3D altering: A Quick Update

For anyone coming across this blog in search of 3D altering tips, the below articles are a good start but more recently I have been posting to my Facebook page, which I have recently rebanded following my PhD success!

In addition to the tutorials in this blog, I have also written a couple of articles for Magic Madhouse. These may be found Here and Here.

Finally, I have written a 3D altering tutorial over on Reddit

Tanks for checking out my work! If you think you might be interested in altering yourself, or having me do one for you, just get in touch, either through Facebook or via email edguise88 @ gmail.com

3D Altering Tutorial

Through doing 3D alters and posting pictures online, I have been asked a number of times if I would write a tutorial on how to do them. I’ve taken a lot of thought over this, since whilst it is nice to write something showing how to create one of my alters, I also have to be careful since I’m trying to build up a mini-business by taking commissions and doing works for other people. I need to be informative, and yet not give all my secrets away! Hopefully the following article achieves this.

Anyone who has seen my blog before will know that it is a Magic-related blog. Recently however, I acquired some old pokemon cards and for the purposes of this tutorial I am going to focus on how I altered a Dratini card. Its simple design allows me to clearly show each step in the altering process.

To begin with I took 5 copies of the card. If you want even more depth in your alter then use roughly double the number of cards, using every other one as a spacing layer, although personally I’ve come not to like the end result of this method so much.

Next, I took 4 of the cards (all except the back layer) and cut out the art box using a good craft knife. With Dratini this step is simple, since none of the artwork that I want to focus on extends to the border of the frame. If that is the case the cutting of each layer requires a bit more fore-thought, as you can cut around these parts and leave them as part of the card frame. Set aside all the cut-out artwork bits for later.

Once all the frame layers are done, I use a sharpie to edge each one (except for the front layer, as I discovered that sharpies bleed into pokemon cards. For reference, Magic cards are fine). It’s important to edge any bright white lines where cuts have been made, although I have taken to blacking out the coloured box around where the artwork was too; it makes the final framing look much better.

All together, my cards now look like this…

and you can proceed to glue them on-top of one-another as so.

When layering pieces to achieve your 3D effect, contrasting colours on lower layers of the card will often stand out, detracting from the final effect. My Ekans is a good example of what to avoid (see under his mouth?).

Of course this isn’t the end of the world, but there’s a simple little trick that’ll help improve the overall look of the card… paint it! Find a paint whose colour roughly matches the rest of the background. The colour doesn’t have to match perfectly, nor does your painting even have to be that neat! But dulling the contrast can be just enough to stop a contrasting background distracting your eyes from the 3D effect.

With the card frame done, the next step is to focus on Dratini itself. For most cards the above and below steps have to be combined in some way, depending on how the artwork is being built up. But as I mentioned earlier Dratini is isolated from the frame of the card and so can be made separately and inserted afterwards.

From the artworks that you cut out and set aside earlier, cut out all the individual pieces you want to use to make the final 3D Dratini. Hopefully you’ve already decided exactly how you’re going to layer them, but if not then be sure to plan before cutting (a rough sketch can help with this).

Now before going any further, remember to edge each piece! Where white meets your edges, you can usually leave those cuts un-coloured, but remember to edge anywhere else. If you don’t have an array of coloured pens then a simple black can be fine. Here I’ve used a dark blue for the body and grey for the ears/nose.

You can see where I have glued the pieces together and also where I’ve added spacers to help build up the 3D effect once Dratini is stuck into the card frame. You can see one spacer is used where the tail goes behind the body (remember it comes out the other side, so that has to go behind his body too!) and two spacers where the body crosses over itself. This will add depth as the body will coil around and sit at different heights. (The above Ekans is a brilliant example of this being done multiple times).

Finally, simply stick Dratini in the correct place in its frame, et viola!

Side Shot

Thanks for reading, I hope this article has been of some benefit to you :) If you’re interesting in seeing the rest of my works then please check out my facebook page at www.facebook.com/Edguise88alters
If you want to get in touch, have any questions or even if you’d like me to do a 3D alter for you then please contact me through my page. Or if you don’t have facebook, hopefully you can find me on twitter @EdGuise88.

Generally Altered

Having had a bit of a break from altering, I finally managed to find the time to work on a commission for Neil Pritchard, @ScornedNerdvana, who is attempting to put together a fully altered EDH deck. Since the deck needs to be playable, 99 of the cards will be having their art altered. But since the 100th (or 1st, depending on how you see it) card normally doesn’t need to be a part of the main deck, I offered to do his General in 3D!

And so I was sent numerous copies of Sasaya, Orochi Ascendant, including foils and german cards. Now the first thing that stands out is that Sasaya is not a “normal” magic card. Being a flip card, the artwork for each half of the card is effectively half the regular size, and on top of that each half is upside-down relative to the other! Whilst this makes for a brilliant piece of artwork, it also makes it a real pain to imagine the final design when 3D’ing the card. Of course, this is never actually a concern for the original artist so I can hardly lay blame for this on anyone other than myself for taking on the task!

One thing that really stood out is that once the trees were placed in the foreground, the same dark artwork in the background really stood out. Contemplating a solution, I remembered reading one of Andrew Sitte’s articles where he wrote about altering Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker. His solution was to use a closely-coloured paint in order to mask the unwanted brightness (or in my case, darkness) further back in the art. Fortunately I happen to have a number of my old Warhammer paints laying around, so I was able to use a blue/grey to paint over the trees in the background. You can see more clearly what I mean in the image below.

As you can see, it doesn’t have to be the greatest painting in the world or even perfectly colour-matched. But it’s just enough to distract the eye away from the darkness that would otherwise draw significant attention.

With that done, the main challenge I had set myself for this piece was to do the green bits of “energy” in foil. And by this, I mean using an actual foil copy of the card, rather than just a blank foil card that can obtained by removing the ink from any foil magic card like the piece I used when altering Boros Charm. My first attempt at cutting out these pieces for this alter looked ok, but I wasn’t happy with it. I quickly learned that cutting foils adds a whole new level of difficulty. Fortunately I had a second foil copy to work with, and using a flash to emphasise the foiling, the final piece looks like this

I was also really pleased that I was able to add a bit more depth to Sasaya herself, adding layers to her arms (legs?) and head. Overall I was really happy with how this card ended up, and more importantly so was Neil! She is now in his hands and ready to take command on the battlefield. As soon as the rest of the card have been altered too, of course.

Furthermore, being my first EDH general alter it has now made me really want to give some of own generals a go. Since Wizards seem reluctant to give me a foil Zedruu the Greathearted, that seems like a great place to begin. Watch this space.

Finally, just a bit of an advert really. I’m UK based, so if anyone is interested in seeing more of my work or even if you might like to own a 3D copy of your General (or any card you like!) then I now have a facebook page. You can find it here, please like and share! Thank you :)

Orzhova EDH

Orzhov EDH

Creatures (35)
Teysa, Orzhov Scion
Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts
Obzedat, Ghost Council
Ghost Council of Orzhov
Vish Kal, Blood Arbiter
Deathpact Angel
Alms Beast
High Priest of Penance
Treasury Thrull
Kingpin’s Pet
Vizkopa Confessor
Vizkopa Guildmage
Orzhov Guildmage
Maw of the Obzedat
Tithe Drinker
Crypt Ghast
Pontiff of Blight
Basilica Screecher
Thrull Parasite
Syndicate Enforcer
Syndic of Tithes
Knight of Obligation
Basilica Guards
Sepulchral Primordial
Ogre Slumlord
Pawn of Ulamog
Blood Artist
Vampire Nighthawk
Harvester of Souls
Royal Assassin
Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
Mentor of the Meek
Archon of Justice
Restoration Angel
Requiem Angel

Spells (13)
Obzedat’s Aid
Merciless Eviction
Orzhov Charm
Debt to the Deathless
Immortal Servitude
Mortify
Unmake
Planar Cleansing
Akroma’s Vengeance
Lingering Souls
Batwing Brume
Unburial Rites
Dawn Charm

Artifacts (4)
Orzhov Keyrune
Orzhov Signet
Orzhov Cluestone
Quietus Spike

Enchantments (8)
Gift of Orzhova
Blind Obedience
Underworld Connections
Bitterblossom
Phyrexian Arena
Wound Reflection
Oblivion Ring
Soul Snare

Planeswalkers (2)
Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
Gideon, Champion of Justice

Lands (38)
Isolated Chapel
Godless Shrine
Orzhov Guildgate
Orzhov Basilica
Command Tower
Secluded Steppe
Barren Moor
Ghost Quarter
Fetid Heath
Vault of the Archangel
14 Plains
14 Swamp

Nothing special here, I just decided that I’d really like to do a BW EDH deck based around the Orzhov guild, mainly due to the power of extort in multiplayer. The deck contains off the the creatures with Extort, most of which probably wouldn’t usually be considered format-worthy. I’ve also managed to collect 5 out of the 6 BW Legends, so I can pick and choose my general each game!

Bunny Gonna Get ‘Ya!

So yesterday I got round to working on my third attempt at a 3D card alter. This time, I decided to try the hellish mutation of a bunny that is Vizzerdrix! This card’s artwork is relatively simple, yet the layering within provides great potential for altering. Instead of just building the card layer upon layer, here it’s possible to have pieces, such as the branches, flowing between layers.

With the branches flowing behind one-another, I decided to keep the bunny himself simple for this piece. Sitting on the main branch, his right hand (claw?) is reaching back. Glued only by his foot and right hand, this makes his left hand actually reach forward, almost out of the card.

Whilst I could have added more layers to the Vizzerdrix, perhaps separating out legs and arms from the body, this would have required the card itself having a lot more layers. And with these all being needed towards the front of the artwork, would have dis-proportioned the effect of the interlocking branches.

For a third piece I’m really happy with this one. Again, apologies for the poor photo quality :P Getting a better angle to show off the 3D is awkward whilst keeping the whole thing in focus. For my next piece I’m considering either Porcelain Legionnaire or Ninja of the Deep Hours. Thoughts?

Oh, and whilst I remember, would you be interested in reading more about the actual process itself? Should I be taking Work in Progress pictures and compiling a sort-of step-by-step “how to” guide?

@EdGuise88

The Third Dimension

A long time ago, I decided that at some point I’d really like to try my hand at card altering. Now, I’m not much of an artist, but I figured that 3D altering might well be within the realms of possibility. Now whilst the thought of giving this a go is fun, the reality of having to cut up cards is actually quite daunting!

Over time, I collected a large number of Whitemane Lions. I really liked the artwork, and I could see how I might be able to layer the artwork for a nice 3D effect. Having collected in excess of 10 Lions, it still took some time for me to sit down and do it. But when I finally gathered the courage to make the first cut, I set to work.

I started by cutting out the art of 3 cards, as well as a couple of basic lands so I had excess card frames to use as spacers allowing me to give more depth to the card. I’d read quite a bit into 3D altering before starting, and the one tip that is emphasised more than anything else is that you should always edge* all the pieces of your card.

(*When you cut a card, the sides of any piece are a very bright white, generally in stark contrast to the card artwork, hence this tends to stand out a lot. “Edging” is simply using a pen to “colour in” the edges of the pieces you have cut out.)

For my first alter though, I decided that I wasn’t going to edge anything. I wanted to see for myself just how it might look were pieces left un-edged. and here is the result!


(Sure, it might not look like much in that photo. It genuinely does look much better in person! Having said that, I am aware that my camera is not excellent, I’m hoping to get better shots in future.)

Overall I was really happy with the result. Due to the colours in the artwork, you can see that in parts, not edging has helped it look better as the light colours blend quite nicely, whereas the white edges definitely stand out on the darker paws. I also learnt that a full cards spacing between each layer is perhaps a bit too much for the 3D effect. This is especially visible on the hind legs.

For my second alter, I wanted to do something that would let me experiment a bit more and investigate the problems I discovered above. A friend suggested that he would love me to try and make a 3D version of Arbor Elf for him. As he had a spare playset, he literally put his cards in my hands!

Cutting up your own cards is daunting enough, but cutting up someone else’s!? … Still, finding myself with a free evening I again set to work. I started by sketching out the card and deciding what piece of artwork i wante in each layer. One of the best things, for me, about Arbor Elf is that the Elf himself is not at the front of the art, but in the middle. With trees behind and in front of him, I hoped I could get a really good-looking finished piece.

This time, I did edge everything. I only had a black sharpie to hand, not ideal because the ink from these pens can bleed into the card fibres quite a lot. But the darkness of the card art helped a lot in this case, and it turned out that the bleeding was really useful for getting into those intricate bits of the artwork (which were difficult enough to cut in the first place!)

Also, i built each layer of the art on top of the previous one, with no need for additional spacing layers. With more layers in the artwork this helped keep the finished piece down to a minimum thickness. Second, it meant that I could cur out each tree completely individually, for example the large tree on the left is just one layer thick, with a significant gap between it and the back of the card. This definitely helped improve the 3D effect, as it actually looks as though the elf is moving behind that tree, rather than walking into it!

Once I got to the final (top) layer, I realised that cutting all the cards out to begin with was a mistake. The final large tree (top right) would look great as part of the top layer of the card, somethign I had not planned for. Rather than finish the card to a sub-standard and always knowing I could’ve done it better, I sacrificed one of my own Elves so I could finish the job the way I wanted to.

Again, not the best photo quality :P but you can see here just what a difference the edging has made (also you can see the parts I missed.. must be more careful next time!). I was so happy with it that I really wanted to keep the card for myself, but unfortunately (for me) it was promised back to my friend. Fortunately for me. he loved it!

From here, my plan is to work on a few more cards, testing different styles and effects. On top of this, I need to acquire a good range of coloured edging pens. Not everything can be done in black or left white.

In time, I’m hoping to receive pieces to do on commission. The problem is finding the right audience. Other than doing favourite cards and artworks, the playability of these 3D alters pretty much limits their application to EDH generals. I’m planning to do my own generals, and from there hopefully I’ll find others who also want a unique piece for their collection :)

Thanks for reading! I have plenty more plans for alters in the near-future and no doubt I’ll be writing about them and posting pictures here. Watch this space!

@EdGuise88

Angry Birds

There is a deck I have been wanting to turn into a reality for a long time. I can’t remember exactly where (or when) I originally saw the idea, but I will admit that it is not one of my own.

The deck takes its name from the popular game. The concept is very simple, you hurl different birds at your opponent until they’re dead. Unfortunately Magic is yet to provide us with a suitable slingshot.

In the meantime, we have Reconnaissance. By casting a lot of cheap, evasive creatures very quickly, this enchantment allows you to attack your opponent over and over whilst significantly reducing the risk of your birds being killed (at least in combat).

Obviously I am aware of cards such as Fling, but to begin with I’m going to keep the deck mono-white. Its important to keep the mana costs of all the creatures as low as possible to ensure that as many can be played as quickly as possible. The obvious downside here is that most of the creatures are likely to only have 1 or 2 power. This makes Flinging seem rather.. inefficient.

Searching Gatherer for White Bird creatures gives 70 results.
(Here is the full list for easy reference)

Suntail Hawk is the only straightforward 1-mana creature. On top of that, we now have Judge’s Familiar, a one mana 1/1 flyer.. with additional upside! All our other birds are either going to cost more, or come with some irritating down-side.

Before I even continue through the list, having played standard through the existence of “Caw-Blade” I am of course aware of Squadron Hawk. This card is such an obvious auto-include for this deck I’m going to assume a set of those.

Aven Squire has a nice bonus ability. It may rarely be a relevant one, but on occasion it could prove useful. Beacon Hawk can buff itself, possibly helping provide a little protection from removal spells. Courier Hawk is another 2-mana guy that gives slightly more than a 1/1 body, as does Mesa Falcon. Of course, Duskrider Falcon and Freewind Falcon respectively have Protection from Black and Red, and being the most common colours for simply killing creatures this may be more useful than a mana-sink for +0/+1.

Mystic Familiar can get bigger, only really after you’ve already suffered from a severe board-wipe and losing you first wave of birds. Not really an ideal scenario, but it could come up. Soulcatcher on the other hand has the potential to get VERY big.

Welkin Hawk replaces itself, a really nice ability that should help keep up the aggression in a similar way to our Squadron Hawks. Running out of things to play is never nice, and could potentially be a very real problem for this deck.

Going up into the 3-mana region there are a couple of options that might be useful to have, such as the 2-power Aven Mindcensor, or potentially 3-power Wild Aesthir. However I think the ideal scenario would simply be to play 2 (or even 3) other spells instead of just one.

Finally, there are a few options, other than just small creatures, to be considered. Should the deck ever need some sort of commanding leader, Lieutenant Kirtar could be perfect!
And then there are spells. Those such as Brave the Elements and Rootborn Defenses would help with protecting the fragile flyers outside of combat. Continuing down the Populate route, Eyes in the Skies is quite an efficient, if expensive, card.
These are all just ideas, but one artifact I would actually like to include is Glint Hawk Idol. This should prove really useful when playing against any threat of mass-removal.

Anyway, I’ll round off with an intended deck list for now. Hopefully I can actually manage to get this thing built and playtested sometime soon!

Angry Birds

Creatures (33)
Suntail Hawk
Judge’s Familiar
Squadron Hawk
Welkin Hawk
Courier Hawk
Duskrider Falcon
Freewind Falcon
Aven Squire
Beacon Hawk
Mystic Familiar
Soulcatcher

Artifacts (3)
Glint Hawk idol

Enchantments (4)
Reconnaissance

Lands (20)
20 Plains

Niv Mill-it!

Recently I’ve found myself getting pretty bored of standard, so much so that going to FNM every week had stopped becoming my first choice for something to do! For a while I really struggled to find a deck that I could enjoy playing, and week-on-week I found myself facing what felt like the same types of deck over and over. Restoration Angel is so damn popular it got really boring really fast. And although I have a playset of the godforsaken card myself, I’m definitely not an “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” kinda player!

At 1am on friday morning I finally had a chance to sit down and make myself a new standard deck. I had previously thrown together an Izzet deck for the Ravnica game day, attempting to build around Guttersnipe, but with so much lifegain within my metagame I found the deck lacked any finishing power. Moving forwards, I was sure that I wanted to try some form of control deck, and given the lifegain issues, milling my opponent seemed like a good alternative strategy. Looking through my Ravnica cards I found a set of Chronic Flooding. Although obviously not the best card, the idea of using this intrigued me so I thought I’d try them out. I had a Jace, Memory Adept and two Increasing Confusion to back up my plan, and thankfully managed to arrange to borrow a second Jace (which I eventually I decided to just trade for).

Of course, being an Izzet deck how could I not include the guild leader!? Especially since he’s a dragon. And so to round out the deck with a possible back-up strategy, I included my two copies of Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius. Here is the final decklist that I took along to FNM, which has since been entitled “Niv-Mill-it”

Niv Mill-it

Creatures (2)
Niv-Mizzet, DracoGenius

Planeswalkers (2)
Jace, Memory Adept

Spells (29)
Dreadbore
Devil’s Play
Pillar of Flame
Mizzium Mortars
Think Twice
Dissipate
Syncopate
Essence Scatter
Rewind
Unsummon
Increasing Confusion
Izzet Charm
Counterflux

Enchantments (4)
Chronic Flooding

Lands (23)
Izzet Guildgate
Steam Vents
Blood Crypt
Nephalia Drownyard
Desolate Lighthouse
Island
Mountain
Sideboard (15)
Tormod’s Crypt
Pithing Needle
Witchbane Orb
Izzet Staticaster
Vandalblast
Electrickery
Negate
Essence Scatter

Ok, first some quick notes on the deck. I’ve already talked about why I included Chronic Flooding. I found that in my first two matchups the card actually worked quite well for me, effectively neutralising one or two of my opponents’ lands for the beginning of the game. However in the later rounds, against decks that were happy to try and play a longer game, it wasn’t so effective and so I found myself siding them out whenever possible. Simply controlling the game to the point where Increasing Confusion could prove lethal seemed like a much more solid strategy to run with.

I expected some trouble from Planeswalkers, hence the inclusion of Dreadbores. I was a little worried about my “lack” of black mana sources, but this proved to not be a problem on the night. In fact any mana problems I did have seemed to be due to a lack of Blue mana! I’ll have to adjust my manabase slightly more in favour of blue in the future.

In all honesty, although it may look well crafted, the sideboard was just thrown together. I wasn’t really sure what to expect so just went with a nice variety of possible answers. Good job I did! Almost my whole sideboard came in for round 3…

To kick off I faced an opponent who openly admitted to taking his UWR tempo list straight from the internet. Admittedly he did have the edge, but both games were very closely fought. I lost out each time to Restoration Angel appearing at the end of my turn. Countering this left me vulnerable to Geist of St Traft in his following turn. I may need to have a couple more Rewinds in my sideboard in the future to help deal with that damn angel. Still, both matches were excellent to play so I felt pretty happy about how I’d done and confident that my new deck had some potential. 0-2 for me, my opponent went on to win the night.

In Round 2 I played against a Mono-Black Vampire deck. I say Mono-Black, it actually used shocklands to splash Green and Red for things like Abrupt Decay and Rakdos’ Return, all the while retaining the power of Mutilate. Fortunately I knew all the removal would be next to useless against me, so I didn’t have to worry about that so much. Game 1 went smoothly, although it did take a fair amount of time as it took me a while to get into a position where I could mill my opponent.
Game 2 I was on the draw, and greedily kept a hand with no blue source. This came back to hurt me, I didn’t see any blue for a good 4 turns, and by the end of the game (which went pretty long!) I only had 2 blue mana sources in play. Slaughter Games took care of my Jaces, and being unable to make solid offensive plays myself (and back them up with counter magic), I just sat back and dropped lands. With 2 Increasing Confusion in my graveyard I got to a point, healthily (or so I thought) on 16 life, where I could flashback one and then the next in the following turn. I made the play, and oh how it cost me! Not being fully familiar with Liliana of the Dark Realms, I didn’t realise that she could boost creatures as well as kill them! My opponent Rakdos’s Returned for 7, then pumped his Vampire Nighthawk to swing for exactly lethal. Gutted! Nevermind, I’ll know for next time.
Going to Game 3 we only had 10 minutes left on the round (about 8 once we were done shuffling). I figured I could probably hold out for a draw, but likely not be able to mill my opponent in time. I did try to make Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenious stick, but it seems my opponent hadn’t quite sided out all his removal spells and I was tapped out unable to protect him. My opponent Slaughter Games‘d for Jace again (for some reason insisting on taking time to look fully though my library for the second time.. with less than 4 minutes left on the clock -_- lol). As expected we went to time. Flashbacking a Devil’s Play in the final of the 5 extra turns I was able to do some damage, but unfortunately not enough to win the game. And with that, it was a draw. Still, a reasonable performance from my deck. I may have to get used to going to time seeing as we (irritatingly) have shorter-than-normal round times. 1-1-1.

In Round 3 I faced, what I thought, was a brilliantly constructed deck. I’m not sure where the idea came from, but the plan seemed to be play an accelerators, such as Arbor Elf and Farseek early on, get Chromatic Lantern into play, and from there.. do whatever you want! With all 5 colours readily available the deck had a lot of good spells to choose from and throw at me. But this wasn’t my main problem. These could all be countered. To my surprise, the card that kill me, the one I had no answer to, was Stensia Bloodhall! I’ll admit, wrapping up the first game I was a bit worried. My deck seemed to have no way to stop the inevitable killer land.
Then took a look at my sideboard. Its like it had been created purely to beat this deck! I brought in a massive 13 out of 15 cards! Only Tormod’s Crypt got left behind. More counter magic looked good, Izzet Staticasters kill Elves (and block Thragtusks that attack my Jace, giving me another turn to mill with him). Witchbane Orb stopped all of his direct damage, and even some of his removal in the form of Tribute to Hunger! Without that, he was unable to answer my Niv Mizzet in Game 2. For the first time ever I had the Dracogenius survive through my opponent’s turn, from which point onward it almost felt unfair. Niv’s card drawing ability is, quite simply, INSANE! I managed to win through Milling in Game 3 to take the round 2-1.

The final round saw me paired me up against what looked to be a bit of a random 4-colour “good stuff” deck. I was later told that the game plan was in fact to combine Dead-Eye Navigator, Zealous Conscripts and Gilded Lotus to create infinite mana and the steal all his opponent’s stuff. There were also cards like Huntmaster of the Fells and Bonfire of the Damned thrown in there, and no doubt many other great cards that I didn’t see.
In Game 1 we both played draw-go for a while, until I broke form and tried to cast a Jace, Memory Adept to see what my opponent was up to. Of course, it got countered. This was fine. He followed up with Huntmaster, which I was able to kill in my following turn and soon after Unsummoned the token to clear up the board. I held out until I was able to perfectly time (and back up with counter magic) a flashbacked Increasing Confusion to end the game.
In Game 2 my opponent landed an early Augur of Bolas, and all that really happened from there was him swinging for 1 each turn, and me milling for 3 with Nephalia Drownyard. Later, my opponent cast Tamiyo, the Moon Sage to tap down my milling land. I responded with Jace, Memory Adept and promptly ended the damage/Mill race.in my favour. 2-0.

Going into the night I said I’d be happy with 2-2, so I was pleased with my 2-1-1 result. I really should’ve taken round 2 as well but then I would’ve had different matchups in the following rounds.. who knows what would have happened. Rounds 3 and 4 may not have been as fun :)

On top of finding and constructing a new deck of my own design what I think I’m really going to enjoy playing with, the best thing about the night overall was that ALL my games were really good ones. For the first time in a LONG time it seems as though a lot of the local players were trying out new things. Perhaps everyone is finally bored of the same old standard aggro strategies, and for that I’m very thankful. Or at the very least, I managed to avoid these decks in my matchups :P

I’ve often said that I don’t mind losing good games but I hate winning bad ones. It may sound strange to some, but standard recently has definitely proved that for myself. Now I have an enjoyable deck to play with hopefully going to FNM will start to become a more appealing prospect once again.

I’m planning to update the list a little for next week, with a little tuning (and the obvious removal of Chronic Flooding) hopefully I’ll continue to enjoy standard and maybe even have some success with the deck :) Until next time!

Unbanned in EDH

With the recent bannings of Primeval Titan and Worldfire, and unbanning of Kokusho, the Evening Star as a non-commander, I’d like to take some time to discuss my personal views on the EDH banned list in general.

The full official Commander rules can be found here

The banned list can be found under deck construction. There are a wide range of reasons why these select few cards are banned in the format. Some, such as Black Lotus and Ancestral Recall, are near-impossible to own. Whilst I can see the logic here, as banning these ultra-rare cards stops them becoming highly sought-after format staples, personally I don’t see why those people who do own the card(s) should be prevented from using them. However as some argue that similar existing format staples, such as Sol Ring, are already ban-worthy, then stopping even more powerful versions entering the format is probably all-round a good idea.

Other cards are banned for being obsceney powerful and/or game-warping, This is perfectly understandable, and I am perfectly happy to agree that these such cards should never be allowed. Emrakul, the Aeons Torn is the prime example. Aside from from a handful of cards that can answer this colossal threat, there is next-to-no way of stopping him from totally and utterly dominating the board and ruining the game, for everyone involved.

Then there are cards that just don’t really work well in the format. Biorhythm and Coalition Victory are not-very-fun win conditions in a game where most, if not all players are all aiming to enjoy themselves. People also tend to dislike cards that lock up a game single-handedly, such as Limited Resources

In a format where you start with 40 life, cards like Channel and Fastbond are able to offer far too much of an advantage. Other cards are there for fear of use with infinite combos (Staff of Domination). Karakas simply neuters everyone’s Generals, and given the format is based around this brilliant idea, theres not a lot of point to have such a simple way to prevent people from playig their decks.

There are of course a wide range of other reasons for other cards being banned, or not. It is an extensive topic that I have touched upon, but one which I will not go any further into here.

For me, the most important part of the EDH rules is covered in the section headed “Philosophy”. EDH is intended to be a fun, casual format. I imagine that the majority of magic players play as part of a regular playroup, and that this is especially true when it comes to EDH (Perhaps unless you play online, but even then its probably safe to assume that many players have regular opponents). Being primarily a non-competitive format, there is usually no real incentive to go out of your way to play, as you might do when travelling to play FNMs, GPs or PTQs.

Somewhere along the line, however, this seems to be often forgotten. Especially where the Banned list os concerned. When new (un)bannings are announced there is usually a lot of internet discussion arguing for or against the decision. The problem here is that the majority of this happens online on forums, such as MTG Salvation, or on social networks, such as Twitter. Here, players discuss the facts with people they will, most likely, never even meet. Let alone play with! Rendering much of the discussion irrelevant.

The banned list is put together by a handful of people based heavily on their opinions. But if the people you actually play with are happy for a card to continue to be used, then why not just allow it!? It really is that simple. There are no magic police who will come to knock on your door should someone slam coming to arrest you should someone slam down a Sundering Titan. If you are all happy with it, then there is no reason for any of you to not be playing with a card you love just because someone else has decided that it is too powerful for them to have fun with. for playing with a card that someone else thinks is too good. EDH is meant to be a fun, casual format. It is perfectly reasonable to modify the “official” rules. Infact, the official rules even state this! A fact that, unfortunately, many players seem to overlook.

I am pleased to say that my regular playgroup is most definitely a friendly one. We all hope to enjoy each and every game we play to the full, with noone (so far at least!) trying to combo off as fast as they can and leave everyone else feeling pretty crap. As a result, there are a number of “banned” cards that we allow each other to use, if we wish to. I will discuss each in more detail below:

Protean Hulk – Banned, as far as I know, for fear of use with some insta-win combo. I’ve never quite understood this. Sure, it’s a good creaure. But alone he offers no more than a handy bit of wrath-proofing. Infact, thats all he does! Lacking trample, he isn’t even a good creature offensively. And without reach, he’s pretty crap at defending too. So long as you’re not designing some obscene (i.e win before anyone’s had a chance to play) combo around him, then we see him as being perfectly fine card for EDH. Personally I think its great to have a card that helps to get around the “wrath the board every few turns” situation that can occasionally arise. And tutor-wise, in your average green deck Hulk is no better than some of the other options available to you, such as Tooth and Nail or Chord of Calling.

Griselbrand – He earned his spot on the “banned” list, as far as we can tell, due to being an absurdly powerful draw engine. Sure, its a great ability, I’m not going to deny that. But from the explanation we had of his banning, it seemed to primarily be a problem in 1 on 1 games (and even then only especially so when played in Kaalia of the Vast decks). So what’s the problem here? Single-opponent gaming isn’t the intended point of EDH! “post-banning”, I’ve managed to cast Big G a couple of times so far, each time making sure to discuss the Demon’s presence with my opponents. On neither occasion did he provide me with an unfair advantage nor a board prescence significantly outweighing what the other players were able to do.

Worldfire – Banned very recently, again this card Only really appears to be a problem in just one deck type, those lead by Jhiora of the Ghitu. If you going to be the douche that does that, fine. Go find some new friends. Personally I believe tat the banning of this card was a rushed and lazy decision; the card was in the crosshairs of the banhammer as soon as it was previewed and it seemed as though they simply waited for the next ban update to cull it without a proper trial.
I’ll admit, when I first saw Worldfire even I commented “first person to cast this in EDH gets punched in the face!”. However, I found the reality to be far far different! So far I’ve been in 2 or 3 games where Worldfire was cast. And you know what? Each time, it was FUN! Crazy, I know! How could that be? Well as it turns out, after a couple of hours of having a great time, doing rediculous things and making hugey powerful plays, sending things into sudden death is a pretty awesome way to end the game. I can see that if this were to happen every single time then it would get boring, fast, but that same truth applies to all win conditions (I’ve actually now restricted myself from using Comet Storm offensively..). Furthermore, Worldfire doesn’t even automatically leave the caster with a significant advantage! If they happen to have a clever win-condition hidden under an Oblivion Ring then as far as I’m concerned they deserve to win the game, with added congratuations for setting up the awesome play. (You can even do a similar thing with Barren Glory and Worldpurge, yet they remain unbanned?) For now, I’m enjoying seeing this card and hope to continue to do so.

Primeval Titan – Oh boy, here we go… The second of the recently banned cards, and no doubt the most important decision for the format since the banning of Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. Every green deck ran this card, probably to the point of it being the most widespread format staple (at least in it’s colour). And there-in lay the problem. So great was the advantage provided by Primetime, just casting it was often enough to put a player significantly ahead. Let alone should they get to attack. And the fun didn’t stop there! Undoubtedly it would be killed as quickly as possible. At which point, it might find itself on a Mimic Vat. Or if a player wished to have a reanimate target, look no further. If a player cast Threaten, 99 times out of 100 Primeval would be his intended target. And of course thats just ONE titan. Feel free to send him to exile, but if you had more then on green player at your table then you could put money on there being more than one of these Green Titans. Oh yeah, and Green likes to tutor up it’s creatures, too. No prizes for guessing who the first target would be, each and every time!
Primeval Titan began to take so much of the focus of every single game he was played in, and as a result he started to significantly warp those games. Now, you may recall that he is here in the list of cards we could still allow. But even then, all of us have now removed our Primeval Titans from our decks, because they really do take away from the game, rather than contribute to it. If someone wishes to use their Primetime then they are more than welcome to… Fortunately, all my decks are packing Mimic Vats ;)

Finally there are three cards cards on the banned list, all “banned” for good reasons, but should a player wish to use them with a valid intention in mind then I would be more than happy to allow them to do so. These three are as follows:
1) Painter’s Servant. Banned as it enables a relatively easy “infinite mill” combo. However should anyone wish to make a tribal Scarecrow deck…
2) Panoptic Mirror. I haven’t seen the worst that this can do. Wrath every turn? Sure, but it’s not a difficult one to answer. I’d quite like to face this in a game before making my mind up. (Edit: Apparently Time Warp is one of the main reasons for the Mirror being banned. Sure, do it, then go find new friends! :P)
3) Staff of Domination. Not nice alongside an infinite mana combo, but so long as that’s not your plan then why not give the Staff a try!?

This article has been a long time coming! And having finally got around to finishing it.. I’ve realised there is so much more I’d like to talk about. No promises as to when the second article may appear, though. But be sure to keep an eye out on Twitter and I’ll be sure to let you know when it does. For now, I hope I have been able to get across some of what I think the spirit of play in EDH should be like, and that its ok to try things out for yourselves; see what your group makes of them before deciding what cards are “too good”.

For now, thanks for reading. Follow me on Twitter, @EdGuise88.

Return to Ravnica Prerelease Report(s)

I know this is over a week late now, due to me being busy elsewhere, but I just wanted to write a brief post looking back over my experience of Return to Ravnica prerelease weekend. No in-depth detail or round-by-round coverage this time I’m afraid!

On Saturday I headed to Manchester with a number of friends. In the months leading up to the event I was positive that I wanted to play Izzet. Then having seen the spoilers, in the days leading up to the event I was sure that I had decided on Golgari. Finally, the evening before, I found myself discussing guild choice with Dave Remon. In all honesty, I expected Azorius to be the strongest guild in the format, due to the Detain mechanic and a lot of seemingly strong(er) spells at common (this turned out to be fer from true, so I was wrong there). We both thought that a lot of people would be picking Golgari, to slightly increase their chances of getting one of the chase rares from the set. Thinking about it, neither of these seemed like good enough reasons to be picking a guild. We wanted to go for maximum fun. And to my surprise, I found myself finally settled in the Rakdos… party?

Come Saturday morning I was really looking forward to the event. Of course I couldn’t wait to get the chance to open and play with the new cards, but more than that, the idea of choosing a guild and competition between guilds is something I really like. Before Return to Ravnica, Mirrodin Besieged had been my favourite ever prerelease event. I had chosen to side with the Phyrexians and even gone on to win! I was looking forward to Ravnica emulating a similar atmosphere, and I was not disappointed.

The guild packs were really cool, with the letter and dice being really nice touches. It was a bit of a shame not to see the guild boosters having their own unique packaging, but that’s understandable. Opening my guild booster.. it was pretty much jank. Desecration Demon at rare was a nice bomb, but as everyone already had their prerelease promo bomb to use by default, it didn’t feel all that exciting.

Opening the rest of my packs I did get Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenious and Utvara Hellkite, both cards I really wanted. And on top of that, a foil Lotleth Troll! Numerous people offered me Vraska the Unseen to trade it, but confident that the Planeswalker’s pricetag would drop I decided to hold onto my LolTroll for now.

Another in-colour rare, Chaos Imps, made a nice addition to my deck but the bulk of my pool didn’t have much to offer. I could’ve chosen to splash Black at this point, but with a lack of reliable mana fixing I decided to aim for consistency and stick with my guild colours. I had very few cheap Unleash creatures, with most of my deck being in the 5-6 mana region. The Hellkite felt just one mana beyond playable. I did try it to start with, but my feelings were proved spot on in round 1 so the dragon was swiftly cut from my deck.

Looking over my deck, I wasn’t all that happy. I didnt look great. I re-checked a few times to make sure I hadn’t missed anything, but I’m pretty sure I’d made something close to the best deck available to me (including all my removal options, which totaled 3). Predicting the deck would let me go 3-3, thats exactly what I did. I beat Golgari twice and Azorious once, losing twice to Rakdos and once to Izzet. I felt that in matches I won my deck was quite well matched to my opponent’s in terms of power level and card quality. But in the rounds I lost I just found myself completely overwhelmed by superior cards. This was reflected in the fact that my three wins were all 2-1, and my three losses all 0-2. The Rakdos matchups were the most difficult, and over very quickly. The other Rakdos decks were able to get very fast starts with their cheap Unleash creatures. Outsized due to the +1/+1 counters, all my smaller guys could do was chump-block and the games ended before I could hit the high end of my curve.

With Dave also playing Rakdos we took time between each round to discuss our decks and how our games had gone. We helped each other with advice for specific cards, and both agreed that one of the surprise standout cards of the day was Lobber Crew! This innocent looking goblin did a lot of work for both of us (and in one game I had the misfotrune of having to face one, too). Dave had a superior-looking Rakdos deck by far and managed to go 5-1, only losing to the eventual winner (a player who had opened 2 Vraska’s in his Golgari pool!)

On Sunday I played in a smaller, more local event, hosted at my usual FNM spot in Lancaster. With a reasonable amount of knowledge of the format gained from the previous day, I had a really good idea of what to expect and, being sure I wanted to play a different guild this time, I went with Golgari. I really like the Scavenge mechanic and think its probably my favourite mechanic from the set. Nicely designed and executed, powerful but fair.

This time, I opened a fantastic pool. I could see my deck coming together as I opened my boosters. My guild boosters gave me a great kick-start this time, which really helped with building a strong deck. I was just able to cast aside any card not in my colours, and from there trimming to 40 cards was relatively easy; I tend to be pretty fast at sealed deck building normally but here I was ready in no time!

Trestle Troll was one of the stand-out cards from the previous day, and I opened 3! Only 2 made it into my deck, but as expected they were just amazing for me throughout the event. I didn’t have too many scavenge creatures, but my deck could put out a lot of guys very fast and had a really nice mana-curve to it, so it played consistently well throughout the day. With just 28 players this time (as opposed to over 100 the previous day!) we played 5 rounds instead of 6. I went 4-1, losing in round 4 to the eventual winner. He went on to the final to play a Selesnya mirror-match. In the other rounds I beat Azorius and Golgari once each and Rakdos twice.

For my troubles I came 3rd, winning 5 boosters,a nice way to end the weekend (which also included an M13 draft on the friday evening where I opened 2 Planeswakers!). On top of that, it was a fantastic thing that winner of the Lancaster prerelease was a relatively new magic player! We have a strong fast-growing community here and its always good to see newer players doing really well.

Just a couple of final notes. RtR is a much slower format than other sets have given us recently, which I really like. As a result, I’d definitely advise playing 17-18 lands in your deck as opposed to the 15-16 you may be more used to for faster sets such as Avacyn Restored and M13. And as ever, I always chose to play second (on the draw). Despite this being a slower format, I still believe strongly that seeing the extra card in sealed is much more important than getting a land down first. Even if it means taking a few extra points of damage early on, I am consistently finding the pay-off later into the game to be huge as you have a wider range of options to deal with whatever the opponent throws at you. Perhaps I should write an full article on this topic at some point, if I ever find the time..

But for now, thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed your Return to Ravnica prerelease(s) too!