Mike first learned the game from his good friend Gabe around the time of the release of Ice Age. The strong, evocative flavor of the cards (especially several from Fallen Empires, believe it or not) and the depth of strategy (and fun!) in the gameplay got him irreversibly hooked, and he’s been playing continuously ever since.

His role as the “rules guy” started very early on, developing an interest in being able to play the game as well as possible within the realm of what the rules allowed. Though he and Gabe only started with an incomplete recollection of what Gabe had learned from an older kid, a Revised-edition rulebook, and the logical prowess of a couple of 10-year olds, it turned out they weren’t all that far off. When the wonders of the internet were opened to them, Mike was able to study the Comprehensive Rules when it was still less than 50 pages long, and made sure to keep up with it as best he could. Currently, he’s an official DCI-certified Rules Advisor, and is more than happy to help people come to a better understanding of the game whenever he can. If you see someone in our forums with the handle “Rhadamanthus” giving advice and answering questions, that’s him.

Playing with and learning from other players his own age almost exclusively during those first several years had a lasting impact on Mike’s deckbuilding strategies. His choices of cards and themes are still very strongly influenced by the general philosophy (first learned from Gabe) of “not every card is good, but pretty much any card can be made good”, sometimes at the expense of using “better” cards or making a “stronger” deck. With all those kids also looking to get an edge by trying things none of the others had ever thought about before, there’s also a strong rogue streak in Mike’s thinking, especially when it comes to competitive formats. Though he definitely hasn’t won as many games over the years as he would have by building and playing in a more conventional manner, he wouldn’t trade the fun of those games for anything.

Big Red Game Day

Game Day for Dark Ascension was February 25th, and I’d been itching to play in a Standard event for a while.  When it turned out I needed to go by my folks’ house in Hillsborough that weekend to pick up a package that was accidentally shipped there, I decided I would go to the event at The Toy Factory, a shop I used to frequent in high school and during the summers in college.  I’d been thinking about playing some sort of Red deck for weeks, owing to the good cards available and my general comfort with the buildable archetypes, but I didn’t start putting together a list until Friday afternoon, the day before the event.  The initial build was an Aggro deck with a heavy Goblin component, also running Hellrider and Hero of Oxid Ridge.  It looked good on paper, but it definitely didn’t turn out that way in practice.  What I eventually ended up with was completely different.

I didn’t have everything I needed for the deck, but thankfully Chewie had the rest, and he was willing to let me borrow it.  That night, I went to visit him to do some borrowing and last minute brainstorming, and to play a few friendly games with the deck just to see how it felt.  It felt awful.  Game after game, it was being mercilessly crushed by the casual decks Chewie was picking out of his boxes, without even trying to pick any that would be a tough fight.  It was well after midnight when we tore my deck down and started over, and eventually we realized my existing sideboard was essentially a method of transforming the maindeck into an anti-token/anti-swarm Big Red deck.  It was 2 in the morning before I was finally in the bed, but the extra effort was well worth it.  My first game with the new and revamped deck against another person was Round 1 of Game Day, and I ended up 2nd place among the 14 players in the event.


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Mike’s Dakkon Blackblade CMDR Deck

Dakkon Blackblade

A few weeks ago, Chewie talked me into filming a marathon session of videos for the CMDR Decks channel.  Scott helped us record all four decks I had built at the time, and the first installment is my Dakkon Blackblade deck.  As always, let me know what you think in the comments here, or in the comments section on YouTube if you feel so inclined.  To be honest, there’s no guarantee I’ll read the YouTube comments, as I do my best to avoid reading any YouTube comments as a general rule (that stuff will rot your brain).  The delivery might not be as smooth in this first video as it became in the other three, but I still think you’ll like it.

[Chewie addendum: Check out Mike’s super-sweet Dakkon!  And the shiny Wasteland makes my wallet hurt.  Also, that’s the playmat Mike talked about getting from Steve Argyle at the SCG Invitational in Charlotte – it’s purty!]


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Fix That Deck! – Fumiko the Lowblood

Fumiko the LowbloodEvery deck starts with a plan, but sometimes our natural inclination to be massive screw-ups gets the best of us.  We could have started with a pretty great list, but a series of many small tweaks and changes over a period of time have ruined something fundamental that was making the deck work, or the deck could have just been bad to begin with, and we never figured out what the problems were.  Either way, there often comes a time when a deck just gets laughably bad and the builder needs to take action to fix that, and that could mean anything from subtle adjustments here and there to tearing it down and starting all over again.  I don’t know if “Fix That Deck!” will become a regular feature here, but I do know it’s a common enough experience among all players and deckbuilders that it has some potential.


The Set-Up
When I first got into the Commander format (still known as EDH at the time), I decided to go in relatively hard.  My very first deck was a Scion of the Ur-Dragon build, focused on rolling up with the namesake as often as possible and casting cool dragons when he was otherwise indisposed.  The format was a blast, and I looked forward to building my next deck, waiting for inspiration to strike me.  Continue reading »

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Laboratory Leveler

I get the feeling Tooth and Nail was met with a resounding “okay, whatever” by many Spike-minded players when it was first revealed in Mirrodin. Thankfully, some enterprising and innovative deckbuilders created the Twelvepost deck, and showcased just how possible it was to do amazing things, and even win a fair amount of money, with some of the most Timmy-centric cards in the format (Tooth and Nail, Darksteel Colossus, Platinum Angel, etc.). Having been out of Extended for several years, Tooth and Nail hasn’t had much of an opportunity to poke its head up and accomplish anything impressive, but in the new Modern format, it’s now easier than ever to assemble a set of lands worth approximately thirty thousand mana and proceed to do whatever you want.
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Out of the Deck Box – Quest for Ula’s Temple

Magic, of course, is a game about wizardly combat. What really sets it apart from Saruman and Gandalf shouting power words and throwing thunderbolts at each other, however, is the significant role creatures play in the game. Though I do play some spell-based control from time to time, there’s really just nothing quite as satisfying as sending a motley squad of Giants, Birds, Elephants, and Barbarians across the battlefield to punch, claw, stomp, and stab their way to victory. As fun as the regular creatures are, the bigger ones are even better (I still remember a time when Craw Wurm was truly awe-inspiring), and the fun factor really tops out when you can get those big creatures for cheap or nearly free (Elvish Piper and Reanimate are the go-to examples, but have you ever pulled off Urborg Panther / Feral Shadow / Breathstealer into Spirit of the Night? I highly recommend it).

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