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Unstable Q&A with Mark Rosewater
 
The Dos and Don'ts of Silver-Border Commander
 
Word of Command: Un-believable
  • posted a message on 4+ FFA $40 Budget Challenge
    You want good black 2-drops, and you're doing sacrifice work?
    Sounds like a job for Abyssal Gatekeeper...


    I disagree. That card is only useful in "creatureless" decks as a means of dissuading aggression. It enables you to curve out with things like Innocent Blood and Fleshbag Marauder to keep the field clear early on without going (significantly) down on cards because you're never losing anything yourself. That being said it's legitimately awful when your deck is actively trying to build a board because it's almost always going to 2-for-1 yourself. That's why you'll only see me recommend it in spell-heavy decks that don't use many creatures. It's a great card, don't get me wrong, but it's also extremely niche.
    Posted in: Multiplayer
  • posted a message on 4+ FFA $40 Budget Challenge
    Quote from DamagePlanX »
    Been talking to my play group and they want to shoot for single color $40. So if I drop white and stick with Extort I'm looking at the following list. I am concerned however about the viability of Immortal Servitude but I do have some wiggle room on budget TCGPlayer (we're using that as our price guide) puts this at like $31





    Servitude would be awful in that deck. Maybe run Exsanguinate, Animate Dead or some removal?

    4x Necrologia is a lot. You want to draw 1 but you don't want to flood out on them.
    Posted in: Multiplayer
  • posted a message on Casual FFA Junk Reanimator
    W.r.t. lifegain I've never found it necessary in dedicated ramp/reanimator lists. I'm also not saying that you can't run it, merely that I don't run any of it myself. I'd rather have big, action spells and they don't qualify in most instances.

    I personally run Beast Within over Vindicate in Green decks. The 3/3 is irrelevant and the instant speed is extremely relevant in throngs of situations. Tapping out main phase to 1-for-1 someone is abysmal in multiplayer and so I tend to sandbag them for game-winning threats/combos/synergies. Don't get me wrong, Vindicate is fine, but as someone who's often presented with the option of running either I always opt for Beast Within instead.
    Posted in: Multiplayer
  • posted a message on 4+ FFA $40 Budget Challenge
    Quote from DamagePlanX »
    But looking at things like Basilica Screecher has got me more interested in extort. What're your thoughts?


    My thoughts on the subject are quite basic actually. Extort is an extremely powerful multiplayer mechanic as long as you have the mana to support it and since Crypt Ghast is cheap and ludicrously overpowered that's not much of a cost. It's trivially easy to support mana intensive mechanics when that's your 4 drop of choice and the drain goes a long way to keeping you alive while pressuring your adversaries. Untapping with ~10 mana on turn 5 is utterly bonkers since you can simply chain spells + Extorts from there on out until you win. Moreover, mass lifegain enables you to play with busted draw spells such as Necrologia that literally read "draw 10 cards" at no significant cost. 10 life hurts in a normal game, no questions there, but when you're draining people en masse it's trivial. As such I have no qualms starting decks with cards like Exsanguinate, Crypt Ghast and Gray Merchant of Asphodel that provide me with obscene quantities of drain while seeking to abuse my health total as much as possible with various Necropotence-esque effects.

    One thing to note is that mass revival decks need card draw. I've foolishly build and played decks in the past with millions of Living Deaths but it doesn't work. Those kinds of cards need a critical mass of fodder to fuel them and you will have miserable games if you try and overload on the revival aspect. That's why I vastly prefer builds that have at least 4 extremely powerful draw spells to support them. Again, the easy go-to is Syphon Mind since it's cheap and foots the bill but if your games are big enough and you're able to Extort enough then Necrologia style cards are bombtastic. You can literally do things like draw 10-15 cards, discard most of them to hand size and then follow up with a Immortal Servitude or whatever for the win. The gameplan just doesn't work unless you have that mass card draw in my experience.
    Posted in: Multiplayer
  • posted a message on Casual FFA Junk Reanimator
    Quote from Thijs1301 »
    In my meta Animate Dead gets destroyed too often for it to have long term value. Only for ETB effects. So I tend to play big mana and Nezumi Graverobber in stead.


    You're not going to get anything much bigger than turn 2 Commune with the Gods turn 3 Animate Dead on Sylvan Primordial against 5 opponents. At that point you're already untapping with 7+ mana which is enough to hard cast your fatties. Moreover, because of cards like Overgrown Tomb and Murmuring Bosk you can meet all of your colored requirements off of Forests alone. Abzan Reanimator is basically the most unfair ramp deck that you can build when it draws reasonably well because you get the best of both worlds.
    Posted in: Multiplayer
  • posted a message on 4+ FFA $40 Budget Challenge
    8 revival spells is too many. I tend to prefer running 4 alongside 4-6 powerful draw spells such as Syphon Mind. Dark Prophecy is solid too but difficult to cast on turn 3. The problem with running too much revival is that you lose too many games drawing 4-5 lands, 3 revival spells and like 3 threats in the first ~5 turns of the game.

    Extort is fantastic in multiplayer and cards like Basilica Screecher are terrific as a result.

    I don't actually care for Cartel Aristocrat because it doesn't really do anything. Bloodthrone Vampire can legitimately dome people for 20 every now and then and threatens to eat most attackers. Viscera Seer is the most powerful sac outlet but 1 CMC hurts if you run Servitude over Living Death.

    Living Death is the single strongest card for this archetype and I recommend investing in them if you can afford it. They're not free by any means but you win so many games off of casting them that it's not even funny. It's difficult to express/conceptualize how much it drains for until you're sitting there with a whack of Blood Artists and Zulaport Cutthroats.

    For what it's worth I don't think that White brings much to this archetype and I think that you could something that's basically strictly better along the lines of:



    Not that it has to be that exact list but I don't find that White brings much to the archetype in general. I also enjoy running things like:



    But Fatal Push could be any cheap removal spell (Deathmark, Doom Blade, Malicious Affliction, Dismember, etc.) including Curtains' Call if your table is big enough. You can also "go big" and add things like Patriarch's Bidding or any other mass revival spell if desired.
    Posted in: Multiplayer
  • posted a message on Casual FFA Junk Reanimator
    I play similar decks at my own tables with a couple of distinctions.

    First of all, you said that you play 6 people. This often makes things like Carpet of Flowers and Compost rather oppressive. I personally play lists that use 4x Commune with the Gods and 4x Kruphix's Insight but very few actual lands. It's usually something close to 6x Forest 4x Overgrown Tomb and 4x Verdant Catacombs and from there I rely on Utopia Sprawl and Carpet of Flowers as acceleration.

    I personally think that Satyr Wayfinder is hot garbage and never field him. All of my good cards are Enchantments so those are what I want to hit. I also typically omit the midrange value nonsense in favor of fatties. I'm not looking to cast 4 drops on turn 4, I want to be recurring something unfair by then.

    For card draw it's hard for me to justify anything over Compost. I have no idea what your meta is like but even if there's only one Black player it's still going to be a 2 mana Contract from Below. Ritual is fine too, I don't mind the card, but Compost is bonkers in the right spheres.

    Part of what makes this deck so powerful is that everything worth drawing is hit by Kruphix's Insight. It's essentially a 3 mana draw 3 that also bins your fatties. Card is wildly overpowered when you start thinking about it in those terms. Clearly it doesn't always draw 3 cards but, again, even "misses" are fine as long as long as they're creatures or Unburial Rites or whatever.

    So it's usually something like:



    Something close to this. Numbers don't have to be exact but it'll give you a rough idea.

    One thing that I'll note is that Pernicious Deed tends to be awful in this deck since it clears your entire board and most of your "lands." I typically use Beast Within if anything.
    Posted in: Multiplayer
  • posted a message on R/B Spitfire Max Damage Deck
    I play similar decks along the lines of:



    Give or take Brainstorm depending on if you have access to fetchlands and/or Sulfuric Vortex if control/lifegain is an issue. The deck is surprisingly brutal and win or lose it makes for quick games. It's also worth noting that you can easily tailor the list to your meta and make room for things like Swan Song and Pongify if you need cheap interaction.
    Posted in: Multiplayer
  • posted a message on God Pharaoh's Gift
    Quote from Ifloopthepig »
    In regards to the Blue/Black our suggestions seem reasonable, but I've personally never had much luck with self-mill strategies. It seems like I always mill what I need. I realize a portion of that comes down to luck, but what advice can you offer to me about playing those types of decks.


    What you're saying doesn't make mathematical sense. You aren't more likely to mill Argivian Restoration than any other card in your deck. Some people mentally trick themselves into thinking "I'm so unlucky, I always mill over my Xs and opposed to my Ys" but those thoughts rarely have any basis in the real world. Argivian Restoration, as with every other 4-of in your deck, gets drawn and milled roughly 6.667% of time. Given that cards such as Temple of Deceit, Baleful Strix, Mulldrifter, Champion of Wits and more allow you to filter through extra cards every game it becomes exceeding likely to draw at least one at some point. For example, assuming a 7-card hand of turn 1 Temple, turn 2 Strix, turn 3 Champion/Drifter you get to see 15 cards by turn 4. Assuming 4x Argivian Restoration that gives you a 70% probability of drawing one or more by turn 4. And no, before anyone asks, "Hedron Crabs" don't change that math. You will (on average) mill non-Argivian Restoration cards at the expected rate of 93.334% and mill Argivian Restorations at the expected rate of 6.667%. For every scenario where you're less likely to draw one because one or more has already been milled there's going to be a throng of others where you're more likely to draw one because your deck has been "thinned" of unwanted draws. I get that it's easy to think/say "Look Pride you big dummy! I just milled one! Now I only have 3!" That feeling is normal, but it's also something that can only be said in pure hindsight. Again, no card is any more or less likely to be milled than any other. As such it's easy to overlook the 93.334% of milled cards that aren't Argivian Restoration and focus on the 6.667% of use cases where you do hit one. Still, when you objectively analyze the situation without using hindsight (that is to say using information that you had available to you at the time of making your decision) there's no compelling reason/argument/logic to indicate that you were more likely to mill an Argivian Restoration over GPG or any other card. Rather, the only claim that you could objectively make at the time is "my Hedron Crab is extremely likely to mill over cards that I actively want to bin and unlikely to mill the small % of cards that I'd like to draw." Knowing that you should be extremely happy to have it your deck and to mill as much as you possibly can with it. That isn't to say that it's impossible to mill over 3-4 Restorations (it can and will happen) but it's also not very likely. As such whenever I hear someone argue something to the tune of "I'm not lucky enough to make self-mill decks work" the only thing that that says to me is that the person either hasn't played many game with the deck or is overly-emphasizing negative outcomes even when they're being produced at the expected rate.

    Note: as someone who's been playing Poker (Holdem, PLO, Omaha and Stud mostly), Pokemon, MTG, HS, Shadowverse and more for the past ~17 years I'm completely desensitized and mentally numb to bad-beat stories and rebuttals to statistical arguments. People like to believe that they're special flower who get the "bad luck" so that others can have the "good luck" but when you sit down and legitimately crunch the numbers (I'm talking Excel spreadsheets, not anecdotes) we generally find ourselves in the ballpark range of where we should be. Put it another way, there's a reason why you generally see the same faces at the top tables of any card game and "luck" has nothing to do with it. While this may seem like a rant directly solely at Ifloopthepig, it's not, because as someone who's been working/playing/gaming around card game players for the majority of my adult life I have to say that it blows my mind how often you hear these kinds of statements and arguments being made. I'm not suggesting that it doesn't feel bad to have your A-A cracked by 7-2 or to mill over 2x Argivian Restoration with your first Hedron Crab activation but I also know (and can objectively prove) that those scenarios don't (and won't) occur with any significant frequency. You just have to let them go and move on with your life as opposed to creating mental blockades for yourself. No one, and I do mean no one out there is too unlucky to play a self-mill/combo/synergy/whatever deck. You also shouldn't start playing A-A like a donkey just because yours get cracked every now and then (because guess what it happens thousands upon of thousands of times each day). Play smart and think smart, don't let superstition hold you back.

    TL;DR "I mill what I need" never has and never will be real thing.
    Posted in: Multiplayer
  • posted a message on Blendo
    Quote from Boros_Blendo »

    I've been thinking about this, haven't really thought of a good answer yet, to be honest. Any plan b I throw in there dilutes the Blendo concept, though there are effects like Earwig Squad and Extirpate actively used in my group.


    Except this is the opposite of what you should be doing. I could sit here and list an infinite number of "what if" scenarios and thousands of different cards that you could field to prevent them or mitigate their impact on your strategy. The problem is that your deck would become unplayable trash as a result and lose a significantly larger % of games. Unless you are consistently losing games to a subset of cards that you're facing on a routine basis then you should ignore any and all "what if" scenarios and build your decks without them in mind. I realize that you listed some cards that are played in your meta but you've also explained to us that the deck is kicking butt. Cutting your "good cards that win games" for "bad cards that might help vs Extirpate" isn't a direction worth pursuing.

    Note, there's a world where you can apply both of our advice. For example, if you add one Chain Reaction to the deck (that you can Demonic Tutor for) you suddenly have access to a "backup plan" that's still works a primary plan assuming that you get your B.Acts exiled. It's obviously a weaker version of the effect and you'd never cut B.Acts for CRs but that doesn't preclude you wanting to run 5 (virtual 6 with DT) copies of the effect. In that sense I'm definitely not opposed to having outs in case things go awry, I just look for cards that won't be dead in "normal" games.
    Posted in: Multiplayer
  • posted a message on Help with rareless deck for FFA
    You are correct. I'll stick with 3 Cultivate.


    I recommend playing Ranging Raptors over Cultivate in your Pyrohemia deck. What about something like:




    That kills the Gray Merchant player with giant Chandra's Spitfires or whatever. Cards like Carpet of Flowers and Compost are obviously going to be stellar in some metas and heinous in others but I'd happily run both as 4-ofs in most 4-5 player games as they can both pick up a ton of a free wins for you.
    Posted in: Multiplayer
  • posted a message on God Pharaoh's Gift
    The first deck lacks speed and focus. Where you have things like Thought Scour and Flesh Carver I'd want to to open every game with turn 2 Hedron Crab + Fetchland into Champion of Wits or something along those lines. I don't want to cast Solemn or Taker on turn 4, I want something like Mindwrack Demon or Argivian Restoration. Where you have dorky value 4 drops I'd have things like Animate Dead, Beacon of Unrest or Living Death that either bring speed, flexibility or raw power to my build. For example, I would never put Hapless Researcher in a "fair" deck but assuming that I had outs to Animate Dead a Grave Titan on turn 2 then I'd reconsider it. After all, it's not even that good at fueling Gate and it's nigh worthless to resurrect. Hedron Crab on the other hand can easily bin 9 cards in 2-3 turns. The Crab is utterly bonkers in this type of shell because the sheer volume of cards that it can mill is absurd and even its fail-case is still reasonable (it mills 3 cards + itself).


    Quote from Ifloopthepig »

    The Blue Red deck is still incomplete, but I decided to post it anyway to stimulate conversation. Again, our goal is to out value are opponent, but this time with added power between Combustible Gearhulk and Inferno Titan. Cards like Faithless Looting also help quickly fill the graveyard for a quick Gate to the Afterlife activation.


    Why bother with Gate at all? Why not play a Goblin Welder/Trash for Treasure/Dack Fayden/Daretti, Scrap Savant/Master Transmuter style deck that cheats GPG directly into play? Even if you don't draw a GCP, no matter, recur a Gearhulk or Sandstone Oracle instead.
    Posted in: Multiplayer
  • posted a message on B(w) Devotion "Mono Black Devotion W/ a Splash"
    Quote from Ifloopthepig »
    With the knowledge that I don't mind sinking some money into the deck over the course of a few months, what would you guys change?


    You don't need to change much of anything. Just shave some of the 3 and 4 drops for 4x Beast Within/Anguished Unmaking and call it a day. If you want to invest money in anything make it fetches/shocks because those are only going to go up. Alternatively you could always add some Nytkhos fueled Exsanguinates into the mix and/or other big bombs such as Army of the Damned and/or Rise of the Dark Realms. If people aren't killing your dudes then Crypt Ghast is a monster and I'd gladly play 4.
    Posted in: Multiplayer
  • posted a message on Deck ideas needed: Mono red and mono white (devotion?)
    Quote from stylianos »
    What are the shells the OBD shines most in?


    To me it's more about "cards" than "shells." OBD wants to be played in decks full of cards like Mogg War Marshal, Hordeling Outburst, Pia Nalaar, Prophetic Flamespeaker, Pia and Kiran Nalaar, Siege-Gang Commander, Scourge of the Throne, Balefire Dragon, etc. So yes, tokens is one angle that you tackle but "attacking matters" is certainly another.

    Quote from stylianos »
    Would you then suggest to adapt the 5 and 7 drops or replace OBD? Do I need 5 drops at all?


    I'd replace OBD for something like Purphoros, God of the Forge, Outpost Siege, Fanatic of Mogis, Ruination, Pia and Kiran Nalaar, Flametongue Kavu or basically any card that has more generic value.

    Quote from stylianos »
    Things like card draw and recursion are missing completely.


    Welcome to Red! The deck seems fine, don't sweat being down some card draw. I take it that you don't like Outpost Siege?
    Posted in: Multiplayer
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