*I still totally stole this from Jungle Rat Rob, one of the hosts of The Retro League podcast. If you’d like more information on why this name is so awesome, you should just go read the beginning of Part 1.
Hey, look at that, I’m back! I’m attempting to chronicle the evolution of the decks in Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 as I unlock cards, just to give you an idea of how my brain works when it comes to Magic. A vague and scrambled idea, but still. Last time I stopped when I was halfway through Talrand’s Crosswinds deck. I hit Panoptic Mirror and,
looking at my notes sensing a change on the horizon, decided that would be a good place to insert a break.
So here’s where the deck was when we last took a look:
Other Spells (20)
4 Talrand’s Invocation
2 Favorable Winds
2 Rite of Replication
2 Sleight of Hand
1 Arm with Aether
1 Distortion Strike
1 Time Warp
1 Panoptic Mirror
1 Cast Through Time
Game 16: Double Trouble Encounter
So it turns out that Repulse on a Panoptic Mirror isn’t fast enough to stop a constant stream of steadily growing Primordial Hydras. Imagine that. The second attempt was much better. I had bounce, Cancel, and an Archaeomancer or two for plenty of disruption. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do me any good unless I have some damage to go with it. Stupid life totals. The third time I had offense AND defense, with an Invocation and two Baby Krakens. Yeah, still not even close to enough.
But if at first you don’t succeed…give it one more shot. Why not? And good thing I did! Azure Mage, Skywinder Drake, Talrand, a Distortion Strike and Cancel in the same turn, and finally a Favorable Winds seals it all up. That took long enough. I better get something good out of this.
16th Unlock: Repulse
Really? I had to go through all that to get…a bounce spell? Granted it’s a damn good bounce spell, but still. To make up for this disappointment, let’s do something needlessly drastic. I’ll go ahead and remove the last two copies of Sleight of Hand. Let’s face it, Sleight is totally not me. This isn’t tournament Magic here, right? We’re looking for spells that do stuff, not spells that help find spells that do stuff. But that leaves me with an extra hole in the deck. We’re shooting for needlessly drastic, right? Let’s throw the Sphinx-Bone Wand back in! I took it out ten unlocks ago because it never managed to do anything, but let’s give it a shot. At worst it’ll just come back out again, right?
Game 17: Ajani Goldmane
Stupid lifegain deck. Luckily for me, I manage to stabilize at two life with an Invocation on a Mirror with a Wand on the board. Free drake tokens and damage every turn are awesome like that.
17th Unlock: Future Sight
Nah, let’s just wait on this one. Sure it lets me dig through the deck faster, but…I don’t know. For some reason, I just don’t like it. And yes, I’m the same guy who couldn’t wait to throw Cast Through Time into the deck. Ignore my inconsistencies here. My deck, my rules, remember?
Game 18: Yeva
Wild Pair made me dead. Like lots of dead. Especially since I missed the chance to Cancel the first creature she summoned after casting it. Yeah well, I’m bad at this game. The second game was a lot more fun. I had a Rite of Replication and Archie with a Wand out, that was fun. I put a Rite on a Mirror and kicked it while targeting an Ambassador Oak, netting me ten tokens. That was pretty awesome.
18th Unlock: Cerulean Sphinx
I still have the Goliath Sphinx in the deck, but it’s really easy to kill. Hold on, I’m having an idea! This sphinx is harder to kill, so let’s just swap them out. Sure it’s smaller, but it’s also cheaper. Look, as infrequently as I see the Goliath I can almost certainly say this won’t matter very much.
Game 20: Chandra
Well, in the first game her Flame Wave destroyed me and everyone I’ve ever really loved. It was bad. In the second attempt, Chandra’s Fury killed off all my guys and a stupid Torch Fiend kept my Mirror off the board. In the third one, Flames of the Firebrand managed to kill my critters. Then I had not enough blockers to face off against too many firebreathers. Then again the next time. If you’re keeping track, this next one is the sixth try. Lucky for me the sixth time is the charm, as I managed to pull off the Mirror/Time Warp infinite turns combo. Sure it’s cheap, but that’s why I put those cards in the deck.
20th Unlock: Sphinx of Lost Truths
Here’s another one that’s going to end up with a “my deck, my rules” explanation. A 3/5 flying creature for five mana isn’t…terribly impressive. Looting for three cards is nice, and drawing three cards is even better. But for some reason I just don’t like all of it on this creature in this deck. So…let’s just go to the next game, shall we?
Game 21: Jace
Stupid mill deck. This one went on until I only had two cards left in my deck. I cast two Disperse to bounce his two Howling Mines so I wouldn’t deck myself, shooting him down with the Wand in the process. One neat trick was kicking a Rite of Replication targeting Archie so I could refill my hand with awesome spells. That was pretty cool.
21st Unlock: Spiketail Drake
Yeah, the Mana Leak with wings is pretty cool, but when am I ever going to want to sacrifice a 3/3 flier to counter a spell? And if I do, when will that trade ever mean I’m coming out ahead? Sure you can pull out a million examples, but how many of those am I going to run into in this game? Exactly. Let’s go beat on an old-ass dragon, shall we?
Game 22: Nicol Bolas
Holy boss fight Batman! Two Cruel Ultimatums, a Slave of Bolas on Talrand, and a Grave Titan walk into a bar. The bar in this joke is played by Nicky B’s battlefield. Yeah, I lost. Buh. The second attempt was freakin’ sweet though. Amazingly, Nicky B was off to a slow start. Like miserably slow. I emptied my hand and topdecked a Cast Through Time. Sweet, if I happen to find a spell I’ll be set. My next topdeck? Sphinx-Bone Wand. If I ever find a spell of any sort I’ll be completely set! Then I drew a land. Of course. But when I finally did draw a spell, it was a doozy. Time Warp, which triggered the Wand and got rebounded, allowing me to draw more cards and do more damage. That’s how I won. It was awesome.
22nd Unlock: Call to Mind
As nifty as it is to increase the number of spells to work with the various spell-related cards, I still need some warm bodies to block and/or attack. So let’s just stick with the Archaeomancers and leave this on the shelf while we tackle the Revenge campaign.
Game 23: Talrand Revenge
Two Spiketail Hatchlings keep me from casting my Talrand, but I finally get enough mana to get past that. A pair of Favorable Winds followed by a kicked Rite on a drake token (though I can’t remember if it was one of my tokens or one of his) did wonders for me. Not enough though, as a Cast Through Time, Sphinx-Bone Wand, and Time Warp ended up winning it for me.
23rd Unlock: Goliath Sphinx
Pretty sure I’ve removed all the copies of this guy I already have available. Have you noticed that I’m not really putting in that many new cards? I’ve done what, three thus far? Crazy.
24th Unlock: Azure Mage
I really think two of these is enough, actually. As awesome as they are, having a third one would mean I’d have to remove some of my early game defense, so let’s just leave the count at two. While I’m in here though, I’m gonna go ahead and remove the Spiketail Hatchling so I can give Future Sight a try. What? There’s only one Hatchling and I NEVER draw the stupid thing, so why not replace it with something neat that I might want to keep using?
Game 25: Odric Revenge
Might as well get this over with. He ran me over with SO MANY DUDES. Hawks, Crusader of Odric, Captain’s Call tokens, Accorder Paladin…yeah, it was bad. In the second attempt, I had a Wand active, but I couldn’t draw a spell to (literally) save my life so I could shoot things. On the third shot he played these on successive turns, starting with turn 1: Elite Vanguard, Honor of the Pure, Crusader of Odric, Journey my guy, O-Ring my guy, kill me. On the fourth try I drew nine lands and four nonlands. On the fifth I couldn’t draw anything worth having. On the sixth he used Fiend Hunter to snatch my blocker, same on the seventh. He switched it up on the eighth game and just had three Honors on the board. I stopped keeping track after this, but it went on for at least three more games. Scott (roomie and webmaster for those of you in the cheap seats) kept offering support, but it just wasn’t working. I stopped playing for SEVERAL days after this happened. Stupid Odric and his stupid removal and stupid swarm of stupid guys…
Then came salvation of a sort. VexingDevil on our forums posted the promotional unlock codes for Duels 2013 that were given away at various events. So I punched them all in and decided to figure out which ones to keep and which ones to lose, then see how that affected my chances against Not Sean Connery, Master Tactician.
Promo Unlock 1: Future Sight
Since I still haven’t drawn the first one to know if it’s any good or not, I’ll just stick with one for now.
Promo Unlock 2: Time Stretch
Nah, ten mana in this deck is nigh-unattainable. Sorry about that.
Promo Unlock 3: Blatant Thievery
This is so awesome in multiplayer. If I decide to take this deck to the Planechase games, I’ll definitely use it. For one-on-one though, it’s just not that good.
Promo Unlock 4: Rite of Replication
I really love the Rite, but I think three of them is just too many for the direction I’m taking this deck. So for now we’ll stick to the pair and see if a third one is necessary.
Promo Unlock 5: Bribery
Oh yeah. I love this card. All these decks seem to have one creature that will just wreck your face, and this lets me go get it for the low low cost of five mana. I think Distortion Strike needs to go though. Sure it’s cool and has rebound naturally and can get me some free damage…but Bribery! I think that’s just generally better.
Promo Unlock 6: Time Warp
Oh yeah. Whether it’s just a really expensive Explore or a win condition, this is good. Besides, having another copy of one of my infinite-turn combo cards is just…comforting, you know? Let’s go ahead and lose Arm with Aether. Sure it’s done me some good, but more often than not it just sits in my hand while I curse. An extra turn, however, is always welcome.
Promo Unlock 7: Followed Footsteps
There’s really nothing in this deck that I want to copy every turn except maybe a big sphinx or Archie, and then only if there’s something good in my graveyard to get back. That means it’s much more dependent on what my opponent is playing, and that’s just silly. Besides, it’s an aura, I don’t get the effect until my upkeep, blah blah blah. Next.
Promo Unlock 8: Flow of Ideas
This is pretty freakin’ nuts. It’s really, really good and I’m really, really going to play it. I’ve been thinking that I should remove one of the copies of Favorable Winds to see how the deck works with just one copy. Really, I don’t think two is necessary. So let’s give it a shot.
Promo Unlock 9: Tidings
While not quite as great as the Flow, this is still pretty freakin’ sweet. So let’s do something silly. My entire suite of countermagic consists of two copies of Cancel. That’s pretty sad. And since that’s so sad, I’m going to knock one of them out for the glad Tidings.
Promo Unlock 10: Day of the Dragons
A very long time ago I tried to build some bizarre deck that involved this card and Worldslayer. Yup, it was silly. But the Day was always a blast to play, so I’m going to give it a shot. If it hits play, it should be a game ender, right? Let’s lose the other Cancel, ignore what this does to our mana curve, and take Odric on again.
Game 25: Odric Revenge…again
I hit the turn five Mirror, imprinted Time Warp on turn six, and eventually dug out a win with infinite turns. It wasn’t even the shiny promo Time Warp! Oh well, I guess sometimes you just run good.
25th Unlock: Gravitational Shift
You know, this is a really expensive blue enchantment. I have plenty of those already. Plus, I just removed a much more efficient flying-dude-pumper to see how the deck ran with just one. I don’t think I want to add this in and screw that all up. This might be a bad choice considering how I NEVER win with guys on the ground and the only creature that really cares is the Azure Mage, but for some reason I just don’t like it.
Game 26: Liliana Revenge
All she did was kill my guys. A Flow of Ideas for eight refilled my hand and I just won with a Day of the Dragons and her Bribed Griselbrand. Yup, that’s THREE promo unlocks in one game!
26th Unlock: Blatant Thievery
We’ve covered this. Next!
Game 27: Krenko Revenge
Goblins BLAM! That was the first game. The second game saw a fast start from the goblins followed by a Goblin Grenade finisher. That beats a pair of Fog Banks. The third game saw me Bribing a Chancellor, using a Rite for a second copy, then casting Time Warp for good measure.
27th Unlock: Distortion Strike
I already took out the other copy of the Strike because it was only moderately useful, so how about no.
Game 28: Jace Revenge
A freaking Hedron Crab went all the way here. What the hell, man? The second attempt was better though, with a bunch of dudes outrunning the mill. Barely. But a win is a win, so what’d I get?
28th Unlock: Twincast
Nah, that’s okay. This is one of those cards that does absolutely nothing by itself. Perhaps I’ll be able to copy some cool opposing spell, or perhaps I’ll just hold it for all eternity. Screw it, I don’t like it.
Game 29: Nefarox Revenge
Neffy here was stuck on three mana for a good long time, allowing me time to Flow into some crazy stuff. I kicked a Rite targeting his Sublime Archangel, which led to an attack with a 42/42 drake token! Isn’t that awesome?
29th Unlock: Mana Leak
I’m pretty sure I don’t want any counters in this deck (the fact that I’ve taken them all out thus far is a dead giveaway), so let’s just not bother.
Game 30: Ajani Revenge
Two Soul Wardens and three Pridemates make me dead in a hurry. I managed to stay alive in the second game long enough to Bribe his Baneslayer. Then he played a Felidar Sovereign, shooting for the alternate win. Then he cast a Serra Avatar and a Serra Ascendant to help him get there. Terrifying, isn’t it? My Day of the Dragons becomes a Solemn Offering to the gods of Screw Chewie, so I’m going to die, right? WRONG! I kick a Rite on his Avatar and then Time Warp to swing in for the win! HA!
30th Unlock: Day of the Dragons
So there’s my last unlock for this deck. Had I not grabbed one of these from the promo unlocks, I would be seriously jazzed here. But since I’ve got one already, I’ll just say no and move on to the next game. Since there are only three games left before kicking the crap out of Nicky B again, I’ll run through those for you guys.
Game 31: Yeva Revenge
Stupid Elderscale Wurm. I used Bribery to grab an Acidic Slime to kill her Erratic Portal so I could stop freaking out about it. Then I assembled a nice wall of blockers to keep me safe from her lots of attackers. Then I managed to find the Mirror Warp combo and draw like a BILLION FREAKING CARDS to track down a bounce spell to take care of the wurm so I could actually win the game. Geez, that felt like a series of fetch quests in a point-and-click adventure game.
Game 32: Chandra Revenge
For some reason, Chandra had a miserably slow start. I got a turn five Mirror and put an Invocation on it and she just couldn’t keep up. Day of the Dragons allowed me to win more. Way more.
Game 33: Nicol Bolas Revenge
While Nicky ramps his draconic brains out ith a pair of Moxes, a Demonic Tutor, and a turn three Diabolic Tutor (and yes I know I have links to three Moxes, I couldn’t remember which two he played), I lead off with a turn two Azure Mage, a turn four Invocation and a turn six Cerulean Sphinx. These guys knock him down to four life, but then he Pyroclasms and Terminates my sphinx, who jumps back into my library. I cast another Invocation, but he Bolts one drake and…somethings the other. No really, my notes say “bolts one & steak one”. I’m not entirely sure what that means.
So after watching some random internet videos, I took another look and realized that this says “steals one”. So somehow he snatched one of my drakes. So I bounced his drake out of existence and swung with some guys and whatever, he died. Stupid ancient dragon with his stupid gem between his stupid horns.
Here’s how the deck ended up after all the unlocking was said and done:
Other Spells (21)
1 Favorable Winds
2 Rite of Replication
4 Talrand’s Invocation
1 Future Sight
1 Panoptic Mirror
2 Time Warp
1 Flow of Ideas
1 Cast Through Time
1 Day of the Dragons
1 Sphinx-Bone Wand
I’m actually really happy with this. Of course, I never saw the Future Sight, so I have no idea if it’s worth keeping in the deck. If I were to do any more tinkering with this one any more, I’d probably pull it out in favor of the Sphinx of Lost Truths, just to give it a shot. Why not, it might be amazing. Or maybe I’d bring the second Favorable Winds back in. Hmmm…
But other than that one spell, EVERY other card in the deck has shown its worth several times over. That’s pretty freakin’ sweet. I love how these decks become more and more finely tuned as you unlock cards for them, and that makes every decision more and more painful. I know reading these descriptions doesn’t show it, but I agonized over LOTS of these swaps. I even called Scott out to get a second opinion on a few of them. Each choice becomes a matter of incremental percentage points, because eventually you’re going to get to a point where all the cards in the deck are working, you just have to figure out which ones are better and which ones are more better.
Also, personal taste has a lot to do with it. For example, I could have made a more traditional control deck with a suite of countermagic and lots of stalling and little dudes that tried to win with Day of Dragons. But that’s really not me, so I went with what you see here. I just love that there doesn’t seem to be an absolutely optimal way to build these decks. If you see something that you would have done differently, I’d love to know what it was and the reasoning behind it. Hit me in the comments below with that and any feedback of any sort. Yes I know it took FOREVER for this second part to come out, sorry about that. Any other feedback?
I was really digging playing Blue after having so much fun with Talrand, so I decided to try my hand at the mill deck. Stay tuned next time for my first look at Jace’s Dream Puppets deck!