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  • posted a message on Tolaria West (and other utility lands)
    Quote from Jostin123 »
    My thoughts on utility lands:

    I'm a purist when it comes to cramming utility effects in edh, as I want the maximum amount of options / decision trees when I shuffle up at the table. I like utility lands and how they allow you to conserve deck slots where you would otherwise slot a spell for that same effect. I also feel that not all utility is created equal, and as such, a utility card (land or otherwise) that works really well or synergistically in one deck wont have that same compatability in a other.

    When I play utility lands, they often play a very specific role that I feel needs to be filled to shore up my deck. Personally, I rarely play a Tolarian West over a actual Tutor: I rarely play a deck that is looking for a 0cmc card or an X cmc spell, and prefer the increased targets that come with a less narrow Tutor. By that same token, I play Mirokoku when in decks that play both notion thief and Con-Sphinx, Bojuka bog in decks with bouncelands, and prefer Thesbian's stage over Vesuva because I can still copy other lands if needed when the gamedtaye changes . I wouldn't slot a tolarian west if my deck didnt hinge on specific 0 drops to run properly.

    With that said, sculpting the perfect 99 is hard, and it's a great way to get the deck down to 99. My utility lands will typically also change my spell slots to ensure that I get the most synergy and value possible from it and the rest of the deck. When the land works as well as or better than the spell you'd slot to replace it, that's when it warrants serious consideration. To me, that's the reason why people gravitate to Strip, Wasteland, Cradle and Winding Canyons, and dont rush to play Soldevi Excavations, Yavamaya Hollow, Thawing Glaciers, or their ilk with the same ferver.
    I feel like you're making bad comparisons. You probably wouldn't slot in TW over another tutor, you'd slot it in over a land. Saying a land is worse than a tutor is...kind of true, I guess, I mean tutors are much higher impact cards, but you still need lands. Getting them to pull double duty is a nice bonus, even if they're less good at both - that's the price you pay for flexibility.

    I think it's pretty unrealistic to expect a utility land to be as powerful as a spell doing a similar thing. They are free, after all, and usually pull double duty as a mana producer (minus maze of ith, tabernacle, etc). Strip mine and cradle are aberrations, but I don't think that winding canyons is remotely in the same category. Not that it's a bad card, but I would only consider it in a small number of decks, and it's certainly less powerful than the spell equivalent (vedalken orrery, for one). Not that I wouldn't still play it over orrery in some decks, because it fits into that land slot, but if what you want is flashing in creatures then orrery is definitely better at that particular job. But I'd totally include yavimaya hollow as being quite strong, and not having a very direct spell equivalent. Maybe broken fall, but that's clearly much worse in almost any scenario. If I'm in green and playing very many creatures, that's a utility land I'd be very likely to include. And Thawing Glaciers is very slow, but it's pretty efficient at what it does if you can afford the tempo hit. Plus it does hilarious stuff with land untappers, especially stone-seeder hierophant. Not something I play in many decks, but a far cry from what I'd consider a bad utility land. I would have gone with something like, idk, blighted gorge that belongs in very few decks. Or something like maze of shadows that belongs in no decks at all.

    Anyway, TW is not a card I'd run in every deck ever, but if it's a deck that either is highly dependent on a specific land (i.e. my child of alara build that almost needs a sac outlet land to work) or a deck like Phelddagrif that naturally plays a large number of utility lands of different stripes that would make drawing a land tutor late-game a reasonable topdeck, I think it's a pretty reasonable inclusion, especially if tempo isn't critical. Whether it should be played over sylvan scrying or expo map is a little tougher to answer.

    It's fairly obvious to say that some utility lands are better in some decks than others, but I don't think it's a clear black-and-white between good enough for the deck and not. There are enough potentially playable utility lands out there that most decks can't run more than a handful unless they're very heavy on lands or monocolor, so things do generally get whittled down to just the very best. But there's always going to be a fuzzy line somewhere in the manabase where it's hard to say whether a utility land is better than a fixer or vice versa.
    Posted in: Commander (EDH)
  • posted a message on Phelddagrif: Show Weakness to Hide Your Strength
    If you want to speed things up, I'd focus less on ramp and more about adding some wincons to the deck, like ezuri's predation or expropriate, that can close out a game against multiple people at once. You'll want really hard-hitting bombs since you want them to win you the game on their own, since you need so many spots for removal and counters and such.

    It can still be tough though. The deck wasn't designed with beating a table all at once in mind. You're usually counting on enemies to kill each other off at least a bit, and depending on how your table operates that could either be pretty quick or very slow. It's especially annoying when people's main wincon is an infinite combo or something that will kill everyone at once, which obviously you're going to have to stop, and they lack other ways to kill people for you. There's always hippos.
    Posted in: Multiplayer Commander Decklists
  • posted a message on Phelddagrif: Show Weakness to Hide Your Strength
    Quote from Fr0sty711 »
    Have you made your deck yet? I'm working off the budget list as well but upgrading the mana base and ramp as well.. I'd love to see a list if you have one and see if I'm on the right path
    As I mentioned, I don't think ramp is necessary and, if anything, it makes the deck less competitive because it's harder to hold up early answers to fast combos. And honestly, at least in my experience, even a cheapo version of this deck cannot lose when played correctly in casual metas. But if you do want ramp, the best ramp options are:

    You really want to hit nonbasics. That's what'll make these spells not just relevant, but actively strong in the lategame. I would shy strongly away from cards like rampant growth, which is basically useless outside of exactly turn 2 (where it's still risky in a competitive situation). And even moreso away from signets, which will just die to our own wraths.

    As far as upgrading the manabase, I'd probably focus primarily on utility lands (kor haven, arcane lighthouse, thespian's stage, strip mine, and path of ancestry being your prime targets), especially if you're running some of the aforementioned ramp. Having duals and fetches is great, but pretty unnecessary unless you're playing against cEDH decks on the reg. Not that I don't enjoy having them of course, but they're pretty disproportionate compared to the cost of the rest of the deck.
    Posted in: Multiplayer Commander Decklists
  • posted a message on Reveille Squad
    It's a rebel, so that's a nice bonus. I used to play it in my casual Lin sivvi deck forever ago.

    Anyway untapping creatures is like 10% of seedborns value, and even doing that reliably requires setup. It's quite bad.
    Posted in: Commander (EDH)
  • posted a message on Random Card of the Day: Chandra Flamecaller
    Well tbh I'd say air bladder is better than flight.

    Did you want to give your creature evasion to attack? Cool, then the blocking clause is irrelevant.
    Did you want to give your flying so they could block flyers? Still works fine.
    But then it's got this third option, where you can put it on an enemy creature so it can't block your ground forces.

    Main downside is if you were the aggressor but find you need to block, or if you have one defensive creature you'd like to hold back air and ground attackers.

    Anyway the way shadow works on trapper is pretty cool, but still nothing I'd consider for commander. Worth noting it can be used to help enemies through other enemy's defenses, though, so that's a plus.
    Posted in: Commander (EDH)
  • posted a message on Phelddagrif: Show Weakness to Hide Your Strength
    Hi Vishnakuttar,

    I didn't mean any offense by the section, although I'll admit to going a little over the top with the joke about not voting (although it was just a suggestion not a totalitarian demand). That was brought to my attention so I went ahead and removed it prior to your comment, along with some of the other stuff that was potentially antagonistic. I hope that improves the situation for you. Regardless of what you believe about climate change, I think we can agree that many people see it as a problem, yet despite a broad public desire to do something about it, very little of significant effect is actually being done (whether or not there's anything about which to be done).

    I like this section because it's a good metaphor for how Phelddagrif operates - a long term, vague problem that is almost always outweighed by more immediate concerns and personal gain. I'm not really aware of anything else that compares to the effect quite as nicely, so I'd like to leave it in. It's just a single section in a very large primer though - I hope you can see past it.

    I am glad people are actually reading all the way through this stuff, though. Sometimes this primer feels like shouting into the wind.
    Posted in: Multiplayer Commander Decklists
  • posted a message on Combatting Ramp
    Quote from Ken Carson »
    I mean, obviously you have your mind made up on the topic, so it’s probably best we agree to disagree.
    I think most people should be able to agree that MLD can be an effective answer to ramp in some situations. The problem, besides all the social contract stuff, is that there are many situations in which it isn't - if they're primarily ramping with artifacts or creatures it's weak. If they already have powerful nonland stuff out it's weak. If you don't have a good recovery plan or a good board, it's weak. If the ramper has a good recovery plan, it's weak. A counterspell, mind twist, etc will practically always at least be a step in the right direction to controlling the player, or at least they definitely won't make things worse.

    In the right meta I could see MLD being a reliable counter to certain ramp-based decks and could earn a slot for only that reason, but if I were putting it in a deck without specific meta knowledge it would be primarily as a way to seal a win, and if once in a blue moon it was a good answer to ramp then that would just be a bonus.
    Posted in: Commander (EDH)
  • posted a message on Tolaria West (and other utility lands)
    But then you've dedicated 40 slots to A and B spells. You have to reduce your variables here if you want a fair comparison - 20 slots available for A and B effects. Having 10 of each gives way lower chances of drawing what you need, when you need either A or B, than if you have 20 that do both. But if you're coming at this from 10 of each is what you need, then flexibility lets you free up 10 slots to other effects you want more of.

    Strongly disagree with the "correct" ratio as a concept. More is always better. Having a reasonable ratio of effects improves your odds to draw what you want when you want it, but you can obviously still not draw what you need no matter how finely tuned your ratios. Flexible cards let you increase those odds by giving more than 100 effects in a 100 card deck. Imagine if every card in your deck was a split card with an etbt basic - you'd never get mana screwed ever. Think about how much better that would make your deck. Obviously that's a ridiculous example, but every flexible card you include increases your odds of drawing what you need, whatever that might be.

    I don't love etbt lands but if they've got good utility I think it's fairly easy to justify. Within limits, of course. It's usually a balancing act of etbts, sources per color, total lands, basics vs BM, etc.

    Sure you can justify demo as a bad mana crypt but it's obviously much better than that. Even in a linear combo deck, sometimes you'll need something else - if nothing else it's both halves of the combo. Flexibility is why the card is so strong. You can ignore that so you can keep justifying a simplistic heuristic if you want Shrugs ooh, good band name.

    I think most well-built decks probably can get somewhere within 3-4 lands of where they'd ideally want to be (closer for decks with multiple people working on them). More than that is enough you can probably notice it after a reasonable number of games. Most people probably start with a number they like and then maybe adjust it if they keep getting screwed or flooded, but in 100 cards they realistically probably don't have the reps to establish anything approximating a good statistical understanding of the deck, nor the clearheadedness to interpret that data. They'll eventually get close, but 1 more or one fewer land is going to be really hard to tell the difference just by playing it. Each land makes a difference of just a few percent, so you'd have to play dozens of games to ever even have it matter, let alone understand the precise difference, let alone have an accurate read on whether that difference was more or less effective than the new spell you added. These things get hammered out in other formats by pro teams doing many, many reps, with smaller decks and they still disagree. The idea of an amateur commander player perfecting their land count accurately with anything but sheer luck is borderline ludicrous.
    Posted in: Commander (EDH)
  • posted a message on Tolaria West (and other utility lands)
    Quote from FunkyDragon »
    One of my favorite utility lands is Alchemist's Refuge - in fact, I've often called it the best card in my five color superfriends deck and have lost count of how many games it has won. It's almost always the first card I tutor with Tempt with Discovery. This is Vedalken Orrery or Leyline of Anticipation on a land. Granted, you have to use two mana and tap it, but instant speed board wipes, end of turn set up, and just being able to respond at instant speed is fantastic. I run this in several of my UG decks and its weaker cousin Winding Canyons in some decks with other color identities.
    I kind of intentionally left out alchemist's refuge because my deck has a very weird relationship with that card which didn't really seem applicable to a more general discussion. My deck absolutely adores doing things at instant speed. But for that reason, outside of land, the deck is almost entirely instants, with a few (very low-cmc) enchantments and maybe 1-2 (similarly cheap) artifacts, no planeswalkers, and no creatures outside of the commander. The only thing that gets any value (other than the commander) are those board wipes that aren't instants already. Turning board wipes into instants is quite nice, but it really only benefits a tiny handful of the cards in my deck. So it's this sort of weird place where it's simultaneously everything my deck wants to do, while not actually doing hardly anything because my deck already does the thing without it.

    It's always sort of teetered on the brink of getting cut for me. I don't think it's a bad card - it's an effect I really like - but it's sort of an uncomfortable fit for the deck.
    Quote from Onering »
    Tolaria West is a 3 Mana, uncounterable tutor for the utility land you need most at the time, the 0 cost artifact you need most at the time, or the color fixing land you need. That is takes up a land slot matters as well. While you want to use it's spell mode, as it's land mode is an etb tapped island, the fact that it can be used as a land that makes colored Mana means that it makes more hands playable. Sometimes you don't have a first turn play and your land tutor in hand being Tolaria West rather than Expedition Map or Sylvan Scrying means you have enough land to keep the hand. If you are in green or black it's value decreases somewhat as there are more spells available that tutor for lands more effectively, but it still has value there. In OPs case, whether or not it's worthwhile depends on the answer to the question of how often he uses the tutor mode and feels that it's a good play.
    TW operates great on either end of the spectrum - super early with a mana-light hand it's usually an island with no real downside. Super late the cost is pretty irrelevant and getting my best utility land is awesome. In the middle, though, that cost always feels real clunky.

    I think the real question for me, personally, is whether the option to play it for a blue in mana-light hands justifies its spot over sylvan scrying/expo map (or maybe I should run all of them).
    Posted in: Commander (EDH)
  • posted a message on Combatting Ramp
    Quote from An"she »
    I think you missed my point actually. I personally believe you are misrepresenting land destruction VS other forms of disruption which can stall out a player.

    Also social aspect is already inherent within MTG, its called interacting with the person or people who are your opponent(s) with words, emotions, body language, facial expressions, and physical contact (Example: Handshake for a good game).

    You are also doing that thing I personally despise about these types of arguments: You are conflating different aspects of the game as if they meant the same thing. These aspects in this case are: social interaction, personal enjoyment, and gameplay. These aspects can be in conjunction but are also are distinct from each other and are never always all together.
    When a large enough number of people say that having an enjoyable game is dependent on being able to cast their cards, then something that prevents gameplay from happening will necessarily prevent fun from happening too, and for most people (especially angry nerds) someone stopping them from having fun will also probably make them less social. Some people don't mind that sort of thing, so of course in a like-minded group you should do whatever you like, but conflating those things for the majority of EDH players isn't without cause.

    Anyway, MLD is imo completely different from other forms of wipe because other forms of wipe can be played around relatively easily. If you know your opponent runs creature wipes, avoid having significantly more value in creatures than they do at a given time to restrict the value they can get, same for artifacts and enchantments. Land wipes are not the same - sandbag lands all you want, if they can establish a dominant position for a single turn and then wipe lands, no amount of preparation will save you or help you reload faster than 1 land per turn (barring exploration or what-have-you).
    Posted in: Commander (EDH)
  • posted a message on Tolaria West (and other utility lands)

    we're kind of splitting hairs here and I'm sure neither of us can really be certain where the optimal number of sources for each color is, short of playing the deck a near-infinite number of times. The important thing here is that we're playing *roughly* the same number of sources for each color (and again, mine is a 3-color deck so it's not exactly a fair comparison). It's totally possible I should be playing a few more colored sources, but the point is that we're in the same ballpark and you clearly don't think YOU'RE short on colored sources.

    (also FWIW I've never played a list exactly identical to the budgetless build - I generally prefer to focus on the structure and strategy of the deck, rather than specific cards, when trying to help people build it. The main reason either list exists is for convention, my actual played list changes constantly. So it's not really worth worrying too much about a fixing or a utility land in such fine-grained detail)

    Treasure cruise is a solid card for the deck but hey, you only get so many slots and it's a dead draw early game. Mystic Remora I think plays badly with what the deck is trying to do politically, and in terms of its usual play pattern. You'll have to take my word for it that Arch is significantly better than either the majority of the time.

    As far as versatility, of course every deck has to weigh the considerations of flexibility with cost, value, etc. I'm not saying that one way or the other is necessarily better, just trying to get the shape of where playing X vs Y is correct. Arch being better than remora in my build doesn't say much about other lists that are doing different things.


    I think his point is that you never want the effect "search for a card", what you REALLY want is just to draw the card you were planning to search for. When you want creature removal you want to draw creature removal, when you want an overrun you want to draw an overrun. Drawing one when you wanted the other is bad. Drawing a tutor means you're effective drawing BOTH...but at a less efficient cost. Demonic tutor is like a split card of every card in your deck, with the cost + 1B.

    The cost of running a tapped land is always going to depend on the deck, so I definitely wouldn't recommend them for all decks. Phelddagrif in particular, since I very very rarely have need to play something on curve, is a particularly good place to run tapped lands imo. The odds of drawing an etbt land when I needed a non-etbt land are pretty miniscule.

    I think we're approaching deckbuilding from different angles. I never have some set-in-stone number of lands I intend to play, it's always a balancing act of value vs reliability - fewer lands means higher value, more lands means more reliability. My budget Phelddagrif build skews hard towards reliability because I think the deck can do quite well with a very low amount of value (that's kind of the main thing the deck DOES). But I think most control builds would reduce the number of lands and add more high-impact, high-efficiency cards like Rest in peace, consecrated sphinx, etc, and I think from the perspective of building a straightforward control deck those would be good decisions, replacing, say, Arch with Con Sphinx. I don't think it would suddenly be too short on lands, but it would probably be a few percent more likely to get stuck on mana. That would probably be worth it for the opportunity to play a bomb like Con Sphinx for that deck, though. So yes, I think you absolutely can cut lands for spells and vice versa. There's no "right" amount of lands for a deck - or if there is, it'd would require a million simulations to figure out. It's mostly a matter of how much you want to risk running out of value versus risking getting mana-screwed.

    Your last paragraph is kind of confusing. You've got a deck with 10 AB spells and one with 10 A and 10 B spells. Ok, so then the first deck 5 more A and 5 more B and have better odds of drawing either? Dedicate the 10 extra slots to some other effect? You only have the "same odds of drawing the right spell" if you're putting blanks into those remaining 10 slots.
    Posted in: Commander (EDH)
  • posted a message on Tolaria West (and other utility lands)
    Quote from Pokken »
    Re: # of fetches
    I tend to be a little more conservative in fetches than the strictly best to cut down on shuffling. With 9/7 fetches you are always drawing one, which is good, but in addition to drawing one you often draw 2, 3, or 4 and that adds up to a lot more shuffling. So I err on the side of more fetches than most people but not the full boat just for convenience reasons.

    ETB tapped lands
    With 4 your chance of drawing >=1 in your opening 10 is 35%
    With 2, it's 19%

    1 in 3 games or 1 in 5 games. And in your opening 10 that almost always means you're forced to play it. So I try to aim for 2. Just my preference. 0 would be better Smile

    Re: Colorless sources
    With 9 colorless sources in your deck your chances of drawing >=2 in your opening 10 cards become around 22%. This is is pretty regularly and it can make your hand very light on colors. It end to highly prioritize being able to cast my spells without drawing into colored sources.

    I get that I'm more conservative than most but these cards add up to a lot of awkward hands in my experience.

    If you look at CEDH decks as an example (since one of your points of reference is 9 fetches = solved), they typically run 30-ish lands and almost no colorless sources, in addition to a bunch of color producing accelerants. Your manabase doesn't run that many more color producing mana sources than CEDH Teferi (mono blue), for reference.

    (which has 26 color producing lands and 6 or so mana producing accelerants for a total of 32, vs. your 32 or so in the budgetless build -- and this is a mono blue deck with an artifact theme, and a crapload of cantrips)

    Obviously it's not a CEDH Deck but it may help some perspective on my color caution Smile
    I don't see fetches as being a problem shuffling-wise. Just say you're fetching X and then use the mana and pass the turn, then search and shuffle. Plus with duals they're easy to find as the only white-bordered cards (usually)(unless you have a/b duals because you're crazy). Tutors like demo can take a while because you often want to cast the card the same turn, although I still don't think I'd water down my deck just because of that.

    Etbt I think is highly dependent on the deck. At least in the case of my Phelddagrif, I see very few problems with it. Of course decks wishing to play a lot of 1-drops, for example, are going to feel differently. But it's not like you're FORCED to play it t1, maybe you have a t1 play but not a t2, or your t2 or t3 play don't use all your mana. You have to have a perfect curve hand to be unable to play an etbt land without hurting your tempo, which is usually pretty unlikely. I think the bigger risk is that you'll topdeck it when you have 4 lands and want to cast a 5-drop. As long as you have other lands in hand that don't etbt, etbt lands are rarely a problem, since you just need a 1-mana gap at any point to play it without tempo loss.

    One thing you aren't considering that is important RE: colorless sources is that in, for example, my Phelddagrif build, I'm running 45 lands. Compare to, say, your Ephara build that has 37(I think? Labeling card counts is nice for primers imo) lands, that means even if I'm running 8 colorless sources, that still puts me on the same par as a deck with that number of lands, fixing-wise. Having more lands means you can work less hard on fixing and still get the same results. Not to say that every deck should run a ton of lands, but that, if you're already planning on running a large land base, that you should probably run more utility lands (some of which will be colorless) to ensure you don't run out of gas when a high percentage of your deck is lands.

    I think I count 6 totally-colorless lands in my budget Phelddagrif build, with a few more that are colorless but can get colors (i.e. blighted woodland). The budgetless has fewer lands AND has 8 colorless lands, BUT it also has 9 rainbow lands from the fetches, so the color count for, say, blue is still 25, which is more than a lot of 2-color deck manabases have for their colors. Could be higher, yes, and I'm always happy to cut a utility land I'm not using, but it's still a pretty solid number imo. In fact I count (I believe) only 21 blue-producing lands in your Ephara deck, for example, and I'm assuming you get by just fine with that (Budget grif also has 21).

    I don't bring up 9 fetches as a cEDH thing. I don't think you need to be playing cEDH to want to have a reliable manabase. Having a perfectly optimized manabase doesn't mean you have to play, well, anything in particular, and I think there's value in optimizing manabases even for decks that aren't competitive at all. If you want to do something, do it well, even if that something is jank. And the first step in doing something well is having the right mana.

    Of course cEDH has a very different value system than most normal EDH decks. arch of orazca is way too slow to be useful in most cEDH decks, for example. But it's extremely good in Phelddagrif. There aren't many utility lands that give utility immediately, most of them take repeated activations to justify their spot, which just isn't happening in cEDH. Fixing, on the other hand, is useful immediately It's just a different meta, is all. I understand why they want to primarily maximize fixing but that doesn't make it necessary here. Also, at 26 color-producing lands that's barely more more blue lands in a mono-colored deck than my (3-color) Phelddagrif builds do anyway, but I suppose that's besides the point.
    Posted in: Commander (EDH)
  • posted a message on Tolaria West (and other utility lands)
    He's saying it applies to tutors because tutors are, in essence, flexibility at the cost of efficiency. Demonic tutor is every card in your deck, except costing 1B more (in an installment plan, granted).

    I'm personally interested in these lands for Phelddagrif but I'm sure most people don't care about that particular context. So I'm happy with any discussion of the cards (or even other utility lands I suppose). But I think many decks wouldn't have a difficult time playing TW as a tapped land on one, although it's much more likely to be a stumbling block for decks running sol ring and mana vault and other powerful T1 plays.

    I strongly disagree with your argument that versatile cards doesn't change the odds of mana screw or flood. A big part of the reason to run 45 lands with many utility lands in Phelddagrif is that it gives you late-game power while lowering your risk of mana screw. If the deck was rebuilt with a reasonable balance of more potent, nonland versions of those effects - rest in peace instead of scavenger grounds, mind's eye instead of arch of orazca, etc - you'd have to accept a significantly higher chance of mana screw, but at the benefit of having more powerful/efficient versions of those effects (ofc Phelddagrif is a special snowflake that doesn't WANT more powerful versions of those effects, which is why the balance is what it is). Generally-speaking, the point of flexible cards is to ensure you aren't flooded or screwed on ANY particular axis. Demystify is more efficient than disenchant at removing enchantments, but having disenchant means you won't be "screwed" on artifact removal when you need it, or "flooded" on enchantment removal when you don't. And the same is even more true of anguished unmaking. For almost any effect you want, there's a more efficient version that does the precise thing you want better, but flexibility is valuable because it gives you the reliability of having the effect you want more often, and having effects you can't use less often. Tapping for mana just happens to be one of the effects that you want the most often, so a card doing that dramatically improves its chances of being useful.

    I think I left out something important about the slice in twain comparison - the reason I think it's hard to say which is better in a vacuum is because they're basically both pretty close in efficiency (as compared to bolt vs strike where bolt is obviously better in 99.9% of cases). Slice in twain is probably a little bit worse, but they're close enough that I think there are very reasonable places where I'd want to play either (as in, play in my deck, not just to have in hand during a game - of course there are many cards that are good to have in hand in very specific situations, but aren't reliably useful enough to put into a deck). But, at least outside a cEDH situation where tempo is incredibly important, I think you'd be wrong not to play a 2G or god forbid a GG version of slice in twain over naturalize. I generally agree that, especially for answers, being able to do the specific thing is of utmost importance, but that doesn't mean any additional effect that's less impactful than the main effect is automatically worthless.

    Disenchant is a somewhat misleading example, I think, because in the situation where you want to cast it, you're usually not concerned with value because you're trying to break up a combo or at least destroy something extremely powerful, so value is significantly less important than ensuring you're able to cast it. But maybe something a little less urgent, something like baleful strix. Nobody ever seriously played tidehollow strix outside limited (afaik), despite costing the same and even having an extra power. But baleful strix has seen tons of competitive play because, even though the main thing it does is be a deathtouch flyer, getting a free card out of it significantly raises the value of the card.
    Posted in: Commander (EDH)
  • posted a message on Tolaria West (and other utility lands)
    Quote from Pokken »
    My quick whatsit:
    Tolaria West I mostly go to if it can find me a powerful 0 drop as well (e.g. tormod's crypt, mana crypt sometimes, etc.). I don't usually play it unless I have both lands and 0 drops that I want. That splice draw spell is pretty cool if you're playing an arcane deck too.

    I love Vesuva, but only in a deck with cabal coffers Wink Maybe another lands deck but too many lands I want are legendary (cradle, nykthos, etc.). It's cool as a second maze of ith sometimes in my frog deck too. Two mazes can really lock a game out sometimes. I rarely have space for this, only in my lands deck.

    I don't like any of the deserts except Scavenging grounds, but I don't build a lot of decks that can tolerate tapped lands or sacrificing lands for small benefits at expensive mana costs. The mana costs on most of the deserts are way too high for me, and the cycling ones I think are pretty weak in general.

    Mikokoro I could see in group hug decks but I rarely want to spend 3 mana to draw a card in EDH.

    I would never play Soldevi Excavations but I'm really gun shy about playing something that is gonna get me double stripmined. Maybe in a deck with lots of crucible effects.

    My general philosophy is to play 3-4 colorless only lands at most in a 2 color deck and 1-2 in 3 color decks unless I have tons of filtration (e.g. I think I run 3 in my grixis deck that runs so many cantrips and the good black tutors). Similarly I try to keep the ETB tapped lands very low (not more than 2-3 in most decks).

    I tend to run fairly fetch heavy manabases (3-5 in 2 color decks and 5-8 in 3) so I place a premium on basics as most of my decks can reuse those fetches one way or another (playing crucible or sun titan or similar). That's just my manabase style though I guess.

    I try to get as close to 20 basics in a 2 color deck and 12+ in a 3 color deck as I can. Both my Inalla and Tuvasa decks have 15 which is huge for a 3 color deck, but managed through careful color focus and lots of fetchlands.

    Your Pheld deck looks extremely vulnerable to blood mooning. Which seems fine I guess, just not where I would want to be. Your spell slection is pretty light on pips mostly, not super greedy, but the lack of any color fixing amp and minimal filtering makes me inclined against playing quite so many utility lands.

    You do run a ton of fetches, and a very strong selection of duals, so that's probably why it works. 9 fetches is a crapload.

    I am notoriously conservative about manabases, though, so it might just be me, but I don't see anything in your mana base that I would want to swap out for those lands before I'd add a few basics.

    Tolaria is probably the best of them, because you play so many utility lands, but man it sure is a lot of mana and it's another ETB tapped guy in your list which is not ideal if you have to play it.

    Your deck has soooo many reactive elements that I'd really like to see you cut a couple etb tapped lands. I got my INalla deck down to I think 2 (tar pit and temple of deceit) and it's been very good to me.
    That's certainly true (being able to search for 0 drops) but the deck doesn't currently play any. Pact of negation is conceivable, but we generally don't tap out so there's not a lot of call for it unless we're trying to bait someone. Mana crypt probably isn't (despite being the most powerful card in the format, Phelddagrif is one of the few decks where I think it's actively bad). Looking through the list I don't see any other 0-drops I'd consider playing (tormod's crypt is kiiind of close but too narrow imo, and we can already hit scavenger grounds so there's not much point).

    Vesuva definitely won't have a high ceiling in Phelddagrif since it can't copy any of the really scary lands, but idk that that means it's a bad card. Maybe being an etbt exotic orchard/reflecting pool of sorts at worst, and a copy of arch/haven/spires of orazca in the late-game is enough to justify the inclusion. I'm not totally sure.

    The main reason to play hashep oasis and co is for sacking to scavenger grounds. It might seem sort of unlikely that I'll get both of them at once, but part of the goal here is to consolidate a lot of utility options into my lands, so that any tutors for them become really versatile. So I'm hoping that scavenger grounds is found in most games against any graveyard-based decks.

    I don't think mikokoro needs to be in group hug to be good (also I'm not sure the phrase has much meaning, since group hug is less a strategy and more a collection of cards with similar functions). I think that's where you'd want to play it if you were trying to activate it every turn. But the strategy of the card ought to be to activate it only if you either must topdeck something now or lose, or ideally one of multiple people must topdeck something now or they all lose (i.e. someone's trying to combo off). In that circumstance it's quite good, of course. Maybe not good enough to justify a colorless land, but that's the question.

    I don't necessarily think soldevi excavations is worth strip mining outside of 1v1 or at least 3-player, but it's probably still too weak. If you could sac any land I think it might be playable, though.

    Man, that's a really low number of colorless lands to run in a 2-color deck especially. I don't get why you'd be so conservative unless your commander was niv-mizzet, parun or something. Especially for a land-heavy deck like Phelddagrif, I generally think to myself "how many lands would be a 'normal' number to run", which is probably around 35. So if I'm running 45 or whatever, then if 10 of those were colorless, I'd still have the fixing capacity of a 35 land deck, with some extra cards that also happen to be lands.

    Etbts I think it's generally worth having at least a couple as long as they have good value. Almost any game you'll have windows where you don't need all your mana, and having the option to get value for your land play that turn is a good way to capitalize on that. Not that I'd go nuts, probably no more than 5 for most decks, but 5 is enough that you'll only see 1 per game usually.

    9 is the correct number of fetches to play in a 3-color deck. 7 is the correct number to play in a 2-color deck. This is pretty solved. They're the best fixing lands that exist in the format, up to and imo including command tower since they have advantages command tower doesn't. 9 isn't "a crapload", it's just "correct".

    If I am reusing them then I have some incentive to make sure they have a large number of targets, but in this case I'm only using them once, and if god forbid I draw a fetch with no targets at the end of a long game it probably doesn't really matter at that point anyway. Between duals and shocks that's 9 flexible targets, add in a smattering of basics and you're looking at enough targets for basically any reasonable-length game.

    My deck definitely has some weaknesses to blood moon (or ruination), but I do have a fair amount of enchantment removal and quite a few counters. Ideally I'd have a response. If it comes down T3 it might be too early for me to have a good answer, but I usually try to size up a table in the first few turns and decide if I think it's likely someone is running BM or other nonbasic hate. Generally the answer is no, but if it's yes then I can fetch a basic or two, which make it tolerable to operate under BM. Ruination is a different story, but in the same circumstances ruination is recoverable from, and a late ruination should basically always be countered. B2B is much weaker than either against me since I usually have all my mana untapped. But honestly despite my diligence about nonbasic hate, I see it very, very rarely and tbh I don't think cards like BM are very good, except maybe in very high-powered games. It seems wrong to restrict the value I get from lands just to slightly reduce the impact of a couple cards that almost never get played, and which I can play around in most cases.

    I only count 4 etbt lands in the nonbudget decklist (which means basically nothing anyway, the decklists are more examples than anything although I've been playing something close to the budget version recently as my collection is in transit atm), that seems pretty conservative to me. Especially since TW rarely gets played as a land. I think of my decks Phelddagrif is one of the ones that is most amenable to etbt lands. I'm basically never doing proactive things, so having 1 fewer mana on a turn, at basically any point, is almost always fine. If I found myself in a cEDH group I'd consider trimming down the greed but honestly in most places I've played I don't "need" to cast anything whatsoever until like turn 6 at the earliest, if it's any earlier it's usually like 1 removal spell to disable some dishpit who brought a cEDH deck to a casual game.

    This is kind of an interesting topic from my perspective since, unlike most players, I tend to despise flexibility in cards, and that puts utility lands in a rather odd place for me. Here's an internal monologue on how I would assess Tolaria West:

    Why would I play Tolaria West? Is it because it's a land? No, because Tolaria West is terrible at being a land; it's usually a worse Island. As such, the only reason I'd want to play Tolaria West is if I transmute it. How good is Tolaria West when I transmute it? That depends on the deck. At 1UU, the price is fair. It lines up with others tutors like Fabricate and Call the Gatewatch, but if I don't play any 0 mana cards that are worth spending 1UU to search for, then this is obviously terrible, and I shouldn't be playing it. The fact that Tolaria West can sometimes be played as a land isn't worth much because that's the floor of the card. I'm not playing Tolaria West because it can be played as a land. I'm playing it for other reasons, so every time I play Tolaria West as a land, that's a strike against it because it's terrible at being a land, and I could have played some other card in Tolaria West's place that is actually good at being a land instead. As such, for Tolaria West to be good, I need to rarely play it as a land, AND it's transmute effect needs to be better than any other card I could comparatively play with that ability. Just because Tolaria West is a tapped Island at worst doesn't mean other cards aren't better than it.

    This whole thought process is something I've touched on before in the Brawl forum. Because it's pertinent to the conversation (and because the post there was probably read by all of two people, it being the Brawl forum and all), I'm going to shamelessly quote myself here.
    So, I think I've already said my bit when it comes to Slice in Twain, but I don't think it would hurt much for me to elaborate either.

    When I look at a card like Slice in Twain, what I ask myself is, "Why exactly do I want to play this card? Is it because it destroys artifacts and enchantments, or is it because it draws a card?" The answer to that question is because it destroys artifacts and enchantments. You can tell this is true because if you took off the "draw a card" clause, you would still consider the card, but if you took off the Disenchant clause, you wouldn't. That's because the Disenchant clause is the primary purpose of Slice in Twain and drawing the card is just extra. As such, the reason I would want to play Slice in Twain is because it destroys artifacts and enchantments and not because it draws cards.

    Understanding this, I now ask myself, "Okay, if the reason I want to play Slice in Twain is because it destroys artifacts and enchantments, are there any other cards that are better at destroying artifacts and enchantments than Slice in Twain? If so, I should probably consider those cards first." Indeed, there just so happens to be other cards that are better at destroying artifacts and enchantments than Slice in Twain. Naturalize, for one, does exactly the same effect at the cost of 2 less mana. The fact that Naturalize doesn't draw a card isn't important here because the reason I would play Slice in Twain isn't because I care about it drawing cards; it's because I care about it destroying artifacts and enchantments. And If I happened to care about Slice in Twain drawing cards, I would compare it to something that draws cards instead.

    In essence, this is ultimately what I care about when it comes to Magic cards: I want my cards to be good at doing whatever it is I put them in my deck to do. It's their rates that matter most, not their flexibility. Here's a hypothetical to illustrate my point:

    Slice into Too Many Pieces 3GG
    Destroy target artifact or enchantment. Draw a card. You gain 2 life. Put a +1/+1 counter on target creature. It gains reach until end of turn.

    The argument here isn't about whether or not Slice into Too Many Pieces is costed appropriately. Perhaps it is. Perhaps it isn't. The argument here is about why I might want to play a given card in question. If it's because there's a particular effect on the card that I want, it needs to be able to compete with every other card with that effect for me to want to play with it. The card that does that effect "best" is usually the one I'm going to choose to play. That is, after all, why I'm playing the card in the first place, because it does whatever particular effect I want it to do at the best rate possible. The fact that some cards also do other things is more than often detrimental because it usually makes those particular cards worse at performing its desired effect (usually by increasing the card's casting cost). If any one card does two different effects I might want, I'll almost always just find two different cards that do each of those individual effects better than the one card.

    In the case of Slice in Twain, I'm definitely going to play Naturalize before it if I'm looking for Disenchant effects. Slice in Twain just exists in this grey area where it's too poor at being a Naturalize for its cost and too poor at being card advantage for its cost for it to ever be playable in my eyes.
    I would argue that TW is actually a pretty good island turn 1 since I basically never need mana on turn 1 (unless there's some serious cEDH stuff and I want to keep up rapid hybridization or whatever). I mean, think about the scale from "totally not a land" to "a totally reasonable card that's only a land". In the circumstance where you're stuck on 2 or 3 or whatever, the difference between an untapped blue land and a tapped blue land is perhaps significant, but the difference between drawing an etbt land or another uncastable nonland is huuuuuge. In terms of "how much is this a land?" I'd say an etbt mono-color land like TW is probably like 80% of the value of a fully-fledged land. That first turn can matter a lot, but after that turn TW is usually every bit as good as a regular island in most circumstances. As far as how good the tutor is, I think it's significantly worse than sylvan scrying for my deck during the early and midgame. By late-game it may not matter and be basically the same. Depending on meta I can maybe get away with a t3 transmute too. I think it's probably around 70% of the value of a sylvan scrying. If these numbers seem made up and arbitrary it's because they are.

    I would not play a card that was, say, 50% island value or 50% sylvan scrying value (or some other combo that adds to 100%) but flexible cards generally aren't costed like that. You do pay a premium, but it's usually a reasonable amount. But I would bet that you aren't as squeamish about flexiblity as you think you are. Do you like vindicate, beast within, anguished unmaking, or even naturalize? In all those cases you're paying a premium for flexibility, but it ensures that it does the thing you need right now. It's just that you maybe aren't considering this because they're similar effects, whereas something like warrant // warden has very different effects, but in both cases you're paying extra for the flexibility. Trying to compare any single mode for those cards, of course there will be better options, but flexibility has value, especially in a format like commander. But you don't need to focus on commander to see the strength of flexibility, in (real) competitive formats flexible cards are played frequently, because the tradeoff is often worth it.

    As far as slice in twain, I think what I'd want to consider are the play patterns of the deck. So for example, in which circumstances do I want to cast a disenchant effect, and in those circumstances is an extra 2 (or 3) mana going to be a burden? How valuable is the card, am I frequently running out of gas because my deck is excessively tempo-focused, or do I usually have a full grip anyway? When I want to cast disenchant specifically, is that a time when I'm likely to want the extra card? Do I want to be able to hold up mana to cast it during someone else's turn right after they play an artifact or enchantment, or is it ok to wait until my turn to untap to cast a disenchant? These sorts of questions. If I need early responses to fast combo then there's no question that naturalize is better. If games are taking an eternity and value is paramount, then slice in twain is better. I don't think there's a reasonable way to evaluate these two cards against each other in a total vacuum. I would probably trend toward naturalize but there are definitely circumstances where it's the other way around.
    Posted in: Commander (EDH)
  • posted a message on Tolaria West (and other utility lands)
    I think my favorite part of working on a deck long-term (which I do pretty rarely, but sometimes it does happen) is fine-tuning the lands, especially the utility lands. I love utility lands because they feel like freerolls in your deck - you have to play lands anyway, and with the kind of fixing available (especially for a dual/fetch base) you can easily run a decent number of colorless lands without compromising your fixing significantly. So why not get some value out of cards that would otherwise be a dead draw? Sometimes they can be not just better than a blank, but actually a very powerful tool even at the point where extra mana has become pretty irrelevant.

    Anyway, right now I'm looking with a microscope at my Phelddagrif list (as usual) and looking at all the possible lands, and thinking about what actually makes a good, useful utility land. For reference, here are the ones I consider unimpeachably excellent for that deck, but this is a general MCD so you don't need to worry about my POV for talking about the cards, just thought I'd give some info for those curious.
    arch of orazca - draws cards at a decent rate while not attracting much attention and requiring very little, arguably one of the best value engines in the deck.
    path of ancestry - fixing land that's decent already, but then also gives multiple scrys over the course of the game.
    arcane lighthouse - silver bullet for voltron, narset, etc that would otherwise require specific cards, pretty easy include for as much removal as I run
    strip mine - stand in for any LD lands, of which there are many. Strip mine is arguably the best but they're all kind of a muchness. Still, gotta have at least one.
    kor haven - maybe my favorite, or second behind arch. Steers so many attacks elsewhere for a minimal cost, and synergizes amazingly with board wipes forcing people to go wide into them.
    mystifying maze - the same but generally worse. But bad kor haven is still great.
    okina, temple to the grandfathers - speeds up a win by at least 1 turn pretty easily and costs basically nothing.
    scavenger grounds - all the grave hate you need, in a land slot. Like arcane lighthouse, I love having silver bullets hidden in my manabase.

    Anyway, so the utility lands I actually want to talk about, starting with...

    tolaria west - this is a card that I've auto-included a lot over the years, and I find myself wondering why. sylvan scrying gets played only occasionally by me, in Phelddagrif and elsewhere, but that's a cheaper version of the same effect. And, especially for a multicolor control deck like Phelddagrif, tapping double blue while still keeping up my best responses (usually counters) can be a tall order even for a great manabase. Of course, tolaria west can just be played as a land, which is a very relevant mode if it's the only land in your hand on turn 3, but then I could probably cast sylvan scrying and be happier in most cases, and I probably wouldn't keep a 2 lander with TW anyway so if TW was a scrying I could probably cast the scrying. So I'm torn - on one hand, if you're already doing a lot of work in your lands, having this to search up your silver bullets or best late-game value can be really strong, on the other hand it's pretty clunky anytime before turn 8 or so.

    Vesuva - I've generally liked running thespian's stage in the deck, since you can use that as a fixing land early if needed, and then copy whatever crazy value land you like late-game, whether yours or someone else's. Vesuva I find a lot trickier because, while it's more efficient, if it's my last land on turn 3 it's probably coming down as a tapped basic, or at best dual, and frequently that can be true until pretty late. I do like that it can be a legitimate fixer by copying an enemy land on an early turn, but it always feels a little weak. Maybe it's more feel-bads than is-bads, though.

    hashep oasis/shefet dunes/cycling deserts/etc - I initially dismissed desert synergy as being a bit too weak for my deck and EDH in general, but I'm reconsidering. In terms of sacrifice, especially the hashep oasis cycle costs basically nothing, as a half-a-pain-land it likely won't cost more than a few life total over the course of the game, if that. they enter untapped and can always tap for colorless. The bonus from oasis in particular is pretty decent for speeding up commander damage kills, especially on my little 4-power beater, but the main reason to run them is as backups for scavenger grounds, which is easily the easiest-to-play grave hate tool around imo. The cycling deserts are a little harder to justify, as they're otherwise strictly worse than other cycling lands (3 cycles of cycling lands, in fact), but really, unless you're cycling through LFTL or something, is it going to matter that much for most decks? By the point you're cycling lands you probably have plenty of mana anyway, and it gives you extra fodder for the scavenger grounds.

    mikokoro, center of the sea - this is one I haven't looked at seriously for a long time, but I think it has some political application, specifically if the game has gone archenemy and you need someone to find an answer to one specific player. If it's 3v1, then you're drawing 3 cards for the cost of 1, kind of. Obviously this sort of effect can also be bad, which is why howling mine is not my cup of tea, but being able to activate it only when necessary solves that issue, plus of course not costing a whole card of value, and the upside is definitely real when you need it.

    soldevi excavations - no one plays this card but it's kind of interesting. Probably not justifiable in 3-color since the island restriction is too risky and the upside is too low, but it's not a terrible rate I guess. Although really, considering the cost of scrying is essentially the same for isolated watchtower, and the risk of failure is significantly lower, it's probably just a worse card. And it's not like watchtower is very good either.

    isolated watchtower - I mean, right? It's probably not that good? Maybe if you have a bunch of basics. My good decks usually run only a couple unless they're mono-colored though. A scry is still a scry, but then you need to be behind on lands too. Idk man, seems like a lot to jump through and pretty dead if people aren't playing ramp.
    Posted in: Commander (EDH)
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