Saturday, May 27, 2017

RPG Cards

Today I want to share with you another awesome resource for your roleplaying games. A person who identifies him or herself only as crobi created a great online program called RPG Cards that allows you to create and print small cards to use as handy references for spells, monsters, magic items, and the like. It uses some fairly simple formatting code, which you can view on this page, and allows you to customize with a variety of rich text, images, and colors. There is also a sample file you can view that shows you a variety of different cards whose code you can then use as a starting point for your own cards.

Once you created your cards, you can print them out on A4 size page, which fits 9 cards altogether on the default settings. But of course, the size of each card, and the size of the paper you want to print them, it just one of several different options you have at your disposal. You can also save the file locally and then load it back up next time you come to the website, although the page itself records its last state so everything is just as you left it next time you come to the site (assuming you're accessing it from the same computer and same browser as before).

I primarily have been using this as magic item cards to hand out to my players as they acquire custom magic items. Here are a few examples:

They are surprisingly fun to make and play with. Why not give it a try?

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Importance of Deadlines

Apparently I'm a lazy person.

No, maybe that's not it at all. But I've discovered that when it comes to writing, deadlines are important. In fact, that's exactly why when I resumed blogging a couple weeks back, I specifically announced a specific schedule of days of the week and topics. I know that without a deadline, I am more likely to procrastinate, to get lazy, or simply to not write at all.

That's been the best part of my decision to work through Writing Excuses Season 10 with one of my friends. Just this week, out of the blue, I was able to sit down and write over 500 words in about 40 minutes. How? I had a deadline. I had to get something done so that he and I would have something to talk about. I'm embarrassed to admit that we had to reschedule our discussion time two weeks in a row. And both of those weeks, I never once sat down to work on that assignment. No, it wasn't until I knew we were meeting again that I actually took the time to get it done.

Unfortunately, if I am ever going to become a published writer, I have to do better than this. I need to reach the point here my deadlines are internal, rather than external. I need to redevelop the discipline of writing every day. But I'm going to save that topic for next week.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Finding Matches for MPDC League

So far most players are reporting to me that they aren't having much trouble finding other players participating in the MPDC League simply by joining the chat channel #mpdc when they are online. I encourage our players to login regularly and make use of that channel, and to feel free to challenge any other player who is logged on, as often times people don't notice chat in the actual channel itself.

However, for those of you who want some more definitive data as far as when you are most likely to find a match, I did include an optional question in the Match Reporting Form to gather this data. Here's what I've found by sorting the data from the past two weeks:
  • Our player base is pretty diverse as far as preferred playing times, with responses ranging pretty much across the entirety of a 24 hour range.
  • Based on the original time zone indicated, our players are fairly well split between North America and Europe, with only a few players in other parts of the world. This tracks well with who has participated in MPDC in the past.
  • The best time to find other players online seems to be in the 5-9pm GMT range. This makes sense, as it starts early afternoon for most of the United States but includes evenings and late night in Europe.
There has also been some discussion about starting a Discord channel to help facilitate finding other Standard Pauper players. I would love to hear how many of my readers currently use Discord and whether or not you would use this medium to chat with other players. Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Race for the Galaxy App

Several years ago, I wrote about a card game called Race for the Galaxy. Although the only components in the game are the cards themselves, it plays out very similarly to worker-placement games like Agricola or Puerto Rico. In each round of the game, each player secretly chooses a single action - such as settling a new planet, exploring the galaxy (for new cards), constructing a development, producing resources, or selling those resources.  All players play each of the chosen actions, but the one who chose it receives a significant bonus. Each planet and development gives the player certain advantages or abilities, and is also worth a certain number of victory points at the end of the game. Naturally, whoever has the most points at the end of the game wins.

Recently Temple Gates Games released an app version of this game for both Apple and Android, and I must say it's a hit. The app includes a nice, clean interface, some basic but appropriate music and sound effects, a surprisingly good AI, a quick three part tutorial, and a variety of ways to play the game - including against the AI, against other players online, or even as a "pass and play" option where you substitute your device for the game with multiple people around the same virtual table.

While $6.99 is a bit steep for an app, particularly when the two expansions will run you an additional $3.99 each, you're still getting pretty good value for your dollar. Games are quick enough that you can easily jam several in a short amount of time, or just squeeze one in while waiting for something else. At least on a tablet, the cards are easy to read even without zooming in on them, and each card includes helpful tooltips to help explain any card that seems unclear.

If you're a fan of the game, this should be a no-brainer to pick up.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Respect as Professionalism

I am a subscriber to David Farland's #Writing Tips, which sends out periodic emails with advice related to the world of writing and publication. One of his recent tips talked about the value of what he called being a professional. This is how he put it:

"Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the value of being a professional. In other words, a professional is someone who works hard, meets deadlines, tries to be a team player, and so on.

A professional doesn’t whine if he doesn’t get his way with his publisher. He doesn’t punch his agent in the face. He doesn’t talk nasty about his agent. He recognizes that each of these people perform a valuable service, are probably doing the best they know how, and therefore strives to develop strong relationships with them.

If you look at successful authors, ones with long and healthy careers, you’ll find that they behave professionally."

While Farland refers to this as professionalism, a better term for what he's talking about might be respect. Sadly, we live in a world where respect is at an all-time low. People routinely treat other in ways that are vindictive, mean-spirited, and blatantly rude. So I thought this advice was quite timely. In whatever you do, it's not enough simply to be good at it. You also need to treat others with kindness and respect.

Even when we may never see a person face-to-face, how we treat that person matters. And I certainly am not immune. Just this week, I had to apologize to a player for the way I disconnected at the end of a match. While I didn't say anything negative, I still felt like my actions didn't communicate respect. So next time I was online, I took the time to apologize to that person.

What do you need to change to be more respectful?

Monday, May 15, 2017

Wizards Donates Prizes for the MPDC League

The first week of the MPDC League is in the books, and from all accounts it was quite successful. We had 18 players total for the event, and of those both nate316 and afreeAk managed to go 5-0, with moromete in 3rd place with 4-1 and manaissues in 4th place with 3-2. You can view all of the results from Week One here.

But the biggest news for today is that longtime Standard Pauper support joekewwl reached out to Wizards of the Coast about this league. In response, Lee Sharpe replied back that they would donate 36 packs of Hour of Devastation to be distributed over the next two seasons of the MPDC League. After consulting with joekewwl, we decided to award one pack to the 1st place winner of each week, and then award an additional pack to all of the Top 8 players at the end of the season. Now obviously these packs won't be distributed until after that set is released online, but this is still a great show of support from Wizards of the Coast for this event. As a result, I've updated the Prize page accordingly.

Special thanks to everyone who participated in the league this last week, and particularly to those who expressed to me their gratitude for this new format. I hope this enables us to reach out to many more players over the weeks and months ahead.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Dyson's Dodecahedron

As I have been prepping for the Dungeons and Dragons adventure I am running with my group, one of the resources I am constantly in need of is maps. Fortunately, there are a whole host of maps available online. Most of those, however, are either copyrighted materials or are only available for personal use. So while I don't have any plans on publishing my adventure in the near future, I still very much was hoping to find some maps that I could include in such a product should I decide to put something like that together.

And that's when I discovered Dyson's Dodecahedron. While the author originally used this page for RPG characters and thoughts about roleplaying in general and Dungeon's and Dragons specifically, what he is now known for is his amazing old-school maps. He publishes several such maps a week, each with a short blurb describing a possible adventure hook and/or the circumstances that led him to create the map. But even more remarkable, as long as his Patreon sponsorship continues above the $300 mark for a particular map, he releases them under a free commercial license. This means that anyone can use, reuse, remix and/or modify the maps on a royalty-free basis, with the only restriction being that they must include attribution such as“Cartography by Dyson Logos” or “Maps by Dyson Logos." You can view all the maps that have been released under this commercial license here.

This is a fantastic resource, and one that I highly recommend. Check it out for yourselves.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Promises Made

I recently did an interest writing exercise as part of the Writing Excuses Master Class my friend and I are working our way through. Often time when discussing the beginning of a story, writers talk about the "promises" that a story makes. Essentially, within the first few paragraphs or so, a good writer should be telegraphing to their readers what the story is going to be about - the tone, the genre, the main character, the setting, and so on. For this exercise, we had to take the first page or so of our work in progress and show it to someone who knew nothing about the story and see what that person thought the story would be about.

My current story is about a priest who specializes in destroying items endowed with evil magic. He's brash and overconfident (and also racist), and in the story he is given three "gifts" which, in specific circumstances, will combine to unleash a terrible trap for him. After showing my wife the first page, here is what she said she thought would happen in the story:

"I feel like this is a set up for a story in which this guy lets something in that he didn't intend and underestimates some insidious dark magic-y thing and deals with either personal corruption or the corruption of many of his order as a consequence. Maybe trojan horse-like?"

Guess I must have made the right promises!

Monday, May 8, 2017

League Begins and Amonkhet Top Hits

I am happy to announce that the Monday Pauper Deck Challenge League is officially underway! Whenever you are on Magic Online, join channel #mpdc, chat with your fellow Standard Pauper players, and get in some matches. You can also check out the current Scoreboard, which lists every match that's been recorded as well as the decklists they were using. It's been great to see so many players already taking advantage of this opportunity, and I'm happy to report that things are well underway.

I've also had several questions about Self-Assembler. While this card has been banned for the last couple seasons of MPDC, with the start of the league I decided to go ahead and make it legal again for play in the league. I will be keeping a close eye on the results and won't hesitate to ban it once again if it proves to continue to warp the format. But in many ways the league is like a reset button for the format, and I'd rather open everything up, especially with the influx of returning players. As such, I have adjusted the front page accordingly.

Finally, today published my latest article, this time analyzing what I believe are the best 25 cards of the set for Standard Pauper. Check out my article here. Note that I am no longer doing a card-by-card evaluation on the whole set. Instead, I'm just evaluating the cards that will probably see the most play, ranking them as follows: good, for those cards that will see regular play; better, for those cards that are particularly relevant or worth building around; and best, for those cards that will define much of the format. I hope this new ranking system makes it easier to quickly get a grasp on the format and guide you as to which cards you should pick up first from Amonkhet.

Hope to see you soon across the virtual table in the MPDC League!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

New Blogging Schedule Starts Next Week

While I can tell you now that there will be some growing pains as I get back into the habit of blogging, my plan going forward is to update this blog three times a week. My plan at this point is to post new content on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Monday will be my day for updates on the MPDC League and Standard Pauper. That will be my day to talk about high-impact cards, promote my articles over at PureMTGO, and discuss whatever is of note in the metagame.

Wednesday will be my day for posts about writing. Even while I wasn't blogging, I have continued to work through some writing exercises and classes. I hope to discuss what I'm learning, share snippets of my work, and post reviews of what I'm reading in the fantasy genre.

Friday will be my day for gaming related topics. This may include other video games, board games, my current D&D campaign, or anything else that catches my fancy. I will probably try to use this day to talk about anything other miscellaneous topics that may come up.

Of course, if you my readers have a particular topic that you would like me to address, I'd enjoy hearing about it. Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Introducing the MPDC League

Today I am pleased to officially announce the Monday Pauper Deck Challenge League. You can find all the details about this new event here, which (for now) includes rules, the season schedule, and the prize structure for the event.

As I mentioned last time, we will still have a regular tournament today at our normal 2pm EDT / 6pm GMT timeslot in channel #MPDC, and Amonkhet will be legal for that event. But this will be the last "live" event, at least for this season.

I've already heard from several players that this will allow them to participate in Standard Pauper once more, so I am hoping that this will be a good solution to the declining participation in our events. I will be sending out an email to all those who have taken part in our events in the past and inviting them to try out our new "league-style" event.

While I encourage you to read all the rules for the details, here's the most important things to know:
  1. You DON'T have to register ahead of time. Join chat channel #mpdc on Magic Online, find an opponent, play a Standard Pauper match, and report the results. That's it.
  2. You can play as many matches as you want, but only the first five will count toward your record. Prizes are distributed each week based on point totals for that week, and at the end additional prizes will be distributed based on the cumulative points across the whole season.
  3. As always, matches should be Standard format, best 2 of 3, and 25 minute timer. Play them in the Just for Fun room with "MPDC League" in the comments. 
  4. Since BOTH players need to report the results, I don't recommend just creating a random table. Chat with players in #mpdc instead.
  5. The league begins a week from today - Monday, May 8th and will run through the week of July 16th.
Questions? Comments? Let me know below, or feel free to email me at gwyned at gmail dot com. 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Big Changes for MPDC

The last year or so has not been friendly to Standard Pauper, with declining participation in our weekly tournaments and the general lack of interest from players who use to support the format through videos and blog posts. However, one of the bright spots of the past year were the Pauper Leagues run by Polyjak - first for a Zendikar Unified Sealed League, and later a Pauper Ravnica Unified League. Given the success of these leagues as well as similar endeavors of my own in the past, I have decided that, at least for this season, Monday Pauper Deck Challenge will be moving to a similar "league-style" event. Here's a rough sketch of what this will look like.
  • Players should sign in to the #MPDC channel whenever they log into Magic Online.
  • At any time, players can compete against other people participating in the league by challenging them to a match (best 2 of 3). 
  • Afterwards, both players report their result using an online form.
  • Players will be limited to 5 matches each week, although you can still play against participants who still need matches (but the result won't "count" for you).
  • At the end of each week, the Top 4 players will receive prizes, with bigger prizes reserved for whoever has the most number of wins over the course of a season.
Now, for those players who like the time-frame of our previous weekly tournament, you can simply show up in the #MPDC channel at that time each week (2pm EDT / 6pm GMT) and play out your matches against anyone else who shows up. In some ways this is the best of both worlds - players who normally participate can still get their weekly matches in when they are accustomed to, but players who can't commit to that time (or length) can still participate in the format.

So what's the plan for this Monday?

I will still run our weekly tournament this Monday as usual, and Amonkhet will be legal for Standard Pauper. This will give me a chance to let our regular players know what's changing, since I know that many of them do not visit this blog, follow me on Twitter, or browse Monday I will also unveil the website that will host the league along with all the forms and scoreboards. Then, starting Monday, May 15th, the 37th Season of MPDC will officially start as a Standard Pauper League.

Next week I will also have more information about my future intentions for this blog, including a new schedule and upcoming topics. So be sure and check back often for all the new info.

Questions? Concerns? Comment below, or email me at gwyned at gmail dot com. And thanks to everyone who continues to make this format what it is.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Big Announcement Coming Tomorrow

I know some of you have been wondering what happened to this blog. I am happy to say that after a much needed break I am back and committed to returning to a regular schedule. Tomorrow I will have an announcement about the future of this blog as well as some big news about this season (and beyond) of Monday Pauper Deck Challenge. Watch for that here at my blog tomorrow as well as on my Twitter feed.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

AER High Impact Cards: Fen Hauler

As we get ready to begin a new season of Standard Pauper events with Aether Revolt added to the cardpool, I want to spend the next couple weeks looking at cards that I think will have a big impact on the format. Today I want to take a look at Fen Hauler

Like Bastion Inventor (which I looked at earlier this week), this card is a big creature in a color that doesn't normally get them. At first glance, this doesn't seem to be that good. However, this card is nearly identical to Gurmag Angler from Fate Reforged. It has the same casting cost, the same Power and Toughness, a cost-reducing keyword mechanic, and even has the additional bonus of sidestepping Artifact creatures in combat. While Improvise is never going to be as mana-efficient as Delve was, in the right deck you should be able to get at least a couple mana discount, which makes this a pretty good deal. The fact that it is so large almost means your opponent may find themselves in a situation where they have to chump-block each turn. In that case, the fact that it can't be blocked by Artifact creatures may actually become relevant.

The Simic Emerge decks that were so strong a couple seasons back proved that a deck that can quickly power out big creatures can be quite a potent threat. Between Fen Hauler and Bastion Inventor, Dimir looks like it may be able to pull off a similar archetype, backing it up with potent removal, permission, and card-advantage spells. I for one can't wait to see what surprised Aether Revolt has in store for us.

See you next week for the start of MPDC Season 36!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

AER High Impact Cards: Bastion Inventor

Wait, yesterday was Tuesday? For the first time in a long time, I honestly completely forgot I needed to write a blogpost. Sigh.

 As we get ready to begin a new season of Standard Pauper events with Aether Revolt added to the cardpool, I want to spend the next couple weeks looking at cards that I think will have a big impact on the format. Today I want to take a look at Bastion Inventor.

Right off the bat, this is a pretty big creature for Blue. While it looks expensive at 5U, even if you only have a single Artifact in play, a 4/4 for 4U is perfectly reasonable. With almost 60 difference Artifacts at Common in Standard right now, you should have no problem finding options for almost any Blue-based archetype. However, what makes this card so good is the fact that it also has Hexproof. In the current metagame, creatures are much less important due to how many good options there are for removal. Bastion Inventor sidesteps all of that. Even better, Hexproof takes most of the risk out of creature Auras or Equipment. Give it Flying with Ghostly Wings, or attach Inventor's Goggles on it for free when it enters the battlefield, and you have quite the potent threat.

Generally speaking, Hexproof is one of the better evergreen abilities in Standard Pauper, and in this particular case you're getting it on a creature that is already pretty strong. Bastion Inventor is a great threat for any Blue-based midrange deck or a superb finisher for a Blue-based Control deck. I have no doubt this is going to make a big impact on the format.

Want to know more about what I think of the cards in Aether Revolt? Check out Part One of my Standard Pauper review over at PureMTGO.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Andrenjinyi of Maori

About a month ago, I linked a cool resource for a Polynesian-inspired roleplaying game called Mythos of the Maori. I am currently preparing to start a brand new adventure for one of my D&D groups that I have entitled "The Andrenjinyi of Maori," which utilizes the themes and concepts from that setting and combines them with the concept of a powerful celestial known as the andrenjinyi, a monster found in Kobold Press' Tome of Beasts.

Today, I want to share with you the background and one of the hooks for this adventure.

Aeons ago, as creation still lay in its primordial shape, the first and greatest of the world’s spirits known as the Rainbow Serpent shed its scales. These scales fell to the earth, each spawning a gigantic, black-headed snake sheathed in scales of every color. The Rainbow Serpent then departed for the stars, leaving its children as powerful guardians of land and sky, sun and rain, birth and destruction. These ancient serpents were known as the andrenjinyi, and from their sacred pools they ruled ageless and immortal, demanding sacrifice and rituals but offering protection for all those who submitted to their code of law. With their link to the primordial stuff of creation, the andrenjinyi held the power to shape creation to their will, often creating a fantastic menagerie of creatures to guard and serve them.

Yet, for all their power and immortality, the andrenjinyi have all but vanished from the world, and the knowledge of the Rainbow Serpent with them. Today, only one of these primordial spirits still exists, ruling over a tropical isle known as Maori. For centuries, the Maori people have dwelt in communion with this being, offering it sacrifice and ritual and binding their community to follow the ancient codes and laws that it dictates. Foreigners are forbidden from setting foot on Maori, save for a small district within their chief city of Kahului, where merchants gladly trade desirable wares for items that can be found nowhere else: exotic fruits and plants as well as unique items ensorcelled with the primordial magic of the andrenjinyi.

Our heroes receive a vision about this ancient celestial and learn that its power is being corrupted by unknown agents of darkness. This vision further warns that should this celestial fall to this corruption, it could have devastating implications for the realms. The characters are tasked with learning the location of the island of Maori, discovering the source of the corruption, and putting an end to it.

 I can't wait to unveil this great setting for my players and share in their journey to unravel the mystery and decide the fate of the andrenjinyi.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

1st Place in MPDC 35 WORLDS

Yesterday was the capstone event for Season 35 of Monday Pauper Deck Challenge. Thirteen players battled it out for the prize of becoming the Season 35 Champion, and when the dust had settled, AlwaysFace took 1st place with his Esper decklist, which I believe was the same list that moromete had also piloted to 1st place two weeks prior. Interestingly enough, the player Julion also ran this list and finished in Top 4 this week. So clearly this deck has something going for it. Let's take a look at the list:

Unlike the Orzhov Enchantments deck that has performed so well this season, this Esper build forgoes the Aura-based removal spells for a more typical suite of spells, including Grasp of Darkness, Oblivion Strike, and Complete Disregard (as well as both Dead Weight and two more completes of Complete Disregard in the Sideboard). The deck has two major synergies its playing off of. First, it can recur its value cards like Prophetic Prism and Thraben Inspector with the Aviary Mechanic. Second, it can utilize the Emerge cost on Wretched Gryff to good effect, gaining an additional creature off of Desperate Sentry or just get rid of something like a Pilgrim's Eye once it is no longer relevant. It also includes a full playset of Take Inventory for more card advantage, and a lone copy of Ruin Processor as a finisher.

From the Sideboard, it can improve its matchup against Control with permission spells like Negate and Turn Aside, recur its creatures while putting another big threat on the board with Dukhara Scavenger, or gain Life with the decent blocker of Vampire Envoy. And in addition the aforementioned extra removal spells, it also includes a singleton Fragmentize as a nod to the other strong Enchantments and Artifacts in the metagame.

Overall this looks like a very strong deck with lots of decent options to gain advantage over your opponent. And it certainly will be interesting to see what changes, if any, Aether Revolt brings to this archetype. In any case, congratulations once again to AlwaysFace for his victory as the Champion of Season 35!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Aether Automatons

The full spoiler for Aether Revolt is old news by now, and the set's release on Magic Online is fast approaching. As I continue to work on my set review, I will be highlighting some of the more interesting Commons here on my blog over the next couple weeks. I've been looking at the three Common cycles in Aether Revolt - first the Implements, then the Aethers. Today, I'll look at the final Common cycle - the Automaton cycle.

The Automotons are all colorless Artifact creatures that cost 2 mana to summon (save for the Black one,which only costs one, and the Blue one, which costs three) and have an activated, Instant speed ability that requires colored mana and produces an effect consistent with that color. These costs range from 2 mana all the way up to 5 mana, and since they don't require the creature to tap, can be activated as many times as you have the mana to pay for them. Unlike most cycles, these cards are otherwise different enough that they are almost impossible to evaluate as a whole.

Both the Augmenting Automaton and the Verdant Automaton boost the creature's Power. For the Augmenting, you get a single point of Power and Toughness for 1B, which goes away at the end of the turn. This is essentially a cheap Shade with a double-costed activated ability to grow it, which is pretty unimpressive. The Verdant, on the other hand, sets you back 3G every time you activate it, but it grants a permanent +1 / +1 counter instead. While this is clearly much better, the fact that your opponent can destroy this for cheap and essentially waste all the mana you invested is a significant drawback.

The Welder is yet another Red creature than can ping your opponent for 1 each turn, and is a very reasonable 2/1 for 2. Unfortunately, it costs you a full 3R to activate it. Still, in an aggressive Red Deck Wins style deck, this ability allows this card to do double duty, attacking in the early game and still doing damage to your opponent once you don't have anything better to spend your mana on. That said, it's still not great.

The Aegis has one of the best activated abilities we've seen at Common: the ability to return a creature you control back to hand at Instant speed. But you're having to pay a full 4W to pull this off, which makes it pretty awkward to hold up enough mana to use this on your opponent's turn. It also has no offensive ability as an 0/3, and doesn't really have enough Toughness to be great on defense either. Perhaps in an Azorius Control archetype this might be good in certain matchups, but I don' think it's likely to see much play in the main deck, despite how good the ability is.

That leaves the Watchful, and it's almost certainly the best of the cycle. It's already a reasonable 2/2 for 3, which while not exciting is at least borderline playable. But for the cost of only 2U, you get to Scry 1 as often as you like, giving you the ability to dig quite deep into your deck in the late game to find a much-needed answer. With Scry equal to about half a card, it won't take very many activations for you to feel like you've gotten your value out of this card. I suspect this card will be a roleplayer in many Blue-based Control archetypes, particularly if they have any Artifact synergies.

So that's it for the cycles in Aether Revolt. As I mentioned last week, I've also liked these cycles at Common, since they do such a good job of illustrating the themes of the set while also showcasing the color philosophies. Next time, I'll be back to look at a few more interesting Commons from Aether Revolt.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Putting the Aether in Aether Revolt

The full spoiler for Aether Revolt has been available for a while now, with the official prereleases running last weekend. As I continue to work on my set review, I will be highlighting some of the more interesting Commons here on my blog over the next couple weeks. Last time, I looked at the Implement cycle at Common. This time, I'm looking at yet another cycle in Aether Revolt - the Aether Cycle.

The Aether cycle is a set of Commons with an evergreen keyword ability consistent with each card's color (except for the Green one for some strange reason) that generates two energy tokens when they come into play and also allows you to cash in those energy tokens for a 1/1 artifact creature token when they attack. Like all energy cards, you can spend any energy tokens to activate the effect, not just the ones you generated with the original card.

As far as the creatures themselves are concerned, these are reasonable but nothing exciting. Both the Herder and the Inspector are about one more mana than you would want to pay (a 2/3 Vigilance for 3W and a 3/3 for 3G respectively), and are probably the worst of the cycle. On the other hand, the Chaser is a respectable 2/1 First Strike for 1R, while the Poisoner is a 1/1 Deathtouch for 1B. Similar cards to these two have seen plenty of play in Standard Pauper, and the fact that these can generate an extra 1/1 body makes these reasonable choices for some decks. Finally, in the middle we have the Swooper as a 1/2 Flying for 1U, which is borderline playable but not a strong card.

Overall I would rank these as fringe playable, but not likely to make a big impact on the format.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Implementing Aether Revolt

The full spoiler for Aether Revolt is now available, which means it's time for yet another set review for Standard Pauper. In the mean time, I want to highlight some of the more interesting Commons here on my blog over the next couple weeks.

Like Kaladesh, Aether Revolt has a few different cycles at Common. Cycles are always interesting to me in that they typically not only highlight something important about the set but also demonstrate some of the fundamental differences in the color pie. Today, I want to look at the Implement cycle from Aether Revolt.

The Implement cycle is a great example of a nice clean design. Each of the five cost are cheap artifacts that can be sacrificed for a single colored mana to produce an effect, and each one replaces itself with a new card once it's been sacrificed. They also play quite nicely with the Revolt mechanic, since this gives you a reliable and cheap way to trigger it on your turn. But how good are they?

The three that cost only a single mana to cast (Combustion, Ferocity, and Improvement) are clearly the weakest of the bunch. Doing a single point of damage to your opponent or gaining a measly 2 Life is no where close to being a card's worth of value, and even with the cantrip ability these are pretty bad. Implement of Ferocity is a little better, since paying 2 mana to put a permanent +1 / +1 counter can actually make an impact on the board state. But unless you've got some significant Artifact or sacrifice synergies, this probably still won't make the cut.

Implement of Malice costs an additional mana to cast, and does net you card advantage, since you've spent a single card to force your opponent to discard a card and you've drawn another card at the same time. This is essentially a half-strength Mind Rot cantrip, which might be an interesting Sideboard choice in a deck that, again, has some Artfact or sacrifice synergies. But again, this is too minor and situational to see much play.

Implement of Examination is clearly the best of the five, which is why is costs three mana to cast rather than just one. Here's you're essentially paying an extra mana for Divination, but you can hold off paying that extra mana in order to coincide with other relevant abilities. And unlike some of the other Implements, you can sacrifice this at Instant speed, making it a decent option for a Blue Control deck that wants to hold up removal or permission spells during your opponent's turn. Given you have the right deck to maximize its synergies, Examination is probably worth considering in the main deck.

What do you think of this cycle? What are your thoughts on how this set will impact Standard Pauper? As always, your comments are appreciated. See you next time.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Yesterday's Magic Banned Update for Standard

Yesterday, Wizards of the Coast announced their most recent banned and restricted list, which included three cards currently in Standard. Now let me make very clear that I have next to no knowledge of the state of Standard right now in Magic, so I don't have any real analysis of this decision (although, from the little I do know, it sounds like it was a good step). But what is interesting to me is the banning of Smuggler's Copter.

Just for clarity, let's look at the reasons why Wizards decided to ban this card:

Simply put, Smuggler's Copter is too efficient and shows up in too many decks, diminishing the format's diversity. We want Planeswalkers, sorcery-speed removal, and a variety of vehicles to be viable options, and believe removing Smuggler's Copter will allow them to flourish again. Of the top archetypes in Standard, very few didn't play four copies of Smuggler's Copter, stifling many creative, fun options. Smuggler's Copter was the result of a new card type pushed too far, and, as such, is now banned.

So why does this matter for Standard Pauper? Well, we recently made the decision to ban Self-Assembler, which is another Artifact that every deck has access to, is very efficient (in that it almost always draws all four copies of itself), had become oppressive in the metagame, and that was present as a full playset in virtually every deck. For me, the strongest argument against banning Self-Assembler was that every deck had access to the card, so it was more or less an even playing field. But obviously the same thing is true of Smuggler's Copter. And yet, this card is now banned in Standard going forward.

All this to say, I am more convinced than ever that banning Self-Assembler in Standard Pauper was the right call.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Improvising an Aether Revolt

We're not even through the first week of spoilers, and already most of Aether Revolt has already been revealed. Last time, I took a look at three Commons that showcase the new Revolt mechanic. Today, I will once again look back to the Aether Revolt Mechanics article to bring you the other new mechanic: Improvise. Let's take a look at three Commons and see how it plays out.

Foundry Assembler is pretty unassuming as a 3/3 for 5 generic mana. In an "artifacts matter" themed set like Aether Revolt, just the fact that this is an artifact does make it better than a vanilla 3/3. Of course, it also has the Improvise mechanic, which means that you can tap other artifacts to help pay for that cost. This card reminds me a lot of Frogmite from Mirrodin, but costs one more mana for another point of Power and Toughness. Obviously the cost reduction from Improvise isn't nearly as powerful as Affinity, but it should be relatively easy to get this down for 3 mana early and potentially for free in the midgame.

Mana Leak returns to Standard with Metallic Rebuke, a card that is good enough to potentially see Modern or even Vintage play. Being able to hold up a soft counter for only one Blue mana (plus two untapped artifacts of any sort) is quite good. And even in situations where you don't have any artifacts - either in play or even in your deck - a slightly more expensive Mana Leak certainly isn't the worst. This card is going to push many players towards an artifact-heavy Blue midrange deck, and I suspect that such a deck will be quite strong in Standard Pauper once Aether Revolt is released. While not great late game, at any other point this card is very strong.

Sweatworks Brawler is another card that would already be decent even without the Improvise mechanic but becomes much better with it. A 3/3 with Menace is already tough to block early on, and it doesn't take much work at all to get this down on Turn 3 or drop this plus another creature once you've reached the mid-game. While even in the best case this card probably won't dominate the game, Sweatworks Brawler could easily play a solid role in a Gruul monsters or Rakdos style deck. On its own though, the payoff isn't quite good enough to be worth running artifacts in your deck without some other strong incentives.

So that's going to do it for my first looks at Aether Revolt this week. However, with how quickly the cards are being spoiled, I suspect I will be working on my first set review of 2017 by this time next week. What cards have impressed you from this set so far? Let me know in the comments below. See you next time.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Putting the Revolt in Aether Revolt

I did mention blog posts would be a bit sporadic, right? Sorry about that. In any case, as you probably are aware by now, spoiler season has begun for Aether Revolt, the second set in the Kaladesh block. On Monday Wizards of the Coast revealed the new and returning mechanics for the set, and in doing so spoiled several new Commons for the set. Today, let's look at three of these cards that give us a glimpse of one of these new mechanics - Revolt!

Decommission is another example in a long line of White Enchantment and Artifact hate. While it's great that you get it at Instant speed, you are paying one more mana than similar abilities normally cost, so of course you have to consider what else you're getting for the investment. In this case, if you've had any permanent of yours leave the battlefield (whether by being killed, bounced, sacrificed, or exiled), you gain 3 Life. This is very close to Solemn Offering, a card which at one point was the premiere choice for Enchantment and Artifact destruction. As such, I think Decommission will probably see play.

When Black gets access to flyers, they are often undersized for their cost, so Night Mark Aeronaut is right in line with that philosophy. You wouldn't typically be happy with a 2/2 with Flying for 4 mana even in Black, so you'll almost always want to wait until you can trigger Revolt. For that relatively easy requirement, you're getting a +1 / +1 upgrade, which is surprisingly good. The difference between a 2/2 and a 3/3 Flyer is huge, making this card one of the more efficient beaters you can have in Black, with very little downside. Night Market Aeronaut seems pretty good, and will probably find a home in almost any Black-based deck.

Silkweaver Elite is a bit unusual in Green in that it has Reach but has a relatively small Toughness for its cost. Furthermore, even a 2/3 Reach for 2G probably wouldn't see much play in the format. So, in keeping with our other two examples, you really want to ensure Revolt will trigger before playing this card. And when it does, you gain what is arguably the most powerful secondary ability of all - you get to draw a card! Given that Green rarely if ever has access to these sorts of cantrip abilities, Silkweaver Elite is actually quite strong. There will no doubt be numerous ways to take full advantage of its great ability.

If these three Commons are a good indicator of what we're getting for Standard Pauper in Aether Revolt, it's safe to say this will be a great set for the format. We've already got several more Commons spoiled, and I'll be taking a look at some of those later this week. For now, if you've got thoughts on these three cards, let me know in the comments below.