spells on turn 3, give or take - and nothing before that, alongside no double colored spells. Wait, most of our deck is double colored. This won't work out. We need more mana.

The naive answer is to just add more lands - but to add enough lands to cast our spells, we'd need 45-50 lands. That won't be a very good deck. Alright, how else can we clean up the mana without adding lands? First answer: more ways to fetch our existing lands. Ramp spells or creatures, with two exceptions, only fetch basics - so we're gonna have to play some basics. Now, if we play too many basics, we'll also have trouble - because then we need to hit 90-100 land-equivalent sources in a 60 card deck. Alright, we want to play the bare minimum of basics. This means that our ramp spells like Explosive Vegetation and Nissa's Pilgrimage will be very bad. You can cast the first one, and all the rest are dead top decks. Even worse, they can't be cast very early, so our spells will already be delayed. An Erebos's Titan on turn seven is not nearly as good as on turn four - and if we fetch for Erebos, we can't play Archangel of Tithes. What's the best cheapest land tutor? Well, there are two good choices - one is the land cantrip Oath of Nissa (bonus: can get non-basics!), and the other is Sylvan Ranger. Let's add a full playset of each and see how that affects our math. (You might at this point suggest Deathcap Cultivator. But - spoilers - I plan to add some wraths, and Cultivator plays very poorly with wraths. Sylvan Ranger, by comparison, can chump block while you let them develop a board for maximum wrath value. Also, Deathcap is only a good source of Black, and we badly need White as well.)

First off, if we hit Oath of Nissa, all of our Planeswalker costs are paid for. Now, we would still need to draw an Oath - but this means that each one can count as one of our mythical rainbow lands - for Planeswalkers only. For everything else, we'll count them together as 0.5 of each land source (except Green - because without it we couldn't play the oaths!) per Karsten's math. The Sylvan Rangers are roughly fetchlands - I'll count them as 3 sources per color (again, except for green, unless we need double green). Now what do our land needs look like?

Sources (before dual lands):
Green: 5
White: 8.5
Black: 8.5
Red: 8.5

To which we can add 26 mana sources from dual lands. Consider this to be 2 sources better for each non-green Planeswalker. Combined total, 56.5 sources.

And we need... 19 Green, 22 White, 22 Black, 15 Red, or a total of 78. Yeah, that's still not going to work. Let's shave off a few more hard to cast cards - Nissa, Voice of Zendikar, Archangel of Tithes, and Erebos's Titan are not helping us out. They're also the only cards that force us to go that deep into those colors; we don't lose out on any decent removal or other creatures by not having 1WWW.

Now, with those three cards removed, we're down to needing:

15 Green, 18 White, 18 Black, 15 Red - except those color requirements (in White and Red) are from Planeswalkers, so we can lower them by two, and the Green is for double green - for which we should be counting an extra 3.5 from Sylvan Ranger and Oath of Nissa. Let's remove those from the data, since they don't affect our land needs. Let's also concede that we won't cast Oath of Nissa on turn one, because there's no world in which we have 14 basic Forests.

Adjusted source requirements: 13 Green, 16 White, 18 Black, 13 Red, for a total of 60. That's remarkably close to our expected total of 56.5 sources. If we're willing to give up a little consistency and be very careful with our mana base, we can cast all of these cards mostly on curve:

More Conservative Midrange Rainbow Lands Deck ()
2x Oath of Nissa
2x Sylvan Advocate
4x Sylvan Ranger
1x Nissa, Vastwood Seer
2x Tireless Tracker
1x Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
2x Woodland Wanderer
1x Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
1x Nahiri, the Harbinger
1x Arlinn Kord
1x Archangel Avacyn
1x Ob Nixilis Reignited
1x Linvala, the Preserver
1x Woodland Bellower
1x Chandra, Flamecaller
1x Sorin, Grim Nemesis

Which is 23 cards, alongside 25 lands, leaving us 12 slots for removal / curve filling.

The first thing to notice is that, absent the Sylvan Rangers, every creature in this deck has (or can have) at least five toughness. You can probably see where I'm going with this - Radiant Flames and Languish are one-sided sweepers, making them even better than usual - and as a midrange deck, we need some protection from aggro. Both of these cards already fit our mana base - perfect!

Also, Oath of Gideon seems like a good idea, at least on a first attempt: we've got a million Walkers, and many of them (Gideon, Chandra, Ob Nixilis, Sorin) benefit significantly from that extra point of loyalty.

That leaves us 6 slots - let's start by shoving in the two most efficient, universal removal spells at two each: Declaration in Stone, Anguished Unmaking.

And at this point, you'd notice we're dealing ourselves a lot of pain, with little healing. How do we survive burn? Simple - a card I haven't seen in any decks in a while:

2x Lantern Scout

What's that, you say? We're not an Allies Deck?

Sylvan Advocate
Oath of Gideon
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
Woodland Bellower for Sylvan Advocate

Gives us six other ally sources - and usually, a single lifelink swing is enough to close out a game, so two certainly is.

Short Diversion: Delirium math and Mindwrack Demon.

Is Mindwrack Demon playable in this deck? Well, first, how many card types can we reliably get into the yard. Creature and Sorcery are easy, and will happen naturally. We have ways to put lands / enchantments / instants / planeswalkers into the yard (and Nahiri does it on easy mode) but what're the odds of hitting two of those types when we already have Creature/Sorcery and just cast Mindwrack hoping for good luck? Well, we have 25 lands and 12 non-land non-Creature/Sorceries. Our odds of failing to hit at least one of each are slightly less than (no lands)+(no non-lands)-(none of either) = 11%+41%-2% = 50%. So, just off the Mindwrack flip, we're 50-50 for hitting Delirium with two types in the yard. If you get land as your third type, the odds improve to 60%. If a Planeswalker dies or you cast an Anguished Unmaking, it instead improves to 95%+ odds of hitting Delirium off the flip. Basically, casting him is risky until you get a Planeswalker, Instant, or Enchantment into the yard. This means he is not a good turn four play. This is bad for a deck trying to cast things on curve. That said, if you're a gambling man, he might be a good replacement (or companion) to Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet.

At this point, we just need to sort out the mana base. We probably don't need two full mountains just for Chandra, but at least two of every other basic, all four evolving wilds, and every dual land gives us:

2x Forest
2x Plains
2x Swamp
1x Mountain
4x Evolving Wilds
2x GW
2x GB
2x GR
2x WB
2x WR
2x BR
2x BW again?

Which is a total (alongside our Sylvan Ranger and Oath of Nissa math) of 11 Green, 16.5 White, 16.5 Black, 13.5 Red out of our goal of 13 Green, 16 White, 18 Black, 13 Red. Okay, that's a little off.

We'd like about +2 Green, -1 White, +1 Black, -1 Red. Let's remove the RW duals and replace them with a GW and a GB.


2x Forest
2x Plains
2x Swamp
1x Mountain
4x Evolving Wilds
2x GW
2x GB
2x GR
2x WB
2x BR
2x BW again
1x GW again
1x GB again

That's a total of 13 Geen, 15.5 White, 17.5 Black, 11.5 Red out of our goal of 13 Green, 16 White, 18 Black, 13 Red. We'll be a little off curve with Chandra some games, but otherwise this is workable. It also gives us the all-important Shambling Vents for our midrange Sylvan Advocate deck. We definitely need that second basic Forest, if only for Nissa, Vastwood Seer, so that's as many dual sources as we can afford.

What dual lands does this actually get us, though? If we have two basic lands (usually different, because most basics will be explicitly fetched for) in play such that a battle land would enter untapped, so will all but one of our check lands. If we have a single basic land, half our check lands will be untapped, but none of our battle lands will be. I think we do better maximizing the number of checklands and minimizing battle lands - which gives us the following deck:



~~~ Decklist ~~~
You skipped here from the top, right? Well, here's the action:

Super Friends ()
(Midrange)

Threats
2x Sylvan Advocate
1x Nissa, Vastwood Seer/Nissa, Sage Animist
2x Tireless Tracker
1x Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
2x Woodland Wanderer
1x Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
1x Nahiri, the Harbinger
1x Arlinn Kord/Arlinn, Embraced by the Moon
1x Archangel Avacyn/Avacyn, The Purifier
1x Ob Nixilis Reignited
1x Linvala, the Preserver
1x Woodland Bellower
1x Chandra, Flamecaller
1x Sorin, Grim Nemesis

Removal
2x Declaration in Stone
2x Anguished Unmaking
2x Radiant Flames
2x Languish

Everything Else
2x Oath of Nissa
4x Sylvan Ranger
2x Lantern Scout
2x Oath of Gideon

Lands (25)
2x Plains
2x Swamp
2x Forest
1x Mountain
4x Evolving Wilds
2x Shambling Vent
1x Hissing Quagmire
1x Canopy Vista
2x Woodland Cemetery
2x Rootbound Crag
2x Isolated Chapel
2x Dragonskull Summit
2x Sunpetal Grove


Strategy

Everybody should know how to play four-color walkers by now. You're playing all the best cards in the game, so try your hardest to make the mana line up and wreck somebody by throwing mythic rares at their face until they concede. Given that, I'll only note interactions specific to my build of the deck.

First, this is a Midrange deck. It is not a control deck. You are trying to kill the other person. This means we don't have as much planeswalker removal as you might expect - we remove opposing walkers by attacking them. It also means things like Arlinn Kord's best ability is her day side +1. Our big threats all have trample, evasion, or create multiple attackers. But if the game goes long, you will die to Rolling Thunder and similar shenanigans.

Second, the threats in this deck are all meant to be individually good. I have no explicit Nahiri, the Harbinger targets - but I have a bunch of creatures that are good and happen to work well with Nahiri. There are no explicit Woodland Bellower targets - but it does have targets, and they're good. We have no Call the Gatewatch and no Read the Bones, although both are reasonable - but instead of tutoring for a threat, why not just replace the tutor with another equally good threat? This lets us play aggressively on curve more than most walker decks. After your first few turns sorting out the mana, it should be haymaker after haymaker.

Third, this is a proactive deck. There are no "sideboard" cards, with Lantern Scout being the closest. The best way to deal with a troublesome permanent is to kill the player controlling it, and we aim to do that.

Lastly, this is not a budget deck - Sylvan Ranger and Evolving Wilds are literally the only non-rares in the deck. There is no budget version. Without the lands - at the very least - the deck simply fails to function.

Tuning would likely involve differences of opinions on what the strongest cards are in these colors (should The Gitrog Monster have a spot? Ever After?) and how much filler is needed (Oath of Gideon? Lantern Scout? Read the Bones?).


And that's a wrap...

I welcome any feedback - and feedback about card choices in particular - as long as they fit the theme and playstyle of the deck. I've put consideration into each of the current cards, but there's not enough space in this post for a full side-by-side comparison across four colors.

Image

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If I ever built an Esper Control deck, it would still somehow contain 2x Sylvan Advocate, 2x Tireless Tracker, 1x Nissa, Vastwood Seer, 1x Reclamation Sage, 1x Nissa, Vital Force, and 1x Woodland Bellower.


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PostPosted: Tue May 03, 2016 2:51 am 
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Great write-up and a nice explanation to your Mana base.

I feel like I'd really want a third Forest in this deck; and I'd most likely cut Hissing Quagmire for that (it always entering tapped might be a big deal). Having one less Black soruce really seems to hurt the deck, though, and you can't really fix that using Battle lands. I think there's two options and I could see arguments for both:
1) Add another Swamp upping the land count to 26. Given how you can fetch quite some lands, this doesn't seem like the worst idea.
2) Run Deathcap Cultivator. I see your point in not running it, as it's be pretty sad if he's the second B source needed for Languish, but on the other hand it might be worth it to play a Woodland Wanderer or a Walker ahead of the curve.

What's your take on Oath of Chandra btw? Your Mana probably doesn't support it, but that card can definitely steal games - removal early, somewhere around 8 face damage later.

Also, how has Linvala been for you? I could definitely see Greenwarden take her place, but I might be wrong about that.

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PostPosted: Tue May 03, 2016 8:28 am 
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If you're adding a land, my suggestion would be: +1 Forest, +1 Smoldering Marsh, - 1 Hissing Quagmire. This gives you +1 Red source, while adding the basic forest you were looking for. Also, Smoldering Marsh turns on most of the check lands in the deck, so the fact that it will personally enter tapped is offset a lot. I agree that Hissing Quagmire is the worst land, and is just there to balance the mana. We would love a pair of GB Battle Lands, but they don't exist.

As for Oath of Chandra, you're only one red source off - and as a removal spell, you don't need it strictly on curve. It could fit into the deck, the question is whether you want to. On average you'll see about half your deck. Let's assume you draw four of your seven walkers and both Oaths of Chandra. You probably cast one walker before any Oaths, and the other three after - it doesn't matter which oath you cast them after, because the Oaths are legendary. This means you get 6 face damage for two oaths, or 3 damage/oath. Hey look, it's a build-your-own Searing Blaze! That said, Searing Blaze is not a bad card. The question is whether it's a card we want to play in this deck and metagame. I think that 3 damage to the face is mostly irrelevant - you barely do any damage, then turn the corner and swing in increments of 10-20 per turn. But if we were playing an aggro burn deck, you can see how the math might favor it. Regardless, it's definitely playable - I just think it's worse than all our other removal, and we don't need more.

If you wanted to add Deathcap Cultivators, I'd count them each as 0.25 black sources and 0.25 green sources (for Bellower / Greenwarden only) per Karsten's "fragile mana" count. Unfortunately, all of our green source requirements are to hit Oath of Nissa, which isn't going anywhere, so you're really only boosting black. That means that a single Deathcap Cultivator is worth ~ 0.3 sources, while a single Sylvan Ranger is worth ~ 2.5 sources. They might feel similarly impactful, but Deathcap is only good because it ramps - not because it fixes your mana. And while we do ramp a little - it wouldn't be a complete waste - we also care about getting value and making a threat with every single card. So Deathcap isn't fixing your mana - he's actually just being a land, which means you should count him in the lands stack. And there we have a problem: you're now running a 27 land deck (or even 28), without any better mana. If you were already counting the Sylvan Rangers in lands, you're up to 31. There are only so many bad topdecks you can add before you start drawing them all.

Of course, I have not put in significant testing for this archtype yet. If I do, I'll write it up and adjust the deck accordingly. But for now, Deathcap feels very sub-par unless we seriously cut down our mana requirements - maybe cut all those spells. Unfortunately those are all your fliers, which hurts you in a different way... the entire thing is a balancing act, and the point of my build here is to show:

1) It can be balanced, and

2) What tradeoffs are being made, why, and how you could make them differently.

As long as you're lining up cards and mana sources, I think there's a lot of room for acceptable variation. I'd like that conversation to start from a reasonable baseline, though, as opposed to the wonderful decks I've seen with double costs in every color and 15 basic lands.

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If I ever built an Esper Control deck, it would still somehow contain 2x Sylvan Advocate, 2x Tireless Tracker, 1x Nissa, Vastwood Seer, 1x Reclamation Sage, 1x Nissa, Vital Force, and 1x Woodland Bellower.


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PostPosted: Tue May 03, 2016 9:52 am 
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Quote:
If you don't care about deck-building theory and just want a netdeck, skip to the section labeled "~~~ Decklist ~~~" in big font. Nothing here is relevant to you.


I'm the netdecker of all netdeckers and I really like reading your write-up's. Why do you think that is?

I also haven't netdecked one of yours yet. I've noticed that after several months of having success with certain deck-builder's brews, I get used to playing their decks like wearing a warm blanket. It's a comfort thing knowing they are builders of quality.

I'm sure i'll warm up to you eventually but in the meantime, i really like reading your write-ups.

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PostPosted: Tue May 03, 2016 11:45 am 
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Zerris wrote:
As long as you're lining up cards and mana sources, I think there's a lot of room for acceptable variation. I'd like that conversation to start from a reasonable baseline, though, as opposed to the wonderful decks I've seen with double costs in every color and 15 basic lands.


Point taken; I think that a stable manabase has to be the baseline for the discussion of any 4-colour-deck (or any deck for that matter), and your work regarding that manabase definitely looks very good.

Agree that Smoldering Marsh is better than the third Swamp; turns on all but 1 checkland (and that is turned on the most reliable anyways). Honestly makes me think 26 lands might just be the way to go; the Cultivators really don't seem to fit the deck.

Regarding Oath of Chandra, I think the added removal (even though sorcery-speed) might be a better first side than adding two chump-blockers. Also, while the Walker support is definitely weaker than Gideon's, it's far from irrelevant (and actually amazing in the mirror, as it can hit PWs). Not sure whether I should run Oath of Chandra, Oath of Gideon, neither or both; might need some testing.

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PostPosted: Tue May 03, 2016 11:50 am 
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**Ive edited this post like 5 times.

This is similar to my deck, but I run -2 Oath of Gideon -2 Woodland Wanderer -2 Lantern Scout -2 Languish -1 Kalitas +1 Nissa Voice +2 Elvish Visionary +2 Call of the Gatewatch +2 Planar Outburst and +2 Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim

Now my mana has a rough time getting double black by t4, hence no Languish/Kalitas. I can get double white by t5. What are your thoughts on the difference there? You gotta have Nissa Voice right? This is a PW deck. Plus she goes well with all my 2 drops. Even pumping them one time will usually spell victory.

The extra 2 drops with Visionaries and Ayli stave off humans and add me some lifegain and cantrips. They also give me more to do on t5+. Where I can usually play two spells a turn. I've played at least 100 games with 4cc Walkers and I understand the negative tempo of Call of Gatewatch, but 2 tutors for the best Mythic Rare we need is too hard to give up IMO. I could change it out for 2 Oath of Gideon or 2 Lantern Scout if a good argument could be made. Either one provided more value in a midrange list, but when you need enchantment hate or Sorin to drop another PW or a sweeper in Chandra, it's hard to give them up. But there are definitely games when they set my hand with no obvious target.

I've tested Wanderer as well. There's no doubt he's good. But he always gets removed. I could put them in the place of Visionaries or Ayli, but again having 10 two drop creature is way too helpful against Aggro. And I would rather be dropping a PW t4.

Lanten also does not survive two power first striker. Though having something to play on turn 3 on curve would be nice. I'm usually either sweeping, removing or playing another 2 drop.

Also, assuming I kept my list the same, what would you set the mana at Zerris? I'm not home or I would post what I have. I barely follow all your math when it come to mana anyway haha!

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PostPosted: Tue May 03, 2016 12:59 pm 
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Here's the number of each color and mana sources.

15 White
6 Black
5 Red
16 Green

2 x Plains
2 x Swamps
2 x Mountain (how can you not run two?? You have to be able to fix for Chandra right?)
3 x Forest
2 x Needle Spire (this card is awesome against aggro and synergies with Advocate obviously)
1 x Hissing Quagmire
2 x Shambling Vent
1 x Canopy Vista
2 x Woodland Cemetery
1 x Isolated Chapel
2 x Sunpetal Grove
3 x Evolving Wilds

So if I'm understanding this correctly, Wilds count as a source for any color then:

13 White sources
11 Black sources
9 Red Sources
14 Green sources

How's that?

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PostPosted: Tue May 03, 2016 3:20 pm 
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If you're running 4-5 colors, I'm counting Evolving Wilds as .75 of each source, but otherwise, correct on the source math. For cards, you don't care how many of each color you have, you care about when you need to cast them. Find each card in your deck on the tables under the numbers - i.e, Gideon is 2WW, so if you want to cast him on turn four, you'll need ~18 white sources. If you're okay with casting him on turn five most of the time instead, 16 white sources is sufficient. Etc. There's no reason you can't have cards in your deck for which you don't meet the number of sources, as long as you recognize that you will not be able to cast them on curve. For threats, this is usually bad. For removal or card draw, it might be acceptable.

In response to the earlier suggestions about Linvala / Oath of Gideon / Oath of Chandra: Here's a variation that de-emphasizes double white, increases the odds that you can cast Chandra, but decreases the odds that you can cast Gideon (and might want to dump him entirely):

-1 Linvala, the Preserver
-1 Archangel Avacyn
-2 Oath of Gideon
-1 Sylvan Ranger
+2 Priest of the Blood Rite
+2 Oath of Chandra
-1 Plains
-1 Hissing Quagmire
+1 Canopy Vista
+2 Smoldering Marsh

You'll notice I've kept roughly the same curve, replaced two fliers with two other fliers, and stabilized the mana enough that we can afford to cut a Sylvan Ranger (and a basic Plains along with her). For those wondering about our seven fetches / six fetchable lands: don't. If you get that much mana in play, your costs are all paid for. We don't have anything to do above seven-ish mana, so having a dead fetch land late-game isn't horrible.

Alternatively, if this bothers you too much, cut Gideon for... oh... how about

-1 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
+1 Greenwarden of Murasa
-1 Canopy Vista
+1 Forest

And you've got your basic land back. It's even a forest now! Rejoice! Nissa, Vastwood Seer gets a little better.

I'll leave the complicated math out of all these changes, but suffice to say it took me an hour or two with a notepad full of scribbles to make it balance.

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If I ever built an Esper Control deck, it would still somehow contain 2x Sylvan Advocate, 2x Tireless Tracker, 1x Nissa, Vastwood Seer, 1x Reclamation Sage, 1x Nissa, Vital Force, and 1x Woodland Bellower.


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PostPosted: Tue May 03, 2016 3:51 pm 
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Zerris wrote:
If you're running 4-5 colors, I'm counting Evolving Wilds as .75 of each source, but otherwise, correct on the source math. For cards, you don't care how many of each color you have, you care about when you need to cast them. Find each card in your deck on the tables under the numbers - i.e, Gideon is 2WW, so if you want to cast him on turn four, you'll need ~18 white sources. If you're okay with casting him on turn five most of the time instead, 16 white sources is sufficient. Etc. There's no reason you can't have cards in your deck for which you don't meet the number of sources, as long as you recognize that you will not be able to cast them on curve. For threats, this is usually bad. For removal or card draw, it might be acceptable.

In response to the earlier suggestions about Linvala / Oath of Gideon / Oath of Chandra: Here's a variation that de-emphasizes double white, increases the odds that you can cast Chandra, but decreases the odds that you can cast Gideon (and might want to dump him entirely):

-1 Linvala, the Preserver
-1 Archangel Avacyn
-2 Oath of Gideon
-1 Sylvan Ranger
+2 Priest of the Blood Rite
+2 Oath of Chandra
-1 Plains
-1 Hissing Quagmire
+1 Canopy Vista
+2 Smoldering Marsh

You'll notice I've kept roughly the same curve, replaced two fliers with two other fliers, and stabilized the mana enough that we can afford to cut a Sylvan Ranger (and a basic Plains along with her). For those wondering about our seven fetches / six fetchable lands: don't. If you get that much mana in play, your costs are all paid for. We don't have anything to do above seven-ish mana, so having a dead fetch land late-game isn't horrible.

Alternatively, if this bothers you too much, cut Gideon for... oh... how about

-1 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
+1 Greenwarden of Murasa
-1 Canopy Vista
+1 Forest

And you've got your basic land back. It's even a forest now! Rejoice! Nissa, Vastwood Seer gets a little better.

I'll leave the complicated math out of all these changes, but suffice to say it took me an hour or two with a notepad full of scribbles to make it balance.


Am I reading the chart wrong or is 18 W sources in the Gideon example based off a 99 card deck? Nevermind...there's another chart for double colors.

How do you figure out cards like Ayli or Nahiri that require 2 different colors? Do you use the double color chart?

Ok now that I've seen those charts and read your mana requirement in your post again, let me make sure I have this.

Lands = 1 source for whatever source they give

Wilds = 0.75 sources

Sylvan Ranger = 0.75 sources

Oath of Nissa = 0.5 sources except for green

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PostPosted: Tue May 03, 2016 4:58 pm 
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I'm counting Oath as 0.25 sources each, 0.5 together (basically, treating it as a cantrip). I'm also not counting Sylvan Ranger for green either, because we needed the green to cast it. Except for Woodland Bellower, where it can help us get the second green source. Nissa also counts as a fraction of a green source, but only for Bellower.

Multicolored Mana Math:

If it requires two different colors, check it as a single color for each and check it as a double against both colors. This is a bit complicated, so here's an example:

Nahiri, the Harbinger is . Let's assume we want to reliably cast her on curve (as soon as we drop our fourth land).

First, check both and : You should thus have 11 Red sources and 11 White sources. For this, a RW dual land would count as 1 of each, and an evolving wilds would be 0.75 or 1 of each.
Second, check : You should have 18 combined Red or White Sources. For this, a RW dual land only counts as 1 total, and an evolving wilds is only 1 total. What does this mean?

It means that if your mana base is just 11 R/W dual lands, you would meet the first condition, but not the second. If your mana base is 9 mountains and 9 plains, you would meet the second condition, but not the first. To be able to reliably cast Nahiri, you need to meet both. If you wanted the minimum number of lands to cast Nahiri, it would look something like 7 Mountains, 7 Plains, 4 R/W Dual Lands.

My mana base has:

11.5 Red Sources, 15.5 White Sources, and 22.5 R/W Combined Sources. Nahiri looks good to go. (And that's not even counting the two extra "sources" from Oath of Nissa ignoring specific mana costs).


All of these calculations assume you have 24-25 lands in your deck. If you're running an aggro deck off 18 lands, the requirements are slightly lower - you'll need to make some approximations of how much. For example, if you wanted to run Erebos's Titan in your 18 land aggro deck, you don't need 22 of your 18 lands to be swamps. Instead, take the ratio of the table to the expected 24 lands and scale it down; i.e. 22/24 is roughly the same ratio as 16/18, so you want about 16 of your 18 lands to be swamps in order to cast Titan. 16 Swamp, 2 Westvale Abbey would be a reasonable example.

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For those interested, a link to some of my better decks.

If I ever built an Esper Control deck, it would still somehow contain 2x Sylvan Advocate, 2x Tireless Tracker, 1x Nissa, Vastwood Seer, 1x Reclamation Sage, 1x Nissa, Vital Force, and 1x Woodland Bellower.


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PostPosted: Tue May 03, 2016 8:17 pm 
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My deck, while powerful, felt slow. One of the early assumptions I made was that you couldn't get enough basics to justify Explosive Vegetation - but if you're willing to cut most of a color, this ceases to be an issue. Let's cut white out; we were already considering it. Interestingly, this opens up Colorless as a choice again. We'll have a few more dead cards in our deck, but the cards we do have can be played easier. Note that dropping white also gets rid of most of our removal.

Super Friends ()
(Midrange)

Threats
2x Sylvan Advocate
1x Nissa, Vastwood Seer/Nissa, Sage Animist
2x Tireless Tracker
1x Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
1x Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
2x Woodland Wanderer
2x Thought-Knot Seer
1x Nahiri, the Harbinger
1x Arlinn Kord/Arlinn, Embraced by the Moon
2x Priest of the Blood Rite
2x Reality Smasher
1x Ob Nixilis Reignited
1x Greenwarden of Murasa
1x Woodland Bellower
1x Chandra, Flamecaller
1x Sorin, Grim Nemesis

Removal
2x Radiant Flames
2x Chandra's Ignition

Mana Fixing
2x Oath of Nissa
4x Sylvan Ranger
3x Explosive Vegetation

Lands (25)
1x Plains
2x Swamp
2x Mountain
4x Forest
1x Wastes
4x Evolving Wilds
2x Shambling Vent
1x Smoldering Marsh
1x Cinder Glade
2x Woodland Cemetery
2x Rootbound Crag
2x Dragonskull Summit
1x Sunpetal Grove

Strategy

Very similar to my previously posted deck, except the cutting of white means we've lost all of our targeted removal. We've replaced it with more threats, and some ramp. Downside: We have a lot fewer outs to somebody doing something we don't like. Upside: we're about two turns faster, due to the ramp and so many more untapped mana sources.

The math on this deck is that our mana is relatively stable, except we're a bit short on colorless sources with the single wastes that we can fetch up. If you count evolving wilds as land sources, everything is peachy - but that's a bit tough for the turn four plays. Thought-Knot Seer and Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet are the two hardest cards to cast on curve, especially without messing up the rest of your plays; clever fetching is key.

With more 4-toughness threats, Languish is no longer as good a sweeper. We have more red sources, though, so we can attempt Chandra's Ignition. Which, in addition to being a decent card, is incredibly fun to play with. If you cast Chandra's Ignition on Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, somebody is going to get blown out.

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For those interested, a link to some of my better decks.

If I ever built an Esper Control deck, it would still somehow contain 2x Sylvan Advocate, 2x Tireless Tracker, 1x Nissa, Vastwood Seer, 1x Reclamation Sage, 1x Nissa, Vital Force, and 1x Woodland Bellower.


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PostPosted: Tue May 03, 2016 10:54 pm 
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I appreciate the effort you're put into the mana-base and the post!

However, both do look to me like rough drafts rather than tuned lists by someone with a lot of experience in the archetype. The big issue is that the curve is too high - you've valued flashy mythics like Kalitas and Linvala over a twenty-sixth land or more early plays, and that's a mistake (which I figured out school of hard-knocks style, because I started with those cards in my 4C Walkers deck). The Walkers mean that you will have a powerful late game. There aren't many good answers to them, they all generate card advantage in one way or another, and any of them that stick around is likely adequate to accumulate enough advantage to win for you. So the focus needs to be on curving out - hit your land drops turns 1-5 (preferably 1-6), and use all of your mana on those turns also. Kalitas is an incredibly powerful card in the right deck. This isn't that deck. You want a bunch of removal that kills in order to snow-ball with Kalitas tokens. This deck lacks that, and a 3/4 Lifelinker isn't good enough to justify the double black color requirement.

You've also made a couple of errors in your mana-base calculations. First, if you re-read Karsten's article, he counts evolving wilds as a full source for each color (excepting decks which have heavy color requirements for multiple colors, which a well built 4C Walkers deck should not). Second, you're only counting Oath of Nissa as a cantrip. However, it doesn't just replace itself - you can pick any land card out of the next three cards. So it should at least count as "scry 2, then draw 1", which Karsten's guidelines give as a total of .65 colored sources. But the big benefit for Oath of Nissa in a 4C Walkers deck is that it completely fixes mana for all Planeswalkers. For the purposes of Walkers, each oath should be counted as 2 sources of each color. This is an additional reason to cut back on non-walker spells that have double-color casting costs such as Kalitas and Linvala.

The big oversights with the mana-base calculations however are under-estimating how much green you need, and failing to account for the differing mulligan rules between Duels and normal MTG. The free mulligan to seven means we can get away with more aggressive mana bases (see the "Brace Yourself: Methodological Remarks Incoming" section of Karsten's article). As to under-valuing Green mana, your color-fixing is heavily dependent on Sylvan Ranger and Oath of Nissa, and all of your 2-drops require Green mana. I think it's unwise to go below 15 green sources, though you could probably get away with 14.

It is of course possible I'm wrong on some of this, but these opinions are at least based on 260+ games of experience with 4C Walker decks on Steam, so if I'm wrong, it's not for failing to do my homework on the deck :).

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PostPosted: Tue May 03, 2016 11:16 pm 
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@randomname: I have not put nearly as much time into this as you have, so I'll defer to your experience - but I would like a more scientific way of knowing what's "acceptable" and what's not to aid in tuning and personal choices. As such, I'll be deferring even more to your maths.

So, first, the curve: Linvala does feel too high; I cut it almost immediately. Bellower I'm less sure on, he still feels like the best thing going on at 6 mana (and securely in our colors).

Kalitas: I want some powerful 4 CMC plays. He's definitely the hardest to cast, and might not deserve the slot. The removal for him is in our wraths, both of which can clear the board except for him - but that might not be good enough. Fair enough, let's dump him and use his absence to smooth out the mana base.

Evolving Wilds - both of my decks are color-hungry. You can argue about whether they should be - but at the moment, I think it's tough to call Evolving Wilds a full source. Oath of Nissa - you're entirely right, I should be valuing that higher. I did count the 2 sources for all walkers, but should probably up the sources for other colors to a combined +1 rather than +0.5. My green sources for my new deck are at 13-14, but I might be able to shore that up with the drop of Kalitas.

Good calls on all your points; you're entirely right. Let's see if I can clean up my build to address some of that... How about:

Super Friends V2.0 ()
(Midrange)

Threats
2x Sylvan Advocate
3x Lambholt Pacifist
1x Nissa, Vastwood Seer/Nissa, Sage Animist
2x Tireless Tracker
2x Matter Reshaper
1x Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
2x Woodland Wanderer
2x Thought-Knot Seer
1x Nahiri, the Harbinger
1x Arlinn Kord/Arlinn, Embraced by the Moon
2x Priest of the Blood Rite
1x The Gitrog Monster
2x Reality Smasher
1x Ob Nixilis Reignited
1x Woodland Bellower
1x Chandra, Flamecaller
1x Sorin, Grim Nemesis

Removal
2x Radiant Flames

Mana Fixing
2x Oath of Nissa
4x Sylvan Ranger

Lands (26)
1x Plains
2x Swamp
2x Mountain
5x Forest
1x Wastes
4x Evolving Wilds
2x Shambling Vent
2x Westvale Abbey/Ormendahl, Profane Prince
2x Woodland Cemetery
2x Rootbound Crag
2x Dragonskull Summit
1x Sunpetal Grove


Slightly more early-game biased, with much smoother mana. Down to almost no removal, but the goal is to have our Walkers be the removal/value while our creatures attack/block.

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For those interested, a link to some of my better decks.

If I ever built an Esper Control deck, it would still somehow contain 2x Sylvan Advocate, 2x Tireless Tracker, 1x Nissa, Vastwood Seer, 1x Reclamation Sage, 1x Nissa, Vital Force, and 1x Woodland Bellower.


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PostPosted: Wed May 04, 2016 3:09 am 
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If you want to cut down a color in 4CW, I believe it's almost strictly better to look at Black than to look at White

The main cards you're losing are Languish, Ob Nix and Kalitas. (Sorin and probably Anguished Unmaking should be easy enough to splash for).
Languish is probably the best Wrath, but it's also the hardest to cast and has less utility than Planar Outburst in the mirror or control matchups (where Planar doubles down as a threat).
Ob Nix is one of your weaker Walkers, Kalitas is your hardest-to-cast 4-drop. Gideon+Avacyn is not only slightly easier on the mana (as Oath of Nissa can help casting t4 Gideon), you're also bumping up the power level in my mind.
Add that White gives you access to Declaration In Stone, whereas Black does not have a comparable tool (the closest being Oblivion Strike) and I just don't see the point in cutting White over Black.

So, taking your first list from the page; let's adjust some things:
- Kalitas
- Ob Nix
- 2 Languish
- 2 Lantern Scout
- 2 Oath of Gideon

+ 2 Planar Outburst
+ 2 TKS
+ 2 Reality Smasher
+ 2 Matter Reshaper (or different filler, as Reshaper might be a bit tough on the mana)

Manabase:
- 2 Dragonskull Summit
- 1 Isolated Chapel
- 1 Swamp
- 1 Hissing Quagmire
- 2 Shambling Vent

+ 2 Clifftop Retreat
+ 1 Canopy Vista
+ 1 Mountain
+ 1 Wastes
+ 2 Westvale Abbey

According to your calculation, this gives us 13 green, 15.5 White, 10.5 Black, 12.5 Red, 9.5 colorless.
Requirements are the same as above, except Black should be WAY down now and Colorless should be around 11 (12 if you play Matter Reshaper).
Canopy Vista enables every single of our 9 check lands, Cinder Glade would enable all but Isolated Chapel.

How's that?

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PostPosted: Wed May 04, 2016 7:10 am 
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The new list looks really good to me Zerris. I'd be quite curious to see how it goes! One last suggestion: Given the limited removal, it may be worth considering Gilt-Leaf Winnower over Priest of the Blood Rite. Winnower is just a good card; there was a Sultai Midrange list that finished top-16 at the recent pro-tour running two of them main deck, and it's big enough to turn on Lambholt Pacifist.

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PostPosted: Wed May 04, 2016 10:42 am 
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My worry about Gilt-Leaf Winnower is how often the card is just a five mana 4/3. For example, my deck contains 25 creatures (27 if you count Arlinn's wolf and Nissa's Elemental) and Gilt-Leaf can only kill 5 of them. Of the 5 it can kill, 3 bring value right back on entrance/exit. That's atrociously unplayable. Now, by comparison, I think it shines against aggro - W humans / GW Renowned probably concede to it - but it seems like a horrible meta call against a bunch of other walker decks. The creatures I'm not playing but a lot of other walker decks are is -2 Matter Reshaper, +1 Gideon, +1 Avacyn, which is even fewer targets. And it doesn't attack that incredibly well when everybody has a ton of 1/1s sitting around to turn off Menace. I think it's a good card, I'm just suspicious of it in the Magic Duels meta.

As for an adjustment from Black focus to White focus, I'd suggest something like:

Super Friends V2.0 ()
(Midrange)

Threats
2x Sylvan Advocate
1x Nissa, Vastwood Seer/Nissa, Sage Animist
2x Tireless Tracker
1x Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
2x Eldrazi Displacer
2x Woodland Wanderer
2x Thought-Knot Seer
1x Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
1x Nahiri, the Harbinger
1x Arlinn Kord/Arlinn, Embraced by the Moon
1x Archangel Avacyn
2x Reality Smasher
1x Greenwarden of Murasa
1x Woodland Bellower
1x Chandra, Flamecaller
1x Sorin, Grim Nemesis

Removal
2x Declaration in Stone
2x Anguished Unmaking
2x Radiant Flames

Mana Fixing
2x Oath of Nissa
4x Sylvan Ranger

Lands (26)
3x Plains
1x Swamp
2x Mountain
6x Forest
2x Wastes
4x Evolving Wilds
2x Rootbound Crag
2x Sunpetal Grove
1x Woodland Cemetery
1x Shambling Vent
2x Needle Spires

Not sure about the exact creature base, but this build gives us access to Eldrazi Displacer, which is incredible. Please don't blink it with itself, but you can use it to attack with Gideon, then blink him to make an extra token. Or have it die early, then bring it back with Greenwarden and use it to start blinking Greenwarden for infinite value. Or just randomly hose Tokens, enchanted Creatures, Renowned creatures, and targeted removal. That card is busted, and needs to be in more decks, ideally not ones I'm playing against.

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For those interested, a link to some of my better decks.

If I ever built an Esper Control deck, it would still somehow contain 2x Sylvan Advocate, 2x Tireless Tracker, 1x Nissa, Vastwood Seer, 1x Reclamation Sage, 1x Nissa, Vital Force, and 1x Woodland Bellower.


Last edited by Zerris on Wed May 04, 2016 3:54 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Wed May 04, 2016 1:59 pm 
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Why no Linvala? She does sit in my hand a lot, but when she's needed, she's a huge help. It's also nice to Ultimate Nahiri to get her or Bellower.

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PostPosted: Wed May 04, 2016 2:26 pm 
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Sure, we can dunk the single lambholt to get back Bellower. I think Bellower is the second best threat for six mana after chandra. Linvala is much better in a control shell where you don't cast your own creatures; here she'll only be a 5/5 with lifegain. I think bringing in targets just for nahiri is a mistake, but bellower is good on his own merits.

Also, one Swamp does not two Shambling Vents justify. Dropping to one.

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For those interested, a link to some of my better decks.

If I ever built an Esper Control deck, it would still somehow contain 2x Sylvan Advocate, 2x Tireless Tracker, 1x Nissa, Vastwood Seer, 1x Reclamation Sage, 1x Nissa, Vital Force, and 1x Woodland Bellower.


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PostPosted: Wed May 04, 2016 2:31 pm 
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randomname wrote:
Spoiler

I've been playtesting this deck all day today on iOs. It's fairly decent. The early game, 2 drops are a boon. They serve as chump blockers, ramp, draw, and mana fixing. Additionally, they keep the opponent off balance, and playing cautiously enough for me to set up to drop, then wreck with my Planeswalkers.

Biggest weaknesses so far:
Lack of board wipes: This really hurts the deck. There have been a few duels where no matter how much board presence I was able to establish, either it took too long, or wasn't enough to get around the onslaught of too many creatures. Mostly, this can be addressed appropriately enough if I can land Chandra, Flamecaller, or Declaration in Stone, but they're not always available in time.
Opposing Planeswalkers: Can really grow to become an issue. No board wipes, and only a pair of Anguished Unmakings really make me wish to cram at least a pair of Suppression Bonds into this bitch, perhaps cutting the pair o' Call the Gatewatch, or Oath of Gideon.

Other than that, seems fairly consistent, and competitive.


Thanks for testing it!

The board wipes are a contentious point, to be sure. Personally I prefer not to run them, because Thopters and Elves just aren't really in the meta, and against most other go-wide strategies, there are enough 1/1s to hold them off until Walkers turn the corner much of the time. There are match-ups and board states where they're life savers, and my earlier versions of the deck ran 2-6 sweepers (not including Chandra), but I think it's a bit more powerful and consistent without them. After all, this is a deck with 10 two-drop creatures and six token producers. Much of the time I've got the wider board, and sweeping it would be a pity.

As for opposing Walkers, that can be a problem once in a while, but I think the 1/1s and lower curve generally leave this deck well positioned against other Super Friends decks. Against other RGWB lists I'm currently 15-2 with it, which is pretty good I think. But I wouldn't argue much with a Suppression Bonds or two. Those are just so versatile, and Rec Sage is far less ubiquitous than it used to be.

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PostPosted: Thu May 05, 2016 1:31 pm 
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And taking my same base / style, here's a switch into Red:

Super Friends V2.0 ()
(Midrange)

Threats
2x Sylvan Advocate
2x Eldrazi Displacer
1x Nissa, Vastwood Seer/Nissa, Sage Animist
2x Tireless Tracker
1x Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
1x Akoum Firebird
2x Pia and Kiran Nalaar
2x Thought-Knot Seer
1x Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
1x Nahiri, the Harbinger
1x Arlinn Kord/Arlinn, Embraced by the Moon
1x Archangel Avacyn
2x Reality Smasher
1x Greenwarden of Murasa
1x Woodland Bellower
1x Chandra, Flamecaller
1x Sorin, Grim Nemesis

Removal
1x Oath of Chandra
2x Declaration in Stone
2x Radiant Flames

Mana Fixing
2x Oath of Nissa
4x Sylvan Ranger

Lands (26)
2x Plains
1x Swamp
2x Mountain
6x Forest
1x Wastes
4x Evolving Wilds
1x Cinder Glade
2x Rootbound Crag
2x Sunpetal Grove
2x Clifftop Retreat
1x Westvale Abbey/Ormendahl, Profane Prince
2x Needle Spires

Loses our Woodland Wanderers and Anguished Unmakings for more haste and flying. Fetching Wastes wasn't playing great with Woodland; he was usually just a 5/5. Also, we're now solidly 3-color base, which means our mana is a bit more stable and it's easier to know what to fetch. Displacer and Pia & Kiran is a combo. Displacer and Woodland Wanderer is not. P&K also plays very nicely with our early Nissa, Voice of Zendikar, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, and Clue tokens. I've had Anguished Unmaking dead in hand every time I drew it - paying 3 life to kill a 3/3 is unimpressive. The first Oath of Chandra is better than the second, and feels like it earns a spot.

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If I ever built an Esper Control deck, it would still somehow contain 2x Sylvan Advocate, 2x Tireless Tracker, 1x Nissa, Vastwood Seer, 1x Reclamation Sage, 1x Nissa, Vital Force, and 1x Woodland Bellower.


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