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PostPosted: Fri Jul 17, 2015 6:01 pm 
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Duels Diaries week 2 update -

I've had a fun week on the iOS platform. You know, aside from some of the standard Stainless and Wizards baloney....

There was gold, yay! There was no gold, boo! Then there was a gold cap. Then there was a higher gold cap. Then I suddenly received over 2000 gold out of nowhere. I am guessing this was for matches won while the gold system was down.

I paid for about half the cards, I ground out the other half in about 6 days (once I got that big payout it put me over the top). I got to rank 40 on the day after release, because I get pretty competitive.

I love figuring our formats, and what is or will be popular, the metagame. There isn't usually much to say about standard, legacy, limited and modern that hasn't already been written about by people with double my Magic IQ, but Duels is different. There isn't a lot written about the format, most of what is written is here on the NGA forums, and it honestly spans from foolish to brilliant. I'll drop my opinion for your reading pleasure.

Here are the most played decks in week one -

Junk - I classify this as any deck built by the wizards deck builder or noobs that runs subpar cards. Razorfoot Griffin for example. If I play a deck and afterwards say "what a pile of crap" then it goes in the junk category. 60% of the decks I play fell into the Junk category.

Know that when I say "junk" I never, ever mean Abzan.

Obviously a lack of cards being available influences the cards people play. I mean no disrespect, we all have to win games with junk sometimes. It has it's own charms.

Just because people are playing junky bad decks doesn't mean we shouldn't consider this in building our own. The junk decks do feature a decent creature curve, the Duels Deckbuilder Wizard makes sure of this. If your deck doesn't have meaningful interaction with a curve of 1 drop, 2 drop, 3 drop, 4 drop, you can get run over. This happened to several control decks I played. Any deck you take out for these early stages needs to feature meaningful interaction on early turns. The best cards for this are -

Bears (2/2's for two) or any creature better than a bear on turn two.
Sigiled Starfish
Jorubai Murk Lurker
Reave Soul
Languish
Fiery Impulse
Twinbolt
Perilous Myr
Dragon Fodder
Elvish Visionary
Gatecreeper Vine

The other 40% of decks I have battled are primarily made up of Goblins, GW Renown aggro and Golgari Elves. Control decks make up less than 4% of my opponents, likely because it is hard to play control without unlocking the right cards.

Side note - There is one well ranked player running a B/W aggro deck that I had a hard time beating. I battled this player on five occasions, winning only once. I haven't seen anyone else running B/W aggro, so I don't mention B/W aggro in the meta, but based on this player's performance it may be better than it looks.

So 96% of my competition was junky decks, which may as well be called aggro because they have few synergies, they just try to attack with whatever and win, and Goblins, GW Renown and Golgari Elves. We can call all of that aggro decks, turn things sideways until they die.

In matches against players ranked greater then ten, all but two where Elves, one was Goblins and one was GW Renown.

I personally find it easy to slow down, stop and beat the aggro decks in the field. I am very comfortable against Goblins and GW Renown, as I don't feel either of those decks are very good in the current builds I see. Elves is harder, it has a ton of synergy, but it isn't tough to beat if you know what to use removal spells on.

Decks I am currently running -
Golgari (B/G) Bond Value - Undefeated.
Jund Grinder - Undefeated.
R/G Monsters - Undefeated.
B/W Auras - Undefeated.
U/W Flash - Undefeated.
Red Midrange Burn - Undefeated.
Abzan Elves - One loss
B/R Grinder - Undefeated.
U/B Control - 5 losses, but 6-0 since my latest rework. More on this below.
Sultai Wave - Undefeated.
GW aggro - many losses in the past, so many I tore the page out of my notebook, but since my latest rework it has won the last three.
Red Aggro - many losses, scrapped it.
White Aggro - just 2-0 right now.

Most of the above games have played at least ten matches, some over twenty, forgive me but I am not adding up the wins, I focus on learning from losses.

The U/B control dilemma is worth mentioning. I tried a basic control build similar to some of the builds in the deck building forum. I tried a mill build. I tried a reanimator build. I won many games, but lost a lot more than I like, and I lost to the Junk lists a lot because if they curved out with creatures and I didn't have Languish I would fold pretty fast. I also got tired of struggling the late game. Control is supposed to dominate the late game, but again and again I would draw low impact spells and lands and die a slow death to higher quality cards (FROM JUNK DECKS!). That's not supposed to happen!

Then I discovered Willbreaker. I moved past this card quickly, and didn't give it a second thought. I've seen this card before (Roil Elemental), and it always ends with Willbreaker dying and all my hard work being for nothing. But it turns out that this guy is different. It could be because all the junk decks and aggro decks don't run enough removal. But that is only part of it. I've had games where my Willbreaker got his Soul Reaved and Bones splinted, but I just kept Gravediggin' him up or using Necromantic Summons to make him a 4/5, and eventually I took over the game. You see, targeting an opposing creature with an ability is a low-opportunity-cost action in this format. Rogue's Passage, Murk Lurker, Jace, and Disciple of the Ring, to name a few, get the job done. Once your opponent starts bleeding creatures to Willbreaker, the game shifts very quickly, and it ends quickly (instead of giving the opponent time to draw out of the situation). I was a doubter, now I am a believer in Willbreaker.

I am not a believer in the counterspells of the format. Traditional control players won't like this, but I advise you not to run them. The mana cost is too much and the targets and situations are too specific. Don't try to protect Willbreaker, or any other spells, just reanimate them instead. Control decks in this format need to focus on being "tap out control", that is, they don't sit back on counterspells but instead use all their mana every turn to do bigger and better things then the opponent. Playing and using planeswalkers, casting large creatures, using Evolutionary Leap, Flameshadow Conjuring, and just doing BIG things. Oh, and I haven't mentioned Gaea's Revenge. This card is such a trump in this environment. It is one of the only large creatures opponents can't interact with and often can't remove. He belongs in all your midrange and control decks for now. Trust me on this.

Cards that are currently overrated (people play and like them too much) -
Suntail Hawk
Welkin Tern
Bitter Revelation
Read the Bones
Inferno Fist
Traitorous Instinct
Animalist's Awakening
Chorus of Might
Wildsize
Valeron Wardens
Zendikar's Roil
Perilous Myr
Anything with Thopters

If you run these cards, please take a moment to think about if they are really doing what you need to be done. Wildsize is a good example. Can an aggressive deck give up it's third turn to play a combat trick and maybe get a renown? What good is all that if they kill the creature or play a bigger one next turn? Instead, try Might of the Masses, you can play it to kill the opposing blocker in combat and still have mana to cast another creature on turn three, or you can save it for a knock-out punch later.

Here are cards I find to be underplayed right now -

Zendikar Incarnate
Blood-Cursed Knight
Wild Instincts
Reclamation Sage
Elemental Bond
Twinbolt
Into the Maw of Hell
Abbot of Keral Keep
Shadows of the Past
Necromantic Summons
Gravedigger
Cruel Revival
Willbreaker
Sigiled Starfish
Claustrophobia
Grasp of the Heiromancer
Ampryn Tactician
Celestial Flare

That's what I have for you guys this week, hopefully iOS players find this interesting and helpful and you Steamheads and XBONErs get an idea of what is likely to come. I hope this gets released on more platforms next week so we have more to talk about! :) :) :)

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 17, 2015 7:36 pm 
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Love this stuff, keep it up! You're like me that only track losses to see what isn't working. But I think many of us would be interested in what the undefeated win streaks are up to, even if you have to guesstimate


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 17, 2015 9:13 pm 
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Nice update! I am running my own diary of sorts as a baseline for totally free grinding. I have elected to farm via solo battles and have a pretty tuned aggro deck that wins most of the time. I like the variety of the decks the AI throws up and of course the sub optimal play at times helps a lot. I have tried to experiment a bit but have returned which after the numerous matches (and achievement for the over 100 solo wins) is working well for the purpose. It's good too that it has numerous methods to achieve the win. I think there is something to be said for Rogue's passage for getting unblockable damage through, that combined with the Sigil of Valor gives a nice pseudo exalted effect which works well with having so many lo curve creatures out and has the benefit of leaving a good defence in place. I should try an online match sometime but all it takes a bit of time I am grinding at least 1 pack a day which is easy but often 2 and at one point almost 3. That's probably pushing the limit of the cap and of course it's nice to pace it out. For the solo hard it's a 15 gold award so it's 10 match wins for a pack but being supplemented by the daily quests too help. Seems the quests do require wizard builds for the archetype which is a bit lame as you can end up with sub par decks for the want of a few cards that just do not appear or are more difficult to get to with the way the wizard works, of course you cannot edit but only remake. For now though of course other than the few tweaks I did make the grinding deck is pretty well tuned but of course has a few cards that are specific to the luck I had back when I first opened the story boosters before starting the grind for real.

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 17, 2015 11:28 pm 
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Nice write up! Thanks!

A couple of questions/requests though.

Could you please post your "Golgari (B/G) Bond Value" decklist? I'm very curious in NON-elves BG deck :)

Now, why are you thinking that Perilous Myr is over rated? I mean Bone Splinters + Myr combo looks pretty awesome to me. Also, he could kill any X/3 blocker all by himself. And Read the Bones? This card sounds perfect for control decks.

Also, no mono-black decks, right? It was pretty unpopular in 2015 as well, but now black looks way more interesting.

And question regarding Zendikar Incarnate - don't you think Kird Chieftain is more flexible in GR decks?

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 18, 2015 1:49 am 
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Interesting read!:D
I'm curious about the WB aggro deck you ran into and your own GR and BG decks.


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 18, 2015 2:42 am 
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Wow, what a great read. I really appreciate it. Can't wait for the game to be released...


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 18, 2015 9:56 am 
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Thanks for the comments! I am happy to attempt to answer questions.

Black Barney - The undefeated decks each have between six and fifteen games, so guesstimate ten wins. I really can't stick to one deck for long, and I often play ten different decks a night in a new format, still trying to figure out what works. I'll try to have better records available since it seems some community members enjoy these updates.

SquiderDragon - Sounds like you have a grinding system down. I am happy to see the stories other players have, keep them coming.

Lexxx20 - Thanks for the questions. Here we go;

"Could you please post your "Golgari (B/G) Bond Value" decklist?"

No, because it isn't ready to be posted, all these decks change a little bit every day as I try new cards, and I wouldn't call any of them finished. I will give you the engine - 3 Elemental Bond, 2 Evolutionary Lead, 2 Despoiler of Souls, 3 Fleshbag Marauder, and a mix of other 3 power + b/g creatures (Deadbridge Shaman, Titan, Priest, Gilt-Leaf, Soul Hoarder, Gaea's Revenge) in some number that isn't set yet. Like I said, a work in progress, but this will get you started. If you ever post a similar version in the Deck List forum just give me a shout out.

"Now, why are you thinking that Perilous Myr is over rated?"

Because it is in every deck right now, right or wrong, regardless of synergy. It is as if players are saying "I will start every deck with 4 perilous myr, now what 56 cards can I also play?". Bone Splinters and Myr have their place, and they are a big reason that I think aggro decks are a bad place to be right now, but they don't belong in, say, a white weenie deck or a blue control deck. I'm not saying it is bad, and you likely should use it for your grind, but don't get married to 4 perilous myr. Yes, they always do something, but it won't always be what you need (see my comments on Wildsize for an example of this).

"And Read the Bones?"

As mentioned in the post, the Junk decks that where 60% of the field last week are basically aggro decks. The wizards deck builder makes decks with good curves, so you often see one drop, two drop, three drop, and when facing this type of start you don't want to spend turn three on Read the Bones. The life loss actually matters in this format because life gain isn't as easy to come by. I was stoked that Read the Bones was in the set, and at first every deck started with 4 of them, but I learned that it isn't the play you want all the time. I have no problem running one in most black decks, and some really control-heavy decks can still run 4, but don't jam four of them into b/g elves or b/r nantuko husk decks, they will cost you sometimes.

"Also, no mono-black decks, right?"

Not yet, but I believe they will come. I've been working on a list that I haven't played in ranked yet. Black may be the strongest color this time around, and since it was always my first love in Magic (Demonic Tutor for Royal Assassin and Nightmare was my jam back in the day), I am happy about that.

"And question regarding Zendikar Incarnate - don't you think Kird Chieftain is more flexible in GR decks?"

Great question. Incarnate scales for free. That means every time you play a land, it gets bigger without you having to do anything. Chieftain takes 5 mana to scale, and it only lasts one turn. Incarnate's power boost is present both turns for free. Also, once you hit seven lands, Incarnate offers seven power to Chieftain's potential six. This differential keeps growing every time you play another land. Incarnate's four toughness is just as vulnerable as Chieftan's, since using the ability on offense leaves him vulnerable at 4 toughness on defense. Now let's take some of the synergy opportunities into consideration - Flameshadow Conjuring and Chandra's Ignition. Now it is very clear which creature you would prefer to have. Conjuring making a hasty Incarnate is going to kill something, a player or a blocker. Ignition + Incarnate is often the end of the game. There is a perfect R/G world where you have both on the table, and Chieftain can give Incarnate trample, work that into a deck and take it for a spin :)

"I'm curious about the WB aggro deck you ran into and your own GR and BG decks."

The WB deck, from what I can remember, had Elite Vanguard, Knight of the White Orchid, Grasp of the Heiromancer, Tragic Arrogance, Erobos's Titan, Daedbridge Shaman, Fleshbag Marauder, Gideon, Lilliana, and Reave Soul. It didn't seem to have a lot of tricks or combos, just play dudes and smash your face, but I had a lot of trouble with it for some reason.

My G/b bond engine is above in this comment, my G/R list focuses on a lot of burn and big creatures. Like all my decks, it is not set in stone, but the core is 3 Ravaging Blaze, Nissa, 7-9 other burn spells, 3 Zendikar Incarnate, 2 Chandra's Ignition, 6 other big monsters, 4 - 6 ramp spells.

Thanks for the questions and comments!

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 18, 2015 10:10 am 
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Covert this was an excellent post. Decklists are nice but I consider metagame discussion to be really, really important. When someone just posts some list and justifies their claim based on their win record I just don't really care. You can get a good win record playing any crap deck because 60% of decks out there are pretty crap. I think tracking losses is also one of the best ways of improving your deck.

Without having played, I agree with you that based on the pool tap out control is more powerful and much easier to do than conventional draw go. They nerfed counterspells pretty hard. I haven't given up completely though.

Willbreaker sounds like a good reanimator target - as a 4/5 it is beyond red burn and reave soul and can only die to expensive 5 mana removals. Conventional reanimator decks rely on super fatties, discard outlets and reanimation spells, we don't have the first two but reanimation makes sense as a grindy way of keeping fatties on the field.

The one statement I really don't understand is that you don't value perilous myr or the black card draw spells. The card draw spells just seem obviously good - they dig deep and get you card advantage. You just described a meta where almost all the competitive decks are aggro. Perilous myr at the worst can block and kill almost any 3 drop and half the 4 drops in the game. At best it is a 2 for 1 against aggro decks with 1 toughness creatures. How is perilous myr bad?

Edit - your post mostly answered my last paragraph, but I would argue that perilous myr should be even more important in U control, since U has so little in the way of early blockers / removal. What other cards would U run at the 2 drop slot - screeching skaab? Welkin tern?


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 18, 2015 10:16 am 
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Also can you describe your U/W flash build. I just theorycrafted a list like that and I am not sure if it will be playable or jank.


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 18, 2015 10:38 am 
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Excellent post. Do you think aggro has a shot right now? I haven't been going for wins yet, because I've been stuck on trying to find an aggro shell that works. I saw that you mentioned WB aggro, that sounds interesting, but have you seen anything else that looks successful? Intuitively, I haven't really seen anything that looks promising, but I missed WB, or at least haven't tried it yet.

I'd like an excuse to drop my quest for aggro, so an answer in the negative would be appreciated, lol. Right now, all of my success has been with midrange decks, wether they be golgari elves, some 3 color jank or otherwise. The moment the deck is trying to be aggressive, it starts getting 50% losses.

Oddly enough, those losses come from aggro, which is why I'm still approaching the concept. But maybe the point is good/bad/otherwise aggro v aggro is a coin flip, because they are all bad. Thoughts?


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 18, 2015 11:03 am 
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Enjoyed your entry, mate!

Our duels are fun, and we must duel again soon.

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 18, 2015 11:26 am 
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The W/B deck you saw was likely a W/B enchantment deck of some variant. Without a drain life and heal (extort) way for W/B I will probably be going the enchantment route too.


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 18, 2015 11:53 am 
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Thank you for your informative answers. It lets me enjoy the feeling of a new Duels for a little bit, while I'm impatiently waiting for the Steam release ;)

Apart from Sigiled Starfish, I'm not sure control has a better early defender than Perilous Myr. Care to explain why you think it doesn't fit?

I get your point on limiting the amount of draw /lifeloss in decks that are relatively aggressive or have few ways of regaining life loss. Makes sense to me.

I'm so looking forward to playing with MBC. Languish, Kothoped, Liliana, Read the Bones, Erebos's titan, Necromantic Summons.....awesome :D
If you try out MBC or a heavy-black control deck, I'd like to read about your metagame experiences and analysis.


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 18, 2015 12:22 pm 
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Thanks for all the questions/comments, I love to discuss -

"How is perilous myr bad?"

Not bad, overrated. There is certainly a difference. Overrated cards get more credit for wins then they are due, and they are often thrown into a deck without thinking. It's good, so...in go four copies. This is rarely warranted as often as it is done. In the spirit of becoming better deck builders and players, I ask that we consider why we run what we run. If I put a card on the overrated list, just question if it is right for what your deck is doing or wants to do. If you can easily answer that question, it probably belongs in the deck, and therefore is not "bad" in your deck. I have plenty of decks with Myr, Read the Bones, etc, so don't confuse overrated with bad. In fact, for a card to be overrated, it has to be a certain amount of good, or nobody would play it to begin with!

The black draw spells are worth another question - what are you trying to draw? The format has few cards that stand above and beyond on power level, not like the last set, most of what you draw will be more of the same. More cards is not always the answer, powerful cards that win games often are. Don't over-value card advantage. I've seen plenty of decks build a big card advantage and then lose to Gaea's Revenge or Nissa.

"What other cards would U run at the 2 drop slot - screeching skaab? Welkin tern?"

I advocate the Starfish and Disperse, Harbringer of the Tides and Telling Time. If you are still having trouble in that slot, look to your other color. I think the only deck that benefits from being mono-color right now is White because of the two and three drops with WW in the casting costs. Other decks should run another color. Unless you are running Goblins, and you shouldn't be, because they are fine for grinding fun but not very competitive with the best decks.

"Also can you describe your U/W flash build."

Mainly it is the best W/U cards that give you a lot of options. The core I wouldn't change is Thunderclap Wyvern, Gideon, Jace, Harbinger, Disperse, Jessian Thief, Hixus, Disciple of the Ring, River Marshall, Irregulars, Celestial Flare. I like this deck because you can really outplay the competition, the cards are flexible and provide a number of tricks.

"Do you think aggro has a shot right now?"

A long shot. GW can perform, but most people have the build wrong. GW can't beat the black-based midrange decks, so it can't become a midrange deck itself with cards like Wardens. Mono White is the fastest deck, you can turn-four kill an opponent. Of course, you are praying they don't have Twinbolt or Languish. I don't like aggro at all, midrange is really good so aggro will struggle. That said, try B/W auras. It is better than expected given all the removal, most decks don't have the right mix of spells yet to deal with it and it can consistently win on turn 5.

"But maybe the point is good/bad/otherwise aggro v aggro is a coin flip, because they are all bad. Thoughts?"

99% of the aggro decks I face are bad. Your theory of a coil flip feels spot on.

"Our duels are fun, and we must duel again soon."

Hell yeah Witty, I appreciate you giving me the chance to try some things. I'm still danno029 on iOS Game Center if anyone wants to play.

"The W/B deck you saw was likely a W/B enchantment deck of some variant. Without a drain life and heal (extort) way for W/B I will probably be going the enchantment route too."

No, as I mentioned I played against the deck 5 times. The only enchantment I ever saw was Grasp of the Heiromancer. I also played against the same player today, and he was playing W/B control, and I saw no enchantments at all, just the best removal spells and some decent creatures. If you play B/W, I advocate the auras build, it has been doing very well (but don't run Heliod's Pilgrim, way too slow). It is one of the only aggro decks I am sticking with.

"I'm so looking forward to playing with MBC. Languish, Kothoped, Liliana, Read the Bones, Erebos's titan, Necromantic Summons.....awesome :D
If you try out MBC or a heavy-black control deck, I'd like to read about your metagame experiences and analysis."

I would run MBC if I saw any reason to avoid another color. The lands we have been given are good enough to easily support two color decks, and there are no reasons to run just black (no corrupt, no nightmare, no Grey Merchant, no common or uncommen 2 or three drops with BB in the casting cost). G/B can have all the black removal with some of the green utility creatures and the best finisher in the game, Gaea's Revenge, so BG is your Black control deck (for now). If you want to run just black, go for it, but know G/B will be better.

Thanks for the comments and discussion, I'm having fun with this, I'll make time to reply :)

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 18, 2015 12:34 pm 
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I have a question about Jace and Nissa.

So your playing U, you drop Jace, Vyrn's Prodigy on turn 2, and you start looting. In the instant you have 5 cards on your graveyard does the flip trigger? Can a player respond to the flip or is it immediate? Also, in the mid to late game, as soon as Jace, Vyrn's Prodigy enters the battlefield does the flip trigger as well in that instant? I want to know if Jace, Vyrn's Prodigy is a 2 mana planeswalker.

As for Nissa, Vastwood Seer. Say it's the beginning of your turn and you control 5x Forest and 2x Evolving Wilds. You tap 3 Forest to cast Nissa, Vastwood Seer. Your opponent responds with a spot removal. Now as I understand it, she does not flip immediately when there are 7 lands in your control but when you have 7 lands after a land enter the battlefield under your control. Can you then respond to the spot removal via an activated Evolving Wilds?


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 18, 2015 12:38 pm 
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Jace - no, you have to use its ability. The ability has to resolve with 5 cards in your grave to transform it.
Nissa - Yes, you can respond to the spot removal with Evolving Wilds. She will flip.

*This is assuming the game follows paper rules completely, which, from what little experience I have with the game, doesn't always seem to be true.

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 18, 2015 12:44 pm 
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Jace - no, you have to use its ability. The ability has to resolve with 5 cards in your grave to transform it.
Nissa - Yes, you can respond to the spot removal with Evolving Wilds. She will flip.

*This is assuming the game follows paper rules completely, which, from what little experience I have with the game, doesn't always seem to be true.


Are you sure I have to use Jace's ability itself? What if I play Jace, Vryn's Prodigy and in response to removal play an instant or crack Evolving Wilds? I ask because I myself lack the technicality of this game. I want to know how well these creatures can protect themselves before transforming into planeswalkers.


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 18, 2015 12:52 pm 
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Jace has to tap in order to flip. Jace, Vryn's Prodigy has the same situation as Chandra. Their tap effect is how you flip them - in laymans terms the tap effects check to see if the conditions have been met when they resolve - you can tell this is the case, because the conditions for flipping the cad are all contained within the tap effect.. Nissa is different, in that if a land comes into play, she flips so long as there are 7 lands out. Lilliana is similar to Nissa in this regard (you could potentially respond to an attempted removal of Lilliana, by killing/sacrificing one of your own non-token creatures at instant speed). No possibility of confusion with Gideon - he's clear.


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 18, 2015 1:34 pm 
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After reading your diaries I'm convinced that I want to created 3 decks: mono white aggro which I always liked, B/W Enchantments (I hope we get Kor Spiritdancer in BFZ :-) ) and a Jund deck with Gaea's Revenge, Flameshadow Conjuring, Languish, Zendikar Incarnate, Graveblade Marauder and Chandra's Ignition, just have to figure out the fillers :-) additionaly tinking of Gatecreeper Vine for mana fixing and as a blocker, Fleshbag Marauder and Twin Bolt. Dunno if Nissa, Vastwood Seer is ok or too slow and if Liliana, Heretical Healer is worth a spot as I don't have any experience with planeswalkers.

What do you think, how would such a Jund deck fare vs the meta. I'm pretty sure that I could stomp aggro, what about control/fliers?


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 18, 2015 2:14 pm 
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So, what can G add to B control? Bombs? Ramp? I feel like MBC doesn't need any ramp and has pretty nice curve, but I'm still in PC-only camp :)

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