MtG: Streamlining a Good Friend’s Deck (Just a non-binding Suggestion!)

Dear readers and friends of Magic: the Gathering!

These days I am writing more about other people’s MtG Decks than about mine – and I have a crate-o’-decks myself that are newly built and would be worthy to be mentioned in an article, but yeah, I just love to play “deck doctor” and rather try to suggest decks or help streamline them for friends and acquaintances (If YOU want me to do that for any of your decks, just send me a mail at andreas.propst31@gmail.com and a 16 years magic veteran will gladly come to aid you!) these days.

So today I am going to take a look at a deck a very good (gamer) buddy of mine, Robin, whom you can see here in his usual attire…

farcino

…came up with and which I think has quite some potential, which I liked but at the same time had the feeling it could or rather should be modified in some ways and streamlined so to say so its performance would greatly increase. I know I couldn’t care less about what Robin’s deck looks like, and I am not sure if he would even appreciate my efforts on doing this, as he has a few “quirks” or “peculiarities” when it comes to building MtG Decks (I introduced him to the game only 1,5 years ago or so). Still I am doing this and hope that you, dear friend Robin, aren’t offended by this and don’t think I want to pester you with meddling in your MtG deckbuilding efforts. So here is a

DISCLAIMER: The following is just a friendly, non-binding suggestion.

You, dear friend and loyal “boy companion” Robin, do not have to do any of what I am going to propose but please keep in mind that all I want is to increase the consistency and overall performance of your new deck which I think has some potential if only modified to some degree, without changing anything about the great plan for a strategy you came up with. Also, the following changes I would propose to your deck would probably cost you less than 10 Euros if you buy the missing cards in our local magic shop. I know you don’t do that actually but you may want to consider it at the very least!

What I will do now is the following:

1.) I will take a look at and share with you Robin’s current decklist.

2.) I will try to identify some of the problems the deck might have and list some things that need to be changed in my PERSONAL opinion.

3.) I will suggest what I PERSONALLY would change about the deck to tackle these issues.

4.) I will post the final deck list SUGGESTION and will let you, Robin, decide whether or not you like any of it and will be making adjustmenst accordingly or not. Entirely up to you. Not trying to be a busybody, just trying to help a really good friend to improve his deck!!

1.) The Deck as it stands now:

Robin’s Deck is basically a Blue/Red/Green Aggro Control Deck making heavy use of Scrying, with his main victory condition being this nice lady mage here:

The first problem I saw was he was being running only one copy of the Flamespeaker. I instantly gave Robin a second copy of the card I had at hand and also provided him with 4 copies of Magma Jet and 4 copies of Serum Visions I had available and at the ready. He added the second Flamespeaker and I suggested to run 4 copies of each of Magma Jet and Serum Visions as most people go by the deckbuilder’s rule of thumb of generally accepting it as a good idea to run important/quality/key cards in playsets of 4 so your odds of actually drawing them would increase to the possible maximum. So the following decklist is what Robin’s Scry Deck looked after we added the second Flamespeaker Adept as well as 3 Magma Jets and 2 Serum Visions out of the cards which I had suggested and provided:

Robin’s Scry Deck (In its original state):

Creatures…17

1 x Voyaging Satyr 1G

1 x Kiora’s Follower UG

2 x Goblin Electromancer UR

2 x Omenspeaker 1U

2 x Frost Lynx 2U

1 x Two-Headed Cerberus 1RR

1 x Guttersnipe 2R

2 x Flamespeaker Adept 2R

1 x Horizon Chimera 2GU

1 x Prognostic Sphinx 3UU

1 x Prophet of Kruphix 3GU

1 x Savage Ventmaw 4RG

1 x Horizon Sholar 5U

Instants…11

1 x Titan’s Strength R

2 x Magma Spray R

1 x Spark Jolt R

3 x Voyage’s End 1U

3 x Magma Jet 1R

1 x Artisan’s Sorrow 3G

Sorceries…5

2 x Serum Vision U

2 x Spite of Mogis R

1 x Curse of the Swine XUU

Echantments…5

2 x Singing Bell Strike 1U

1 x Paralyzing Grasp 2U

1 x Quiet Contemplation 2U

1 x Temur Runemark 2G

Artifacts…1

1 x Bident of Thassa 2UU

Lands…21

1 x Temple of Secrets

3 x Izzet Guildgate

1 x Terramorphic Expanse

1 x Evolving Wilds

6 x Forest

5 x Island

4 x Mountain

2.) Identifying Possible Problems:

I think the first thing I keep asking people who are fairly new to M:tG is “what is the aim of this deck” or “how do you win” or even “how would you name the deck”. The first and most severe problem I see with the above deck, which again I like and think has a lot of “untapped” potential (no pun intended), is the lack of focus. There are lots of one-ofs and off-theme cards. So many random stuff that doesn’t do anything for the deck in particular are in the above lists. I do not intend to be rude, just trying to improve the overall composition of the deck in order to improve general performance. This high level of randomness is due to Robin’s particular approach to building a magic deck, which is rather random and he does is VERY reluctant to buy specific cards rather than some random boosters every now and then, even if the specific cards would be all Commons and/or super cheap. I do not intend to “convert” Robin to my approach, which is the approach of most of the “veterans” like myself, but maybe after this article, he will be accepting some of my suggestions. Anyways, and this goes directly to you Robin, do not complain if you lose more often than necessary with your deck if you don’t want to do something to fix it haha!!

So what I will be doing in the next part of the deck is to suggest VERY cheap ways to increase focus. I see two themes in the deck now but Robin only mentioned he wanted to win mainly through a massivley boosted Flamespeaker Adept, so this should involve a lot of Scrying. The secondary theme I see and which Robin did not tell me he was trying to pursue is keeping Creatures from untapping with Frost Lynx (a terrible, terrible card in general in my honest opinion), Paralyzing Grasp etc etc. As Robin said he wanted to win with boosting up a Flamespeaker through massive scrying, I will be focussing the deck on just that. That being said, each deck needs a secondary win condition as I think and we already got a great start in Robin’s Deck with this awesome guy (who goes for 50 US cens according to magiccards.info:

My second issue which I noticed when looking through the deck I asked Robin right away about was this:

“What for is the green in the deck?” or rather “Why do you play/need green in this?”. Well I think and said – and Robin agreed to some degree I think – we should cut the green altogether in order to get some additional card slots freed to make room for more to-the-topic cards! Honestly there are just 7 cards that require green to cast and all of these are one-ofs and, while they are not bad cards by themselves, do little to nothing to enhance the deck’s performance or rather nothing that helps the Scrying strategy and theme.

The third issue is a rather small one compared to the first two and is about the Mana Base. I think in such a deck, 21 Lands is just not enough (and Robin constantly suffers from lack of mana and mana screw as he painfully had to realize far too often than necessary) plus the color distribution is way off with the main colors, red and blue, getting only 4-5 basic lands of that color while the color needed the least gets 6 Forests.

How I would fix the Deck:

Basically, besides fixing the Mana Base a wee bit, which will be not that hard to accomplish, I would take out the small number of green cards altogether as well as get the deck focussed on the Scrying-Flamespeaker Adept Strategy with Prognostic Sphinx as the secondary win condition. The latter is great in and off itself as it flies, has decent stats, is not too expensive (both mana- and money-wise) and you can protect it via Hexproof anytime by just discarding a card from hand, BUT to top that off you get to Scry – for 3 (!) nonetheless – everytime it attacks which would, again, boost Flamespeaker Adept. And I would be taking out all the “tap” and “doesn’t untap” stuff as it has nothing to do with the main win condition (Flamespeaker Adpet) nor with the secondary one (Prognostic Sphinx). Also there are some some cards like Omenspeaker and Serum Visions which have better (?) alternatives. In the case of Omenspeaker I am quite sure that Augury Owl would be the preferrably option as it flies, giving you a blocker against big flyers and grants you Scry 3 instead of the Scry 2 Omenspeaker does upon entering play. Same case with Horizon Scholar. At 5U casting cost he is strictly inferior to Prognostic Sphinx.

So what I would be taking out in specfic would be:

1 x Voyaging Satyr 1G

– 1 x Kiora’s Follower UG

– 2 x Omenspeaker 1U

– 2 x Frost Lynx 2U

– 1 x Two-Headed Cerberus 1RR

– 1 x Guttersnipe 2R

– 1 x Horizon Chimera 2GU

– 1 x Prophet of Kruphix 3GU

– 1 x Savage Ventmaw 4RG

– 1 x Horizon Sholar 5U

-2 x Magma Spray R

-1 x Spark Jolt R

-1 x Artisan’s Sorrow 3G

-2 x Serum Vision U

– 1 x Curse of the Swine XUU

-2 x Singing Bell Strike 1U

-1 x Paralyzing Grasp 2U

-1 x Quiet Contemplation 2U

-1 x Temur Runemark 2G

-1 x Bident of Thassa 2UU

-1 x Temple of Secrets

-6 Forests

Well, not counting the lands I boldly propose to take out 26 cards so almost half of the deck. However the “heart and soul” of the deck that my buddy Robin had in mind when coming up with this new deck, which is very creative and has potential as I can’t emphasize enoug, will stay intact and in fact what Robin was aiming for will work out much more often, so the deck would become more consistent in performance and in fact more competitive, although I don’t think Robin will want to participate in any real (Modern) tournaments with this and we’d be just casually playing that deck. Still I think with the changes, which are highly inexpensive to make, Robin will have a much more enjoyable playing experience and his chances against my more obscure decks will be greatly increase.

So I have basically 26 non-land slots to fill in with cards I think will do the deck good. Well let’s make that 25 slots as I think the deck NEEDS at least 22 lands to work at all.

This is what I would add:

+2 Flamespeaker Adept

This is the main killer in the deck so I think running 4 of these is a must, even with lots of deck manipulation via Scry.

+4 Augury Owl

This is great as a cheap but effcient Scryer that doubles as a small flying attacker and blocker.

+2 Prognostis Sphinx

I think running a total of 3 of these should be enough for this being the secondary win condition!

+4 Condescend

This is a solid altenative for Mana Leak and can protect your Flamespeaker Adept plus it has Scry 2!

+1 Magma Jet & +1 Voyage’s End

I think we should make these 4-ofs!

+4 Preordain

I might be wrong but these could be better than Serum Visions in this deck as you get to Scry first and then draw!

+4 Aqueous Form

Come on, have a look at the card and then tell me that is not a match made in MtG heaven with Flamespeaker Adept:

You can also slam this onto your Prognositc Sphinx if you opponent has strong flyers or Creatures with Reach!

Also a great card for this deck from while back in the first Mirrodin block would be:

+3 Eye of the Watcher

So yeah with most of your instants and sorceries having Scry anyways you will scry the shit out of the deck if you got an Eye of the Watcher out, which will probably boost your Flamespeaker (if around) to mythical proportions!

My final Deck Proposal:

Again I have to stress the point that the following list is just how I PERSONALLY would run the deck. It is of course non-binding and nothing more than friendly advice. So please Robin don’t feel yourself pushed by me to apply any of my suggested changes at all. This is just what I think would get the most out of the deck you have and will make it work very well in the way you initially intended it to work out! So here’s the Deck List:

Andi’s Scry Deck Suggestion:

Creatures…13

4 x Augury Owl 1U

2 x Goblin Flectomancer RU

4 x Flamespeaker Adpet 2R

3 x Prognostic Sphinx 3UU

Instants…12

4 x Condescend XU

4 x Magma Jet 1R

4 x Voyage’s End 1U

Sorceries…6

4 x Preordain U

2 x Ire of Mogis R

Enchantments…7

4 x Aqueous Form U

3 x Eye of the Watcher 2U

Lands…22

4 x Izzet Guildgate

4 x Swiftwater Cliffs

7 x Mountain

7 x Island

OK and that’s it as for my deck enhancement suggestions. Please, dear friend, do not take offense in this or think I am being a busybody who meddles in stuff which is none of their business. All I wanted is give you some input in how to improve (and inexpensively so… most of the cards I suggested are commons and uncommons with the exception of Prognostic Sphinx as the single Rare, totalling in on an average of 50 US cents a copy) your great deck idea.

Thank you for your patience with me Robin and thank you to all of my reader’s for your attention. I hope you enjoyed my “deck pimping” article!

Happy gaming!

Yours,

Andi

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MtG: Building a Modern Deck for a New Friend!

Dear readers and friends of the fine Magic: the Gathering CCG!!

As you may have realized at the very latest upon reading my last Magic-related article, in which I proposed a cheap but good beginner’s deck to an acquaintance of mine, I am a  very helpful person, or at least I am trying my best to be. So again, this shall be an article about a deck I did not build for my own enjoyment and use (though I would enjoy it myself as well for sure) but rather for a new and already very good (gamer) friend of mine. My new friend Stefan is a true old-school MtG veteran and stopped active play during the Urza Block. That means the good man missed over 15 years of MtG history and, before we met, didn’t even have a clue that they changed the card layout back in 8th Edition, let alone that there is now a proper format in which only cards from sets with the updated (modern) layout are allowed, so from 8th Edition onwards.

So, seeing Stefan’s interest in the game rekindled, thanks to me or rather by my fault so to say, we decided to build him a Modern legal deck at some point so we could participate in Modern Format Tournaments in our nearby Magic store some time. In order to save the good man some time and to spare him from the chore of going through some 16 years worth of new Magic Editions with hundreds of new cards each, I just quickly assembled something that may be to Stefan’s liking. It may not win him any big tourneys but for our local Modern crowd it should do just fine, plus it has some old-school charm, featuring a guy from back in the days that was hella expensive previously but had its price drop to next to nothing when they reprinted him with kickass artwork in a Modern layout base set. I am of course speaking of none other than mighty (or mighty annoying rather)…

Also, Stefan was pretty astonished and enticed at the same time when he saw that they released a cheaper (and better) Megrim, which he was familiar with from the VERY old Stronghold Edition:

Stefan’s excitement about Liliana’s Caress lead me, among other things, such as my new friend  marvelling at one particularly awesome Uncommon from pretty recent Zendikar (and I too keep marvelling at it as well)…

…lead me to build him a black discard Modern Format Deck with a splash of Red for things like classic Lightning Bolt and Terminate as well as for…

…which is just plain evil in conjunction with Liliana’s Caress – or Megrim. But let me show you the decklist I came up with for my new buddy Stefan before I discuss the deck any further. I will also include something akin to a “Maybeboard” – cards, that is, that Stefan can include and swap in to try out what suits him best. I am not the person to dictate which kind of deck another guy is supposed to play Odin forbid!! One last thing I have to get off my mind before going on. Hell, this deck NEEDS Dark Ritual!! Come on Wizards (of the Coast), do a Modern reprint!!!

Ok here comes my PROVISIONAL Decklist:

Stefan’s Modern Discard Deck:

Creatures…10

4 x  Hypnotic Specter 1BB

4 x Vampire Nighthawk 1BB

2 x Blazing Specter 2BR

Instants…8

4 x Lightning Bolt R

4 x Terminate BR

Sorceries…12

4 x Duress B

4 x Sign in Blood BB

4 x Blightning 1BR

Enchantments…6

4 x Liliana’s Caress 1B

2 x Megrim 2B

Artifacts…2

2 x Loxodon Warhammer 3

Lands…22

4 x Sulfurous Springs

4 x Dragonskull Summit

8 x Swamp

6 x Mountain

More About The Deck:

Well obviously the plan is to force the opponent to discard, which disrupts them considerably all by itself, with one or even more Liliana’s Caresses and/or Megrims out. With one of the latter, Blightning will, at the cost of 3 Mana, inflict a massive 7 damage to your opponent. PLUS they lose 2 cards that may have been important or even crucial to their strategy. I built the deck a bit more “control-ish” with very few Creatures, all of them starting at the 3 Mana cost level. Goddamnit, Dark Ritual would SO rock in this build, but sadly, we are confined to Modern Legal cards here…

Anyways the general plan is to use turn 1 to Duress your opponent for an important card on turn 1 or pass and burn away one of their early Creatures with Lightning Bolt on turn one or destroy a creature with Terminate on turn 2. Another good play for the 2 mana / second turn slot would be quality card draw Sign in Blood. Obviously, a second turn Caress would rock if you follow up with Blightning or Hypnotic Specter on turn 2. I threw in 2 Loxodon Warhammers, which might seem a bit random, but I do think, as the few Creatures you have are rather weak stats-wise but have awesome evasive abilities (among other awesome things), that Warhammer could actually speed things up quite a bit and turn your Specters in mighty (lifelinked, trampling) beaters!

This Deck could be played in a more “aggro-ish” style through altering the card composition by adding in some cheaper creatures. I have picked out a number of one and two drop Creatures for Stefan to consider and choose for himself whether he would like to run them in the deck, as what I proposed above is, as a matter of course, just a suggested decklist. Furthermore I will not comment on the deck’s competitiveness but think it could be a good start for Stefan to get a headstart into the Modern Format.

Among the MAYBE cards are cheap one and two drops such as Vampire Lacerator and Pharika’s Chosen as well as 2 Mana Nantuko Shade (which used to be super expensive in the past and now you’d prolly get a playset for a dollar).

Vendetta would be cheap Creature removal although in a Red/Black build I would think Terminate would be the better choice. Gatekeeper of Malakir would be basically an additional 3 drop and so would be Phyrexian Arena, which would generate some additional card advantage.


 

Well and that is my deck suggestion for my new, good friend Stefan, whose interest in Magic was, quite to my own joy, awoken again. Stefan will be visiting in an hour or so from now and then we’ll see what he thinks about my humble Modern Deck suggestion for him!!

Happy gaming!

Yours,

Andi

Announcing Albensang!

Dear readers and friends of fine card games in general!

In this here blog post I will be announcing my latest game (side-) project which is going to go by the name of…

Albensang cropped

…and will give you an anecdotal overview of how the very game idea was conceived, what the game will be all about and more things I deem noteworthy. I can tell you right away, that it will be about (Dark and Light) Albs (A German version of the word Elves) and Dragons! But let me start the story at the very beginning:

A Game is Conceived:

Well, this time around, the first spark that was soon to ignite the flame now called Albensang  (that would translate to “Song of the Elves” in the English language), actually came to me as a need. A need for a type of game that did not exist, at least not a game like that I would enjoy playing. As it happens, I can be looking forward to several longer trips to be taken by train or bus over the course of this year (visiting conventions here and there for instance) and this made me think about how bored game-addicted me always used to be during longer or shorter train rides as everyone would be minding their own business if travelling in company and playing on their handhelds or phones at the very most. I however wanted a game that could be played on the smallest of flat, even surfaces and I would refuse to just play UNO or something similar. So I more or less had to create my own “minimal space game”. That was step one in the conception of Albensang.

Next I talked to my sister, who is totally into (Japanese) Anime and Manga, and I can’t seem to remember how we ended up with this but in the end, we said let’s do the game in Anime/Manga style with my sister contributing the character names and part of the character designs at the very least. This is when I decided I would be making Albensang this year’s birthday present for my younger sister Nora, as we will be travelling by train together from district Schärding in Upper Austria to Cologne in Germany, to attend Gamescom (a major video gaming convention) there, just at the time of her birthday. We would be riding the train for several hours so I figured a game like Albensang would be a great gift and pastime.

The second best idea after creating a Fantasy card game of sorts that could be played on minimal playing surfaces was the general premise of the game that came to m pretty much like in a flash of insight: Some of you will be aware of my game Elemental Clash, where the goal is to reduce the opponent deck to zero cards by means of dealing damage among other ways. So, I thought, how about something akin to “Anti-Elemental Clash”? How about, I was following my train of thoughts, instead you had to decimate your own deck down to zero cards, by clever play and combinations of cards, before your opponent could do so?! I was delighted, and the basic premise of Albensang was settled, yes, pretty much set in stone.

Finding the Theme and Artist & Some Eye-Candy:

So yeah, my sister pretty much defined the theme and setting of the game. Nora really loves Anime and Manga as mentioned before with some of her favorites being Fairy Tail and Sword Art Online (I enjoy the latter very much as well) so she wanted the style and look  of the illustrations being influenced by these two mangas/animes in particular. Furthermore she is very much into Fantasy, with her favorite Fantasy Characters being Elves and, even more so, Dragons. So we soon agreed that we will have a game about Elves and Dragons, depicted in anime/manga style heavily influenced by and based on Sword Art Online and/or Fairy Tail. Nora also wanted us to have two factions; the Light Albs in alliance with “good” Dragons on the one hand  and the Dark Albs closely bonded with “evil”, wicked Dragons. As I had intended the game to be a dueling, 2 players only game, that was a perfect fit.

Furthermore, I set myself the premise or challenge to design a game containing on just a 54 cards standard poker size tuckbox with cards an small rules booklet – no extra components included or needed – no counters, chips, dice, no nothing. 

So two decks of 25 cards, the Dark Albs Deck and the Light Albs Deck it was then, with ample room to fit the rules booklet into the standardized The Game Crafter 54 cards Poker Tuckboxes.

Next up was finding myself a talented and affordable artist on the web, and there is simply no better place to achieve that goal than deviantart. So I posted a job offer there for a laughably, maybe even insultingly low pay per image. To my surprise, I got dozens and dozens of replies to my job offer. One of them stuck out from the crowd. It was non other than the nice person from the Philippines I had been mentioning in my last post about building a starter Magic deck for the very same guy, 21 years old Aeronne “Ae” Paul Coronel. At this point, please let me show you what he is capable of by presenting you with the eye-candy as promised!

First some stunnings Sketches:

Albensang Dark Alb Sketches

From left to right: Dark Alb Wyrmrider – Dark Alb Deathbringer – Dark Alb Necromancer.

So you can see what Ae is capable of – to me his style and character designs are perfect, and especially the Wyrmrider looks magnificently kickass in my opinion!!

Next the first two colored artworks I have from Ae so far (more to come very soon as he seems to be both highly motivated and greatly motivated by my list of character names and instructions  I had sent him):

Defender & Archer small

Left: Light Alb High Guard – Right: Light Alb Archer

So yeah, we have established that the game will be looking badass in the end. By the way: There will be no duplicate cards in either the 25 cards Light Albs Deck or the 25 cards Dark Albs Deck so each character will be unique and my sister will take care of (most of) the names, whereby I will be helping her (to ensure that the names are not too cheesy…  haha) and having a say in that as well. I think the final product with no less than 50 anime-style artworks will be a very visually appealing one. So much for the visual… besides those a game needs a good system and well-designed mechanics, and that’s where my humble person comes in! Let me tell you some about how the game will actually work:

Game System and Mechanics – How Albensang is Played:

So, the basic premises are twofold and where mentioned before. Just to recap, here the premises I confined myself to:

  • The game cannot have any other components besides 54 cards at max & a booklet in a tuckbox.
  • The goal of the game is to deplete your own deck to zero cards before your opponent can do so.

The second premise was most defining for the following design work, as all other mechanics in the game are based on and centered around this one. So what soon came to my mind was that A) you would be trying to get rid off as many cards in hand as possible through pulling off clever combinations of said hand cards as B) at each beginning of turn (your own as well as your opponent’s) you’d be refilling your hand up to 5 cards, which is your starting hand size as well. So the more cards you are able to play during one turn, the more cards you’d be drawing anew from your deck at each beginning of turn, thus ever faster depleting your own deck. More on this system and the combat system I developed to fit these particular combination of mechanics a bit later on. For now, let me show you by means of an illustrative graphic just how little space the game actually needs to be played as well as a card preview with explanations (I am sorry, but the card text will be in German, as I will be doing this for my non-English speaking sister – it does not really matter for showcasing purposes though!).

So here is what the whole playing field in a game of Albensang would look like:

Albensang Playing Field

So yes, that is all there is to the layout of the playing field in Albensang. Just three stacks of cards – the two player’s decks and in between the central Stack where cards will be played to. Of course each player would have a hand of cards, but as the name cardhand indicates, that is not placed on the table under normal circumstances. So you could play this game on a surface not much larger than a DVD case, which is quite neat I think and I had achieved one of my goals of creating a game I’d enjoy that is not only highly portable but can be played pretty much anywhere.

At this point I have to thank my dear friend and talented artist Dennis Saputra for doing the nice card backs as seen above as well as the full  game logo as to be seen below:

Albensang logo Final

Next and before I tell you how depleting your own deck in order to win is done, I would like to showcase the “anatomy” of an Albensang cards. In general, to save card slots / to keep the card count low, there is only one type of card. But the cool part is you can play or use it in three different ways, quite similar to what I did in the AWE Tactical Card Game previously. Play a upright as a Character, play it sideways (rotated 90°) as a Spell or face-down to generate resources (which are called “Vigor”, which just means life force which I see as a good alternative name to “Mana” which has been used over and over again already). I would like to seize the opportunity to extend my gratitude towards my awesome new gaming buddy Stefan, who suggested a simple and elegant alternative to the awkward resource system I had been using previously. Thank you Stefan for testing and suggesting! 😀

Albensang 3 Ways to Play a Card

And here as promised above, the explanation of an Albensang card’s anatomy. The text is all in German as I noted before but it shouldn’t matter or be any problem for showcasing and explaining the card layout and such:

Anatomy of an Albensang Card

Now about how to best deplete your own deck in order to win:

Just as a reminder: As I mentioned  before, the more cards  you get into your hand from your deck and the more cards you send from your hand to the central playing area (we could call it the “Stack” in English) the sooner your deck will be running out of cards, which is, as you surely remember, the victory condition in Albensang, as at the beginning of each player’s turn, both players must draw cards until they hold 5 cards in hand. That means the best case scenario would be an empty hand at the end of your turn so you’d draw a maximum number of 5 cards from your deck in the consecutive turn. And this is how you can achieve this:

By default during each turn (yours and your opponent’) you got

  • 1 Summon: Play a card from hand as a Character. The Character effects will apply and the Power value as seen in the above diagram becomes relevant, because playing a Character always means participating in Combat. As the active player, you will always play the first card and considered the attacker, while the other player is considered the defender. This will matter on some cards that gain Power etc if attacking or defending.
  • 1 Cast: Play a card sideways as a Spell. Spells have effects that resolve upon playing them from hand but do not have a Power value to add to the Power values of the Characters you played, unless their effect tells you so.
  • 1 Transform/Invigorate (?): You may place 1 card from your hand face down on the Stack and add Vigor (Life Force – the universal resource or currency in Albensang) equal to the transformed/invigorated card to your virtual “Vigor Pool”. You may use the Vigor generated this way to pay for Summoning Costs of Characters or for Casting Costs of Spells.

Now that alone would allow you to spend 3 cards per turn, sending them from hand to the Stack, but you should be striving to send as many cards as possible to the Stack in one turn. This is enabled by a concept quite reminiscent of Deckbuilding Games like Dominion or Thunderstone, but to my knowledge it has not been done before  in a simple card battling game like Albensang: There are many cards that give you additional Summons, Casts and Transforms as well as cards drawing you extra cards in order to enable you to play lengthy combos exceeding the 5 cards in hand count. These cards would just say “+X Summon”, “+X Cast”, “+X Transform” as well as “Draw X (cards)”. That is basically the system. But the awesomeness (??) does not stop here! Just like this, Albensang would be ending up like some games that have been called “Multiplayer Solitaire” (the most well-known candidate for that being award-winning Dominion) as they lack player interaction and everyone is just running through their turns trying to pull off as lenghty combos as possible. To prevent Albensang from becoming another one of the ominous “Multiplayer Solitaire” games, I came up with a Combat System that ensures a lot of player interaction and fits the general system and victory condition of the game very well.

In Combat, players alternate playing cards (either transforming for Vigor, summoning a Character or casting a Spell) onto the Stack until both players say they want to pass or run out of cards and/or actions. This is called a battle. Once both  players have passed, battle is over and each player counts the Power of each of their (non-defeated – a detail I will refrain from explaining herein) Characters. The player with the highest total Power is the winner and the loser of a battle has to return all of their face-up cards they played during the battle to the bottom of their deck (in an order of their choice), whilst the winner will be allowed to keep their cards in the Stack. In case of a tie in total Powers, all cards owned by both players remain in the Stack.

This means you MUST try to overpower your opponent in battle, through cleverly combining not only Characters but also supportive Spells in order to keep the cards you played in one battle in the Stack instead of returing them to your deck, as your ultimate goal is to reduce the latter to zero cards!

Triggers – An Advanced Rule?

I am not sure about one mechanic I do find quite appealing for several reasons and am undecided on whether or not to make it an optional or advanced players’ rule. On the one hand, it would speed up the game even more (and fast gameplay is what I want to achieve with Albensang) and add some element of luck and excitement but on the other hand it is, as our first test runs showed, easy to overlook and we constantly forgot to apply the mechanic at all. I am talking about the Trigger mechanic! Basically, it would work like that. About half of the cards in each deck have one out of 6 Trigger Icons. Whenever you play a Character, factually attacking with him or her, you’d reveal the topmost card of your Deck and check if it has a Trigger or not. If it has one, the respective Trigger is applied at once and if it has none, nothing will happen. In either case, the revealed card would be put back on top or under the deck – active player’s choice. The 6 different Triggers are shown in little orbs in different colors on the cards that have a Trigger with the first letter of the respective Trigger type on it. The different Triggers would be:

  • Z (Ziehen – Draw): Draw 1 card.
  • S (Stärke – Power): Your Character gets +1 Power.
  • B (Beschwören – Summon): You get +1 Summon.
  • W (Wirken – Cast): You get +1 Cast.
  • T (Transformieren – Transform): You get +1 Transform.
  • D (Dezimieren – Deplete/Decimate) Put the revealed cardonto the Stack face-down immediately.

Again I am really not sure what to do with the Trigger Ability. The game is easier and works as well without it but on the other hand it profits from playing wiht the Trigger Mechanic in place as well. I think I will just make it an optional rule, advising beginners to ignore the Triggers altogether whereas advanced Players could enjoy playing the game with the Trigger Mechanic in effect!


 

And this is pretty much all I can tell you so far about my progress on Albensang, which I want to have finalized and printed by beginning of August this year, right in time for my sister Nora’s birthday on August 8th! Should be possible, also from the art side, as Aeronne said doing 50 characters until mid-July would be feasible for him.

So yeah, I hope you found my rather lengthy ramblings on the newest game project of mine at least somewhat entertaining and insightful and hopefully you enjoyed the awesome art of Aeronne as much as I enjoy it!

Thank you Ae, Dennis, Nora, Stefan and all other contributors!

Well, all that remains for me to say now is, as always,

HAPPY GAMING!

Yours,

Andi

MTG: Building a Budget Deck for a Beginner!

Hello everyone and welcome once again…

…this time around for a very special Magic Decks article! I have the pleasure of playing the “Magic Mentor” for a new friend  of mine, Aeronne (or just “Aero” or even just “Ae”) from the distant Philippines, whom I met as a highly talented, communicative and enthusiastic as well as committed artist/illustrator for an upcoming, anime-style card game of mine going by the name of

Albensang cropped

(More on that game in an imminent, separate blog post).

So Ae asked me, a 16-years Magic: the Gathering veteran, to give him some insider tips and some advice on how to get started. He wanted to just purchase one of the nice and quite decent pre-built Intro Packs, but I had a better idea and said “How much of a budget do you have?”. I told Ae I could assemble him a decklist on a very tight budget that could beat the shit out of his cousin who had introduced him to the game. Upon being asked what color would be the best and easiest to get into the game, my answer was Green. I do think by any means that green is the color of choice for a bloody beginner like Ae and ironically, most beginners without expert advice from an “insider” like my humble self build green decks cause there are tons of Fatties in that color. Sadly, most don’t realize you need some massive “mana ramp” to make a Fatty deck work at all. So yeah, Ae trusted me and after agreeing on a budget of 20 – 25 USD, I proposed to build him a monogreen beatdown deck. In this article, which I write partly for Ae to read and understand the strategy involved, I will be putting myself to the challenge of building a (more than?) decent beginner’s deck on a budget of 25 USD at max (we will be taking the average card costs from http://magiccards.info just to clarify) . And man do I love a deckbuilding challenge like this. Oh and by the way, I will be building the deck Modern legal so Ae can participate in Modern Format events/tournaments with his deck!

So Ae, pay close attention as here follows the deck and strategic thoughts on the same!

So what I would propose to Ae as his very first magic deck would be something more special than just grabbing any of the many preconstructed decks. It will be customized and tuned to the max, within the boundaries of our 20 – 25 USD budget. So a monogreen beatdown deck it will be. One actually, that I play myself almost exactly like that, without the inclusion of any Rares or Mythic Rares. However it has some quite expensive Uncommons like Rancor, which I’d like to skip in favor of some cheap Rares I think.

So the most common mistake a beginner without any guidance or plan makes when building a Fatty Deck (a deck that is that is packed to the brim with high-cost, high-power creatures, mostly in green) is that they forget about ways to get them out fast – mana ramp/acceleration. For Ae’s first deck, I would not go for Fatties at all but rather for some mid-range, cost-effective Creatures like this awesome Beast  here…

…combined with lots of “Mana Elves”, Creatures that cost 1 green mana and can be tapped for one green mana, like…

….and their identical, more classic counterparts:

So the basic plan would be to drop one of your 8 Mana Elves on turn 1 and then be able to Summon something nasty and/or big as soon as turn 3, such as the above shown Leatherback Baloth. For the two mana slots there are amazing, I might even say insane Common cards available such as…

…as well as Kalonian Tusker. I mean come on… a 3/2 Trampler for just 2 Mana. How sick is that?? 😀

Also we have some very powerful Creature pumper Commons available such as the classic…

…or the basically free to cast Mutagenic Growth. This on the other hand would be the killer Spell in the deck:

What is more, I really like this rather new type of Instant or Sorcery that lets two Creatures fight outside of Combat, virtually giving green some sort of Anti-Creature direct damage, so I would like to include four copies of…

And lastly, I can hardly believe it, but look at awesometastic Troll Ascetic and guess how much a copy is nowadays:

So you see what kind of kickass package you get for only 3 Mana. And the cost in dollars must be a joke: You’d get a playset of four of these multi-talented trolls for two f’ing bucks (USD) if the prices on magiccards.info are accurate!! Simply unbelievable…

So let me wrap this up for you into a decklist and let’s see if it is within the predefined budget!

Ae’s Monogreen Beatdown:

Prices for playsets of four in brackets!

Creatures…24

4 x Elvish Mystic G (1 USD)

4 x Llanowar Elves G (0,80 USD)

4 x Kalonian Tusker GG (0,70 USD)

4 x Garruk’s Companion GG (0,80 USD)

4 x Leatherback Baloth GGG (4 USD)

4 x Troll Ascetic 1GG (2 USD)

Instants…8

4 x Giant Growth G (0,60 USD)

4 x Mutagenic Growth G (3,60 USD)

Sorceries…6

4 x Prey Upon G (0,80 USD)

2 x Overrun 2GGG (0,40 USD)

Lands…22

22 x Forest (next to nothing….)

Total Cost for all this shit: $14.7 USD!

Well done Andi, you just saved lucky Ae a little more than 10 US-dollars off of his Magic Deck budget!

Mind you guys, I am playing a very similar deck just without ANY Rare cards but some semi-expensive Uncommons like the previously mentioned Rancor and it can very well compete against a wide range of (not only) Modern Format decks, just because of its sheer, raw power and speed in quickly overwhelming your opponent with cost-efficient mid-range Creatures powered out by means of Mana Elves.

Just remember the basic plan Ae, try to get out a Mana Elf (either Llanowar or Mystic) on turn one to drop a mighty Leatherback Baloth or a very-hard-to-kill Troll Ascetic out on turn 3. Get blockers and other nasty/pesky Creatures out of the way by killing them off directly with Prey Upon, boost your unblocked Creatures with Giant Growth and Mutagenic Growth (the latter can be cast for no mana at all, just by paying 2 puny life points) and as soon as you have a large army of cheap but efficient beaters, swing in for the kill with a well-timed Overrun, giving ALL of your Creatures +3/+3 and Trample for one turn. In many cases, it will be your opponent’s last turn. So please go ahead and buy the cards together if you like my beginner budget deck suggestion, show your cousin who’s the boss and kick some ass elsewhere, maybe in a Modern Tournament, with this cheap-as-hell yet highly powerful almost all Common/Uncommon deck. The roughly 15 bucks will be worth it, trust me.

Thanks to you Ae for giving me the opportunity to let me suggest a list for your very first deck and for allowing me to lecture you on the ways of MtG and thank you to all other readers. I really hope this was helpful for you, Ae!

So, Ae my friend and all others:

Happy gaming!

Yours,

Andi

MtG: Legacy Tournament Report + Bonus Deck: Doran’s Walls

Dear readers!

As I had announced in a previous post not too long ago, we were to attend the FNM Legacy Tournament in our local Magic store of trust and choice in Linz. Herein I want to share some of my experiences with my very first official Legacy Event that I attended, and let me make one thing perfectly clear right from the start: Major suckage in terms of win/lose statistics. Well, I decided to run an experimental deck and was prepared to lose a lot but hell, not a single game won! 😀

So the thing was this: My goal was more like to “probe” into the local Legacy scene, or Metagame as it is called in MtG lingo, rather than win big time. So instead of running my tried and tested and, as I would think, reasonably powerful Landstill, I opted for a totally different deck which you can check out in the previous article. The problem was it was little more than just a Modern Format Deck with Dual Lands and Forces (of Will) added in among some other Legacy stuff like Counterspell for instance. So the format and/or meta was fast as hell, whereby nobody really played aggro or any other creature based beatdown decks. I saw someone play an Elf Combo deck but that kind of deck doesn’t win through beatdown either.

As for myself, first I played against an Enchantment Deck relying on drawing a ton of cards with Argothian Enchantress and making tons of 4/4 Flying Angel Tokens with Sigil of the Empty Throne. I could have punched me in the face for deciding last minute to remove Pernicious Deed from my deck, as my first opponent won almost exclusively cause he was able to drop Solitary Confinement and I had no way of getting rid of that pesky as hell enchantment. My next opponent just ran some stupid as shit (pardon me French!) monored burn deck with Lightning Bolt, Chain Lightning and just a ton of burn and he oblitereated me utterly, because I was too slow PLUS, and this applied to the whole evening, I had bad draw after bad draw. Talk about bad luck there. I  had to skip the third game as I got a “Freilos” meaning I got one point for free without even playing as we were an odd number of players. My last game was the most interesting one, as my opponent played a deck I had never seen before. Basically it involved lots of Dredging and awesome card interactions that are triggered or enabled when certain cards were in his graveyard. One of his killers was Ichorid which is pretty sweet and I remember well how he won 2 games in a row with just one land (a Gemstone Mine).

So yeah, while I didn’t win a single game this all was a great learning experience for me and my buddy Stefan, who hadn’t done any better than me btw, enjoyed it as well. I really did not think just how FAST the Legacy Format is these days, and curiously there are some lightning fast decks that have a ton of interactions that can be unleashed aplenty on turns 1 – 3. So while I haven’t seen a single beatdown or creature rush approach, all these decks are very fast all in all. In any case, now that I know to some degree at least what Legacy looks and plays like nowadays, I am highly motivated to take up the challenge and build a deck that will or may perform at least a bit better than my Modern to Legacy conversion of my Survivor Deck (the latter should rock in Modern though and I hope to be able to play a Modern tournament playing Survivor in the not too distant future!).

Anyways here my current Landstill list – I reverted to my old-school version of this one, playing it URW as I had done in the very beginning. I was really tempted to add in green for Crop Rotation to fetch a Maze or a Tabernacle but this will do I think. Also I added a completely new, but potentially great twist to my old list, but please take a look:

Andi’s Old-School Landstill:

Instants…22

4 x Stifle U

3 x Swords to Plowshares W

1 x Enlightened Tutor W

3 x Lightning Bolt R

3  Fire/Ice 1R/1U

4 x Counterspell UU

4 x Force of Will 3UU

Enchantments…4

4 x Standstill

Artifacts…5

2 x Engineered Explosives X

3 x Nevinyrral’s Disk 4

Planeswalkers…2

2 x Elspeth, Knight Errant 2WW

Lands…27

4 x Volcanic Island

3 x Plateau

3 x Tundra

4 x Flooded Strand

2 x Scalding Tarn

2 x Arid Mesa

1 x Tolaria West

1 x Maze of Ith

1 x The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale

4 x Mishra’s Factory

2 x Faerie Conclave

Some more Info on the Deck:

Well this deck comes pretty close to my original Landstill version and color combination, RUW (or “Jeskai” as they call it nowadays) being my all-time favorite three color combination all in all. The Deck features a decent amount of countermagic in the form of Stifle (and I said that before but I LOVE Stifling Fetchlands!!), classic Counterspell and most of the times free-to-cast Force of Will. Red is in the mix with Lightning Bolt and Fire/Ice, simply to get rid of some smaller, troublesome critters or deal the last few points of damage needed for the win if you managed to push down your opponent far enough with your manlands. White is for Swords to Plowshares which can deal with creatures of any size and/or cost. Also the one Enlightened Tutor is kinda a pet card of mine. It fetches Standstill or Disk etc so I felt adding one copy couldn’t hurt. Speaking of Nevinyrral’s Disk, I run 3 of them as they potentially whipe everything out on  the field, except lands  and Planeswalkers. That brings me to the only really new card I added to this deck: The awesome as shit Elspeth, Knight Errant. Using her second ability (add 1 counter: target Creature gets +3/+3 and has flying until end of turn) on your Mishra’s Factory just rocks big time, making your lowly assembly worker a mighty 5/5 Flyer. I haven’t tested the deck with Elspeth yet but I think she could be a decent addition to the overall plan of this deck in particular!

Well, as you see I won’t get discouraged so fast and am looking forward to take the above deck to another Legacy tourney soon. As for my “Survivor” deck, I think it is best suited for Modern Format and will give it a try in the same!

OK then, just for the fun of it, I’ll not stop the article here but instead would like to throw in a random deck idea of mine right here, a deck all based around super-awesome, super-abusable Doran, the Siege Tower. Take a gander:

I mean just look at him! For a measly 3 Mana you get a 0/5 that attacks for 5, so virtually, Doran can be considered a 5/5 beater in and off itself. But as you surely have read or know already, Doran gives the awesome ability of assigning combat damage equal to a creature’s toughness rather than its power to all Creatures!! That begs for a deck or two built around the gnarled, big, bad guy. While I could think of a kickass EDH/Commander build centered around Doran, let me share a Modern Format deck I built around the Siege Tower with you. Please know that I am not sure if it would stand any fighting chance in a competitive environment. Honestly, I don’t really care. I just wanted to build an unique and original decklist for me to enjoy with my magic buddies casually. So let’s take a closer look:

Doran’s Defenders:

Creatures…25

4 x Noble Hierarch

4 x Treefolk Harbinger

4 x Wall of Omens 1W

4 x Wall of Mulch 1G

4 x Overgrown Battlement 1G

3 x Doran, the Siege Tower GWB

1 x Black Poplar Shaman 2B

1 x Indomitable Ancients 2WW

1 x Timber Protector 4G

Sorceries…4

4 x Rootgrapple 4W

Instants…4

4 x Putrefy 1GB

Enchantments…4

4 x Rolling Stones

Lands…22

4 x Windswept Heath

2 x Verdant Catacombs

2 x Marsh Flats

4 x Murmuring Bosk

2 x Stirring Wildwood

1 x Temple Garden

1 x Overgrown Tomb

2 x Plains

2 x Swamp

2 x Forest

About the Deck:

Well as you surely realized already, Doran, the Siege Tower is your main guy in this deck. A card that goes along REALLY well with Doran and in fact is one of the most important cards in the deck I would say, although it looks insigificant, is Treefolk Harbinger. Harbinger is a 0/3 at a cost of 1 green Mana. When it comes into play, you may search your Deck for a Treefolk OR Forest and put it on top of your deck. That gives you sooo many options, the best being either to fetch one of your three Dorans, or the AWESOME land Murmuring Bosk. You can also grab a Rootgrapple which destroys any noncreature permanent. Murmuring Bosk counts as a Forest but can also be tapped for 1 white or 1 black mana. That would cost you 1 Life but who the hell cares? Anyways you can fetch Bosk not only with Treefolk Harbinger but also with your Windswepth Heaths and Verdant Catacomb, which, in theory, should give you access to all 3 kinds of Mana needed to summon Doran and play the other cards in your deck. Oh and one last thing about Treefolk Harbinger: With Doran he will virtually be a 3/3 for 1 green mana, which is pretty neat as well. There are some one-of Treefolk I included, once again to be fetched with Harbinger, such as Timber Protector, which gives all your other Treefolk and Forests indestructible as well as Indomitable Ancients. The latter don’t have any special effects but hell, a 2/10 for 2WW?! Use with Doran recommended. No further explanation needed I guess!

Ok that about covers Doran and his Treefolk friends. This deck is not only about Treefolk but has a secondary, or even equally important theme as well. Walls! 😀 I am running some massive draw power with including Wall of Omens which is a 0/4 for 1W that draws you a card when it enters the battlefield, whereas Wall of Mulch is a 0/4 as well but it lets you pay 1 green mana to sac a Wall and draw a card. These 8 cards can seriously speed up your game and create some valuable card advanatage. Overgrown Battlement is a really neat card as well, yet again being a 0/4 for 1G. It taps to generate a number of green mana equal to the number of creatures with defender you control.  That can be really hefty considering you got no less than 12 Creatures with Defender!

And now for a card that would not be ABSOLUTELY necessary for the deck and there would be better additions instead of it, but I just love my crap rares as regular readers will no doubt already know, so I had to run a playset of this:

I mean how cool is that when you combine your 12 Walls with Defender with a Doran? They are all 0/4, which means through Doran they will all attack for no less than 4 damage. And that for a converted mana cost of  2. Simply priceless and it adds even more of an individual touch to my deck as I would think.

So well, that would be my approach on a Modern Format Doran/Walls deck. Luckily the cards needed for it aren’t THAT expensive so I purchased all I need for the above deck already and am really looking forward to getting this to the table! On a closing note, there is one card that would REALLY rock with Doran, but I didn’t want to splash a fourth color just for the sake of this, however awesome it would be with Doran:

On second thoughts, I do have Hierarch that makes me blue mana, so I may be considering to add this kickass wall in somehow…

Well, I hope you enjoyed today’s MtG “double feature” and please come back often or even better subscribe if you don’t want to miss my future ramblings on MtG, YGO, other games and games of my own devising!

Happy Gaming!

Yours,

Andi