Smoothing the Curves - Article 4 - What the Ramp?!

Heyo! Since I last spoke about ramp, I thought today in Smoothing the Curves we’d take a bit of a closer look at M:tG’s most notorious headache: ramping. There are a lot of different ways to ramp and sadly, not all colours are created equally in this regard.  Green, as should come as surprise to no one, is the easiest to colour to ramp in and as such, my personal philosophy is to always lean into green in any deck with any green for the most robust acceleration. Land fetching is my favourite with spells like Rampant Growth and Harrow (sorry Cultivate – you just suck!) as it is often taboo in many play groups to pursue land destruction in most any form. Please note, this is not the gospel – Armageddon is not banned in our format and not taking proper precautions against this as a potential strategy may leave you high and dry. Typically, I’d first of all advocate for a blend of ramp types, as anyone wiping all of one type of permanent off the table will usually leave another untouched, so you retain bounce back with a diversified mana portfolio. Consider your options: Land Ramp (Rampant Growth), Mana Rocks (Talisman of Conviction), Creatures (Birds of Paradise), Enchantments (Utopia Sprawl), Spell Bursts (Dark Ritual) and so on. My next requirement is speed.  Gone are the days when Commander’s Sphere or Darksteel Ingot were strong inclusions – their rate of return is simply not great – 3 mana invested to net 1 is not great and I try to avoid this wherever possible. I am especially critical of rocks costing more than 3.  Nyxbloom Lotus, Gilded Lotus and Thran Dynamo all tempt with large amounts of mana, but there are two-and-a-half points to consider with these kinds of cards. Note: I am only considering rocks as just that – rocks that were hard cast with the intent of netting big mana to advance your board and not niche examples involving cheating them into play or any other shenanigans. Dumping 5 mana into something in the mid or late game has minimal impact on your board state – it doesn’t protect you, your board or advance your board meaningfully – it’s an investment in next turn. Consider what your opponents are likely to be doing on turns 3, 4 and 5 – when these cads are likely to hit the table.  If they’re doing things you’re either envious of or quietly wondering if you have any answers to, you may want to revisit your strategy to put yourself into that position. At 5 mana, is this really still “ramp”? I’d argue that 5 mana mana rocks are actually distracting from a greater, often more fundamental flaw with the deck – and that solution is not the amount of mana required to operate.  Rather than try and ramp over these rough edges, see if you can find another solution – maybe the problem isn’t the problem you think it is. 5 mana is a damn lot of mana! Even 4.  Hell, even 3!  Consider your feelings if you’d spent turn 4 dropping a Gilded Lotus and on your end step the next players cast Nature’s Claim targeting it?  These kinds of rocks are lightning rods for removal.  It’s highly unlikely anyone will specifically target your Wild Growth in this way.  It’s just a feel bad to spend a mid-game turn trying to accumulate more resources, only to have them stripped on your end step – you’re lost your turn, tapped down 5 mana and lost a card. For decks not running green, the options are disappointingly…well, disappointing.  Boros for example has you almost entirely at the whims of amazingly effective yet painfully narrow spells like Gift of Estates and Tithe – white “ramp” spells famously only search out plains to hand rather than basics to play.  Smothering Tithe while in dire need of a reprint as its price is soaring as it’s sees synergies in many decks, not just mono white. This unfortunately requires an almost uniform investment in a ramp package that looks almost exclusively like: Sol Ring, Arcane Signet, Talisman of Conviction, Wayfarer’s Bauble, Coldsteel Heart, Mind Stone and Fellwar Stone.  Sadly, this pushes the price up for these cards while green remains not only able to comfortably ramp in any fashion, but also for mere pennies by contrast. You may have to get creative depending on the colour, but make sure that you consider: What colours do you have at your disposal to lean into? How does your deck operate? How will you recover from a board wipe or a lockout of a type of resource? Or just play mono green.  

Smoothing the Curves - Article 3 - Fine Refinement

Heyo! Today in Smoothing the Curves I want to dig a little deeper into our last discussion to focus in on the card choices for a deck. I’ll be referencing Korvold for examples and case-in-points. Let’s begins with really understanding the relationships between your commander, your theme and your win condition(s).  Think of these elements as your home, your car, your destination.  All 3 of these things have you distinctive style, and how you build the interaction between them will influence how effectively your deck functions. Ramp is arguably the least considered yet most important means of staying on flavor, so let’s look at it specifically since the lessons in choosing the right ramp package for your deck may be more broadly applied to other aspects of your deck. (I’d like to stipulate that “ramp” means having access to more mana than what turn you’re on.  Generally speaking, as an example, on turn 3, if you have 3 mana or less, you have not ramped, but if you have 4 or more, you have.  Also, lands in hand is not ramp since you can’t access the mana from there, you need to get them into play somehow.) Consider all the different ways ramp can be achieved: Land Ramp (Rampant Growth), Mana Rocks (Talisman of Conviction), Creatures (Birds of Paradise), Enchantments (Utopia Sprawl), Spell Bursts (Dark Ritual) and so on. These all have their strengths and weaknesses however not all of them are at home in all decks.  Korvold wants things to be sacrificed, so I wanted to look for things that want to be sacrificed or cared about other things being sacrificed. Fyndhorn Elves has no native interest in being sacrificed however they synergize well with Fiend Artisan and Ashnod’s Altar in a way that a mana rock would not, so I’ve opted for primarily creatures and land based acceleration with 2 notable exceptions: Wild Growth and Ordeal of Nylea. Wild Growth is incredibly low to the ground – even lower than a 1 drop creature as on turn 2 it can enchant the second land in play at no loss of tempo – I still have access to 2 mana on the turn it’s cast. Ordeal of Nylea wants to be sacrificed and ramps when it does, which if enchanted on Korvold, pumps him (it’s not the objective, but does no harm when it does) with the requisite number of counters on him will immediately become sacrificed and fish me lands. So hopefully a sense of my decision making process is starting to make sense!  Had the deck cared about artifacts in some way such as Affinity, I’ve have put more rocks in.  Or if I was playing Storm, maybe more Ritual kinds of effects, and so on. This same kind of scrutiny should be applied to all aspects of your deck building – this results in value.

Smoothing the Curves - Article 2 - Decisions Decisions

Smoothing the Curves - Article 2 - Decisions Decisions

By: James NessHeyo! Welcome back everyone to Smoothing the Curves!  Today I wanted to take a look at choosing a commander and a deck theme since these aren’t always mutually exclusive.  So let’s get to it! I find that the biggest challenge I face in deck building is avoiding top-down deck construction – meaning I start with the commander, add the spells, presume the ramp then hopefully I have enough slots left over for the lands – all before deciding on or defining a direction.  Working in this fashion makes it easy to include cards in a deck that may work, but don’t synergize or generate any value.  Bottom up deck construction not only ensures proper proportion of key components but also permits for the deck theme to be fully developed.  Roon of the Hidden Realm and Kaalia of the Vast are great examples of this, so let’s take a closer look. Roon undoubtedly has an incredibly powerful ability as it not only gets repeat value out of blinking powerful effects like Mulldrifter or Coiling Oracle – but to what end?  The deck came together to be incredibly powerful but not only not fun to play, but also not fun to play against on account of the high level of interactions and lack of a clear and decisive win condition.  How does Roon win – other than forcing bored opponents from scooping? Kaalia by contrast immediately offers a very simple and straight forward direction up front – cheat angles, demons and dragons into play and smash face.  This clarity in direction comes at the expense of deck flexibility in contrast with commanders like Roon. There are 3 principal considerations when first conceptualizing of the functioning of a new deck: What do I want to do? What commander best enables that? How do I win? Your win condition doesn’t necessarily have to have anything to do with your commander – combo-centric decks can have win conditions entirely separate from the commander – But outside of the cEDH arena, how you want to win should be among the first questions you ask when you start to consider your commander as this will help to steer your deck. When I brew, my journey begins with commanders that speak to me in one way or the other – usually a theme or general flavour.  Then I consider how I want to use the commander to accomplish my deck goals and how I will generate value.  Once I’ve roughed in my 99 cards I check it over for pieces that feel at odds with the rest of the deck and look for more viable replacements. This last step was something Roon taught me.  Everything seemed fine and dandy up until I started to play and I realized that locking other players out of the game with me while not moving towards a decisive victory myself was just not for me. While I believe that there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to play the game, I will add the caveat that if you’re not having fun playing your own decks, there’s something wrong in there somewhere and you may want to check what’s missing and see if you can tweak things to make it more exciting for you!Looking for new options for your deck? Visit here:  https://tradingcards.criticalhitgaminglounge.com/pages/mtg-advanced-search    

Article 1

Article 1

Korvold

By: Contributor James Ness Heyo! Initially, I wanted to write an article on Commander deck construction, but the complexity of the task quickly became evident, so I decided instead to write a few pieces covering the various components of deck construction.  This too, quickly spiraled into something very expansive.  So I finally decided that the best way forward is to divide up this process into numerous parts in what will surely be an ongoing series, at least for the foreseeable future! My aim is to more closely engage players in all aspects of the format and more broadly, the game of Magic: The Gathering itself and its meta.  This should be read as less of a tutorial than a ‘food for thought’ series.  I’ve decided to call this series “Smoothing the Curves” and this will serve as the mission statement and introduction to the series at large! But before we get settled, a little about me! My name is James and I’ve been playing M:tG since Fallen Empires (thanks, but apologies are entirely unnecessary) and I’ve dabbled in a lot of formats – everything from Type 2 (well, that dates me) to commander. I’d like to use this format and forum to not only share my knowledge and experiences but also initiate conversation within this community and to learn and grow myself!  I’ve learned a lot over the years however I believe even the simple act of attempting to explain fundamental ideas like “how” and “why” of the actions you already perform forces you to form a deeper understanding where previously there may been more of a muscle memory action at play. So why is that important?  Because when you break down the decisions you make, you weigh their merits and sometimes you discover either a reason, or a lack there of.  This are key becoming a better player and understanding your strengths and opportunities. I principally play the commander format as I find the singleton, 99 card format forces a fantastic level of creative and out-of-the-box thinking that regardless of where you want to jump in – jank or competitive, budget or priceless, you need to make some interesting decisions and that’s where the fun lies!  I believe the brewing of the deck to be just as fun as the gameplay itself. 99 is both an intimidatingly large and a frustratingly small number to work with and that’s where the magic happens (pun most certainly intended).  The decisions you make for what you run and what you cut are crucial ones and I really want to take a deep dive into as many of the aspects of deck building as I can think of. I connect with that game as just that – a game, a pass time, a social catalyst.  I’ve met many wonderful and amazing people because of this game and I want the same for everyone who asks “what are you playing?” I believe in inclusion, support and patience for everyone looking to engage in this game and its community. I will do my best to keep my articles easy to read, engaging and informative in equal measure! As we work through the various aspects of theory crafting and brewing, building, playing, strategy and everything else, I thought it would be best to have a common reference point for everyone to follow along with. This is the deck that I have spent the most time contemplating and fiddling around with and the design intent for it was to make the most aggressive, combo-tastic deck that I possibly could with the stipulation that I not conform to the tried tested and true cEDH build of Korvold: Food Chain.  My reasoning here is simple: I was told this build would never be cEDH viable, so I took that as a gauntlet hitting the floor. Korvold, Fae-Cursed King I really hope you enjoy your time spent with me digging deep into why this is the greatest game ever made.   Copy and paste the deck list below to the orange "Decklist" tab on the right to see what cards we currently have in stock:   1 Allosaurus Shepherd 1 Arbor Elf 1 Birds of Paradise 1 Blood Artist 1 Bloodghast 1 Bloom Tender 1 Caustic Caterpillar 1 Deathrite Shaman 1 Dockside Extortionist 1 Elves of Deep Shadow 1 Elvish Mystic 1 Fiend Artisan 1 Fyndhorn Elves 1 Lotus Cobra 1 Mayhem Devil 1 Murderous Redcap 1 Opposition Agent 1 Orcish Lumberjack 1 Poison-Tip Archer 1 Putrid Goblin 1 Ramunap Excavator 1 Reassembling Skeleton 1 Sakura-Tribe Elder 1 Scute Swarm 1 Sylvan Safekeeper 1 Temur Sabertooth 1 Tinder Wall 1 Viscera Seer 1 Woe Strider 1 Zulaport Cutthroat 1 Azusa, Lost but Seeking 1 Melira, Sylvok Outcast 1 Radha, Heart of Keld 3 Forest 2 Mountain 4 Swamp 1 Ancient Tomb 1 Bayou 1 Blackcleave Cliffs 1 Blood Crypt 1 Bloodstained Mire 1 Cinder Glade 1 City of Brass 1 Command Tower 1 Cragcrown Pathway Flip 1 Dragonskull Summit 1 Exotic Orchard 1 Fabled Passage 1 Field of the Dead 1 Kessig Wolf Run 1 Llanowar Wastes 1 Maze of Ith 1 Overgrown Tomb 1 Spire Garden 1 Stomping Ground 1 Strip Mine 1 Undergrowth Stadium 1 Verdant Catacombs 1 Phyrexian Tower 1 Demonic Tutor 1 Faithless Looting 1 Farseek 1 Nature's Lore 1 Primal Growth 1 Three Visits 1 Beast Within 1 Bedevil 1 Chaos Warp 1 Deadly Rollick 1 Harrow 1 Nature's Claim 1 Noxious Revival 1 Pyroblast 1 Red Elemental Blast 1 Shared Summons 1 Tragic Slip 1 Vampiric Tutor 1 Veil of Summer 1 Worldly Tutor 1 Compost 1 Defense of the Heart 1 Dreadhorde Invasion 1 Goblin Bombardment 1 Ordeal of Nylea 1 Rhythm of the Wild 1 Underworld Breach 1 Wild Growth 1 Arcane Signet 1 Ashnod's Altar 1 Lightning Greaves 1 Mana Crypt 1 Mana Vault 1 Sol Ring

Ontario Lockdown due to Covid-19

Ontario Lockdown due to Covid-19

Just a quick note on our store’s response to the Ontario lockdown.   Premier Doug Ford has announced a lockdown for Southern Ontario from December 26, 2020 for 28 days at which time the lockdown will be reassessed. We are still offering curbside pick up as well as delivery to the local area on Fridays.  We also have our online store with shipping options North American wide.  Our shipping is through UPS and offers great rates. To place orders go www.criticalhitgaminglounge.com.   If you have any questions please call 905-925-7737. Thanks everyone and we appreciate you😊  

Our Updated Webstore!

Our Updated Webstore!

We are very excited to launch our updated webstore.  We still have some work to do and more cards to enter but we are getting there.  If you notice anything that is not working properly or not updated, let us know by emailing criticalhitgaminglounge@outlook.com.   Thanks everyone!

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