What I Would Have Played at AGP Richmond

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Hello everyone! This past weekend was definitely a crazy one.  APG Richmond was scheduled and I was excited to play.  Unfortunately, winter storm Jonas had other plans and hit the East Coast hard.  The event was ultimately rescheduled a few days before the weekend.  When I heard the announcement, I was disappointed that I was not able to play but also relieved since I was concerned about traveling to Virginia with the storm about to hit.  Ultimately I feel this was a good call as Richmond received about a foot of snow and here in Pennsylvania we got almost 2 feet of snow.  Though I was not able to play this past weekend, I wanted to share the deck I was going to play at the event.

In preparation for the event, my team decided that we wanted to develop a non-reflect deck that was able to contend in the meta (this was before the errata was announced).  We deemed that Vlad was the most likely choice for a deck that could defeat the many incarnations of Reflect that were around.  Playing black and red gave us access to the best and cheapest removal. However, I also wanted to play Hera in order to destroy Change the World and provide card advantage.  We built the first drafts of a Blue, Black, Red (I will be calling this color combination Grixis moving forward) Vlad.  In our early tests the deck matched up fairly well against several variants of Reflect.  Grixis was a great color choice and we were impressed with how it was preforming.  There was one significant issue we ran into which was the deck lost to Split Heaven and Earth.  We then decided we needed to change the colors around or accept losing to split.  We ultimately decided to simply add green for Keen sense in the board to give us some protection from Split.  We also decided to play 12 stones to give us a small advantage against other Vlad lists.  Here is the last draft of the list I was going to play at Richmond:

 

vlad

Vlad Tepes

4 Cheshire Cat, the Grinning Remnant
4 Hera, Goddess of Jealousy
2 Dark Faria, Shadow Princess of Ebony
2 Zero, the Magus of Null
2 Susanowo, the Ten-Fist Sword
4 Scorn of Dark Alice
4 Thunder
2 Rapid decay
3 Spiral of Despair
4 Stoning to Death
4 Flame of the Outer World
3 Foresee
1 Awakening at the End
1 Marybell, the Steel Doll

 

4 Magic Stone of Dark Depth
4 Magic stone of Scorched Bales
4 Magic Stone of Black Silence

 

Sideboard

1 Ebony Prophet/Abdul Alhazred, the Harbinger of Despair
3 Barrier of Shadow
2 Dark Pulse
2 Mephistopheles, the Abyssal Tyrant
2 Marybell, the Steel Doll
3 Keen Sense
2 Unseen Pressure

 

The Resonators

Cheshire Cat
This card is great.  For only one will, it draws you cards which helps improve the consistency of the deck, and it chump blocks very well, which buys time against aggressive decks.

 

Hera
At Richmond, I expected to see a lot of regalia, especially Change the world.  When trying to beat Reflect, the most powerful card they play is Change the World. Hera destroys Change and draws a card which is exactly the kind of effect we want in the deck.

 

Dark Faria
I like the role Faria plays in the deck.  She provides extra removal and some life gain against aggressive decks and is also a decent clock against slower decks.

 

Zero
This was a card I chose because it gives a small board wipe against many of the small resonators that are being played in the reflect list.  It also has quick cast which helps to keep our deck reactive and flexible.

 

Susano
This is our big finisher and is really great in the deck.  It also punishes people for playing Gwiber which is one of the larger threats in the current meta.  Even when casting this card for its full cost, it is worth the investment and I really like having this card in the deck.

 

The Non Resonators

Scorn of Dark Alice, Spiral of Despair
Discard is one of my favorite forms of disruption and it is very powerful.  It reduces the options the opponent has to play and slows their game plan down significantly.  Reflect’s filter ability becomes significantly less effective when the opponent has very few cards in their hand which is one reason why I chose to play a significant amount of discard in the deck.

 

Thunder, Rapid Decay
These are the 1 will removal spells.  They both destroy most resonators that are being played in the meta and provide different options to our removal suite.

 

Stoning to Death, Flames of the Outer World
These are the 2 will removal spells.  Stoning is great because it kills everything whenever we need and Flames can’t be stopped or responded to.  These along with the 1 will removal spells provide a versatile removal suite that give the deck the ability to kill almost any resonator.

 

Forsee
This card helps keep our hand full in the long game.  As the game drags on, we are trying to 1 for 1 our opponents; trading our removal and discard spells for their resonators or cards in their hand.  Eventually we will use all the cards in our hand and will be top decking which is something a control deck does not want to do.  This card provides us a way to fill our hand back up to give us more options in the long games

 

Awakening at the End
I was surprised how much I liked having this card in the deck.  It helps when the opponent plays multiple resonators all at once and our removal can’t keep up with the number of resonators they are playing.  This card kills most resonators being played and anything this doesn’t kill can be cleaned up with the rest of our removal.

 

Marybell
Change the World is a very oppressive card and I wanted to have more than 4 ways to remove it in the main deck.  Marybell can also act as another resonator against other control decks or if the game runs long.

 

The deck was powerful and I was very excited to play this deck.  Vlad has been my Favorite ruler since she was printed and I enjoy every opportunity I get to use her.  I am looking forward to playing at Richmond in March and I’m also very excited to begin brewing with the errata in effect.  Hopefully the Meta will be more open and other rulers can become more viable.  I hope you enjoyed reading and keep an eye out for my next article. I have some exciting brews I’ve been working on that I’m really excited to share. While I don’t want to give too much away, it has something to do with Crimson Girl and Pricia, Beast Queen in Hiding.

Sacred Beasts of Despair

Pricia1

Hello everyone! I have been searching for the past few weeks for a powerful and viable darkness midrange deck that is able to hold its own in the current meta.  I have been experimenting with different rulers and card combinations to find the optimal build.  This deck does fall into the category but has a slightly more interesting story of how it came to be.

A few weeks ago I decided I wanted to build a more casual deck to play with people that had just gotten into the game and to play at the local card shop.  I decided that Pricia would be a fun ruler to play casually.  I had always liked Pricia and felt like she was actually a very powerful ruler but unfortunately the support printed for her was very lackluster.  Due to how underwhelming the sacred beast support was, I dismissed her as only a ruler to play casually and that, unless there was more support, she was not quite competitive enough.  I had seen other Pricia builds that ran mostly wind with the sacred beasts and some pump spells.  I thought the builds were decent, but I felt she was inclined to be a midrange deck and those kind of decks needed some form of disruption.  Thus I decided to use darkness as my base for the deck, since she allows the sacred beasts to be cast with any color will while on her ruler side.  I wanted to be able to give her flying when she flipped but I was not very impressed with Xuan Wu (the blue one), so I decided that I would play blue as a third color for Cheshire and Hera.  These provided card draw and regalia removal while also giving Pricia flying.

Once I had built my draft of the deck, I began playing it against my friend’s brews and was immediately surprised.  The deck was very powerful and was winning a larger portion of the games. I became very excited about the deck and was excited to begin testing against more competitive decks.  I though perhaps I had found a way to make Pricia competitive. This is the list I began testing with:

Ruler: Pricia, the Beast Lady/Pricia, the Commander of the Sacred Beasts

pricia2

4 Cheshire Cat, the Grinning Remnant
3 Hera, Goddess of Jealousy
4 Zhu Que the Sacred Beast (Red Beast)
4 Bai Hu the Sacred Beast (White Beast)
4 Qing Long the Sacred Beast (Green Beast)
3 Dark Faria, Shadow Princess of Ebony
4 Scorn of Dark Alice
2 Unseen Pressure
2 Spiral of Despair
4 Stoning to Death
2 Sprint of the Beast Lady
4 Horn of Beasts

Stones
4 Magic stone of Black Silence
4 Magic Stone of Dark Depth
2 Darkness Magic Stone

The Resonators

Cheshire Cat

One of the best one drops in the game. It provides card draw and filtering and helps make any deck more consistent.  It also provides a recurring chump blocker which is very helpful.  It is also blue which gives Pricia flying.

 

Hera

She is also blue, enabling Pricia to fly.  She also destroys opponent’s regalia and draws a card, which is very useful in the current meta.

 

Zhu Que, Bai Hu, Qing Long

These are the main reason for playing Pricia as the ruler.  They each become more powerful as there are more on the field and each provides a fairly relevant ability when they enter.  Of the three sacred beasts I played, I was most impressed with Bai Hu.  He is a 600/600 target attack for 3 which is alright stat-wise and with Horn can be casted as early as turn 1.  His life gain ability was very useful and help cushion the deck against more aggressive decks. Zhu Que was also solid and was happy playing them in the deck.  They were able to kill smaller resonators and with more sacred beasts on the field they could even kill larger threats like Lancelot.  Qing Long was the least impressive by himself but with any other sacred beast he was a huge help. His pump was very relevant, enabling the deck to be more aggressive, and also enabled Bai Hu to kill larger resonators.

 

Dark Faria

I like this card.  It provides the deck with more removal as well as another source of life gain.  The pump ability does not really help this deck very much but I felt she provided enough value for the deck without taking much advantage of it.

 

Spells and Non Resonators

Scorn of Dark Alice, Spiral of Despair

One of the most powerful ways to disrupt your opponent is to force them to discard cards.  It reduces the options they have to play around our threats and slows their game plan down significantly.  These cards were essential and provided a huge amount of power for the deck.

 

Unseen Pressure

This card provides more cheap removal and kills many relevant resonators that are being played.

 

Stoning to Death

Still one of the best removal spells in the game.  It kills anything at instant speed.  Very good will play 4 of them in any darkness deck.

 

Sprint of the Best Lady

I’m not sure how I feel about this card in the deck.  It can be a blowout when you have several resonators on the field and can kill out of nowhere.  On the other hand it does nothing when you are behind.  I’m thinking this is the most likely card to be cut as it feels like a “win more” type of card.

 

Horn of Beasts

I was very impressed with this card.  It allowed the deck to do more each turn.  The horn helped mitigate the higher mana cost for the sacred beasts and allowed them to be cast one or more turns earlier than they should be.  They also freed up stoned to be used for removal or discard spells while also progressing your board state.  They give Pricia a power boost and imperishable for free which was incredibly helpful.

 

After playing the deck against more casual decks, I found it to win a significant amount on the time.  I then began testing it against other drafts of competitive decks my play group were working on and it was able to hold its own very well.  I then began to test the deck against powerful Reflect decks to see just how strong my brew was.  Sadly, it just wasn’t able to handle Reflect/Refrain and Change the World.  These two cards together are so oppressive and allows the player to play through disruption and still push their game plan.  The Pricia deck felt like it could almost win every game but just wasn’t able to beat Reflect with change the world.  With the errata to Reflect, the deck may have a better chance to preform or perhaps changing the colors around (playing red provides more removal) could also help the deck.  This is a list I will definitely test out more.

The deck was an absolute blast to play and has a decent amount of disruption. If you’re looking to play something that will turn heads at your locals I highly suggest trying this one out.  Hope you enjoyed this list and keep an eye out for my next brew here on Of Dice and Pens.  Is there a ruler you want me to build?  Let me know in the comments and I’ll try to brew something up!

The Depths of the Unknown: The Eldritch Teller

The Depths of the Unknown is an attempt to reveal and talk about games that are not talked about: games that are only a few bucks, last only a few minutes, and exist to stand by themselves and the purpose of this segment is to shine light on those experiences and pull something out of them.


The name
The Eldritch Teller stuck out to me. It’s a good name. It’s invocative of something grander than oneself, but it inspired quite a bit of apprehension in me because I’ve just grown tired of the “unknowable cosmic horror” tropes. I’ve grown tired of the unknowable because it feels like a waste of time to really concern oneself with what one can not know. Maybe that’s the point. Thankfully, The Eldritch Teller never seems to concern itself with that either.

Yes, I am a cool adult. It's very nice of you to notice.
This is the sort of humor The Eldritch Teller deals in and I love it.

The Eldritch Teller, by Arielle Grimes (@slimekat on Twitter), is a game with really one option and that’s what the player does when they hear their phone ring. The Eldritch Teller, of title fame, is a robed, antlered, faceless entity, that simply acts as narrator. The game looks as if it’s running on a faulty CRT run through a fish-eye lens. Pixelated geometry spirals and a space-scape acts as the letter box. The distortion makes some of the text hard to read, but the actual art in the game is well made. Silhouettes are vague enough that it doesn’t bring any strict definition to the “You” of the story, leaving the story open to anyone participating. There’s no attachment – The Eldritch Teller knows what it’s audience is. The game plays like a ghost story being told to you, about you. The Eldritch Teller has no time to really consider what you do. It knows what you’d do. The story being told is a vague enough story that it feels like “your” story and doesn’t suffer from being so vague.

The screen flashes to convey small story beats and focus from high detailed figures to explosive bits of pixelated lines portraying, well, the unknowable. The art is pixel art, but it’s not overly stylized pixel art – it’s a means to create indistinction. Nothing is very clear, as something set in a cosmic horror setting should be.

I had mentioned earlier that I had a slight bit of fear – not a psychological or primal fear, but a fear of disdain. Between friends, I’ve referred to the cosmic horror tropes as “Cthulhu shit.” There’s two camps: those that have been trying to separate the roots from the mythos and concentrate on the kind of horror that is found in those stories, a pure fascination and healthy fear of the unknowable that has no time nor regard for you, and those that find delight in the lore of the Cthulhu mythos – a paradox in itself. The idea of a mythos behind something defined as unknowable is silly, or maybe it’s expected. It’s putting structure around something one can not know and adding your flairs to it. The second worst thing HP Lovecraft did, after being a terrible racist, was describe Cthulhu and inspire an unknowable amount of merchandise to spawn after his death.

I am so ready.
The combination of casual tones and a simple color pallet is really striking.

The Eldritch Teller falls squarely in the first, personally, more interesting camp. It’s the camp that is more interested in what it means to interact with the unknowable. It’s friendly, it can come in contact with you, but it feels less like looking over the edge of a cliff and more like being talked down to by a teacher.

The narrator’s tone is frank and casual, toying with the player’s expectation of, well, an Eldritch Teller. It’s a character that toys with the player’s expectations of itself. My favorite line in the piece is “You’re a cool adult who definitely deserves respect.” It’s that tone that I enjoyed. It’s not a narrator that’s going to blow anyone away, but I appreciated that. It brought levity to the parts that would be dull and got out of the way when action began.

The balance of the tones creates an interesting effect. The humor leaves the player just open enough to let the turn take you. When it switches to a bit of cosmic horror it’s a slow shift, easing you into it. The harder turn is a return to normalcy and that’s where the narrative is at it’s most interesting to me – The Eldritch Teller is a tragedy. It’s a comedy that trades not in the unknown, but uses the unknown to set up it’s ultimate joke and the punchline is depression. The story being told is about waiting for a phone call. The Eldritch Teller tells you that you await this call, but you’ve always wanted to adventure, just as most kids have. Regardless of which of the three storylines you choose (to casually get the phone, spring forward for the phone, or to sit paralyzed in anxiety), you’re ultimately ending the call to adventure. The adventure is the moment of “abduction,” of being taken away, but in the end, the phone call needs to be answered and the job needs to be taken. That’s the state of the world once you leave it. The extravagance of adventure is brief, fleeting, and wouldn’t accept you, no matter how much you crave it. There is really only one path where there is a true interaction between “you” and the cosmic horrors. The great irony is they’re quite polite. They’re not lording over you the fact that they’re of some higher headspace.

It’s a short little experience, it’s about 5 to 10 minutes. It’s not going to revitalize a joy for cosmic horror, but it feels like a good response to the exhaustion in those ideas. It treats it as window dressing, as opposed to the window itself. It’s the kind of way I want this setting and set of tropes to be explored. The initial idea behind the settings is a shallow well that can only sustain a few stories, or at least that’s my opinion. That’s because stories seem to want to constantly question the unknown, as opposed to interacting with the unknown. It’s limiting, narratively, when your only interactions you can have with the void are to go mad. What I liked about The Eldritch Teller is it felt like I had fallen into the void’s living room and it picked me up and asked how I was doing, sent me on my way, without any significant conversation. The Eldritch Teller is not going to change your life. It’s not going to unlock some big dark secret of the universe or lead you to an epiphany, but it’s entertaining – even if it’s whole purpose is to just let you know just how insignificant you are.

If you’d like to play this for yourself, you can go here. Pay a few bucks and you can experience all of the choices in the story. If you play for free, you’re restricted to whatever choice you pick – there’s no reloading the game and starting over to see the rest.

Takin’ Turns

 

Alice world1

Hello everyone! It’s been a little over a month since my last article and a lot has happened in that time.  We have had a new set release and a big shakeup has happened to the meta.  Since TTW dropped, I have been spending a great amount of time brewing and testing the new cards.

There were two decks that I had been testing which stood out that I was considering bringing to the Lemoyne ARG on Dec 26.  The first deck was Dark Alice midrange.  Dark Alice is my favorite ruler Force of Will has printed as of yet.  She is a decent sized ruler with target attack when she flips and she provides a very relevant and powerful ability when she enters the field. Her god’s art is very strong and helps put the game firmly in your favor.  I really love playing darkness in this game and I feel it is very powerful.

In testing I found Dark Alice to be a good ruler for the dark control/midrange deck.  It was a blast to play and have very good matchups against the slower control decks and combo decks.  The deck looked very promising and I really enjoyed playing it.  Unfortunately I was not able to work the numbers to make the red rush matchup as favorable as I would have liked. I expected to see a large number of aggro at the event so I was unsure of playing it there.

The second option was Reflect/Refrain Alice world.  Ever since I began playing Magic I had always enjoyed combo decks and I thought they could be very fun to pilot.  One of the most powerful things you can do in a card game is to take multiple turns in a row and doing it cheaply and consistently is even more powerful.   The printing of Reflect/Refrain provided a huge boost to consistency to the old Alice World Deck and in combination with Morgina was able to speed up the deck.  In testing I found the deck to be very consistent; able to go off turn 3 or 4 without interruption and by turn 5 while fighting through some disruption.  As I tested, I found the deck to have favorable matchups against decks like Val 2.0 and Red Rush which have less disruption and struggled against control and midrange decks like Vlad and Dark Alice, which had large amounts of hand and field disruption.

As Christmas came around, I struggled in deciding which deck was a better choice to bring to Lemoyne. I figured that there was going to be a large amount of red rush decks at the event and decided that Alice World was going to be a better choice to beat them.  It was a tough choice as I really loved playing the Dark Alice deck but I really felt Alice World was a better choice for this event. This is the list I ended up registering:

 

Ruler: Reflect, Child of Potential/Refrain, Child of Convergence

Reflect__Child_of_Potential

Main Deck:

3 Cheshire Cat, the Grinning Remnant
4 Familiar of Holy Wind
4 Guinevere, the Jealous Queen
4 Elvish Priest
3 Wind Sprite
3 Morgiana, the Wise Servant
1 Jeanne d’ Arc
4 Adombrali, the Unfathomable
3 Gwiber, the White Dragon
3 Change the World, orb of Illusion
4 Send Back
4 Alice’s World

Stones:

2 Magic Stone of Moon Shade
4 Magic Stone of Deep Wood
3 Magic Stone of Blasting Waves
1 Magic Stone of Gusting Skies

Sideboard:

2 Jeanne d’ Arc
3 Sprint of the Beast Lady
2 Final Forfeit
3 Refarth, the Wind castle
3 Foresee
2 Marybell, the Steel Doll

 

The drive up to Lemoyne was smooth though rainy. When we arrived at the store I was happy to see familiar faces from other events I had attended and we discussed our thoughts on the new set before the event started.  The turnout for the event was sadly not very many with only 11 people registering for the event.  Being the day after Christmas, I had figured the event was not going to be very large but I was hopeful for a somewhat larger turnout. A tournament in New Jersey was being held the following day which may have also impacted attendance. Due to the small size, there were only 4 rounds and a cut to top 4.

Round 1 – Machines

My round one opponent was one of the store employees who was playing an interesting machines deck.  It focused of the one turn kill (OTK) with Imitation Dragon and March of the Machines. It played 10 different stones and Shakespeare which functioned as a Gretel for the deck.  His deck was just a turn slower than mine so I was able to combo him out both games before he was able to kill me.

Win 1-0

Round 2 – Reflect Rush

My second round opponent was my friend and playtest partner.  As we sat down to play at the feature match table (the store was streaming the feature matches) we joked about being paired against each other again. We had been paired against each other at the last ARG we went to together in October and joked about the continuing trend.  I knew the matchup between us was very close and could go either way.  I was on the play and his first turn was Rukh Egg into Cthugha with a pump.  Turn 2 he played lance and swing with the team.  Turn 3 was an Ame on lance and a Rapid Growth putting me near death.  I wasn’t able to combo and was swiftly killed next turn.  Game 2 he opened with a Flame Sprite and played another turn 2.  This card is the bane of my existence and they can easily kill my guys. Sprites are a real pain to kill. I was able to put enough resonators on the board to keep him from killing them all with the sprites.  I then cast a Sprint of the Beast Lady and hit him for 3400 for the win.  Game 3 was very similar to game 2.  I was trying to get enough resonators on field to Sprint and swing for lethal.  The game was very close as I was at 1400 before I was able to sprint and kill him.

Win 2-0

Round 3 – ???

When round 3 pairings were posted, my opponent knew what he was playing against and conceded to me.  He said his deck was not able to handle Alice’s World and there was no chance of winning.

Win 3-0

Round 4 – Val 2.0

My fourth round opponent was also my semifinals opponent at the Halloween ARG, and I was very excited to play against him again.  I saw his play in round 3 as he was the feature match and he saw me play round 2 so we both joked about already knowing each other’s deck. The matchup was a blast to play and each of our games were very close.  Game 1 I kept a hand that was able to play turn 2 Gwiber but a Rapid Decay on my Wind Sprite slowed me down significantly.  I managed to cast an Alice World and then drew another one on my next turn.  I was then able to chain turns together until I won.  Game 2 I had a similarly fast hand but he again decayed my turn one Wind Sprite and decayed my next turn Jeanne d’ Arc.  He judgemented Val turn 3 and I wasn’t able to keep up with her and was beaten.  Game 3 was close and only due to an unfortunate misplay did I win.  I had lethal on board and was at 2100.  He forgot to activate his Laevateinn a second time before sacrificing it to Hera and he put me to 200. I then swung in for game on my turn.

Win 4-0

 

Top 4 Semifinals Val 2.0

When the pairings were posted for top 4 I was again paired against the Val 2.0 player.  We joked about the fact that we had just played each other.  These were more very close games and I really enjoy playing against him.  In the end I was able to combo out and managed to win games 1 and 2.

Finals R/r rush

Once again I was to face my friend in the finals and his aggressive red deck.  We ultimately decided to split the prizes but wanted to play the match out to decide the winner of the event.  Game one I kept a solid hand with a turn 2 Gwiber but my friend opened with a Flame Sprite.  Turn two he played another Flame Sprite and a Rukh Egg which he then used to incarnate a Cthugha.  He tutored for another Flame Sprite with the egg ability and I was not able to assemble a real board presence against 3 sprites. Game 2 he opened with a Rukh Egg into Cthugha, tutoring for another Cthugha, swung for 500, then incarnated and pumped, dealing me 1200 damage before my turn 2.  This was swiftly followed by a Lancelot and an Ame which quickly steamrolled over me before I was able to amass any real board presence. I smiled as I shook his hand after he thoroughly crushed me and was happy to see him win the event.

 

The deck was a blast to play and was extremely powerful.  If not disrupted, it easily won on turn 3 or 4.  After playing the event, there are several changes I would make to the deck moving forward.  I would first cut down the number of Send Back I am playing.  They act as Alice Worlds 5-8 but in most cases running all 4 was very unnecessary.  I would probably cut 2 to allow for 2 Sprint of the Beast Lady to be main boarded as I brought them in every round.  I would also change the sideboard significantly as I only ever boarded in Jeanne and Sprint.

As fun as the deck was to play, there is a dark side to the deck; the deck is not fun for the opponent.  When the deck goes off, there is nothing the opponent can do but watch the deck take turn after turn until it kills them.  As shown with my game 3 opponent, people do not enjoy playing against this deck.  It reminds me very strongly of how Eggs played in Modern.  For those unfamiliar with Magic’s Modern format, Eggs was a deck that played cheap artifacts and in one turn would draw their entire deck and kill the opponent by dealing 2 damage over and over.  Eggs was similarly non-interactive and won in one long drawn out turn that was unstoppable once it started going off.  Wizards eventually banned the key card that allowed the deck to win consistently. I really did enjoy playing this deck but feel the deck is not fun to play against.

I hope you enjoyed the deck as much as I have. I plan to keep brewing more new and exciting decks that I plan to regularly be posting on Of Dice and Pens so keep an eye out for them.