Tag Archives: magic: the gathering

Plains and Forests Unite, part 1: The Decklist

Plains and Forests Unite!, one of my decks on EssentialMagic

I built this deck a couple of years ago, after I had reevaluated a couple of my multicolor decks and realized they needed to be mono-color. Out came the White and hybrid spells from my Elvish Piper deck, which then became mono-Green; out came the Green and hybrid spells from my Windborn Muse deck, which then became mono-White.

These hybrid spells, combined with other Green and White bits of my collection, became the “Plains and Forests Unite!” deck. The main philosophy? White’s life-gain meets Green’s might–a common theme for the Selesnya guild and for Green/White in general.

Combos and Synergies

dawnglowinfusion boonreflection
This combo is hilarious–Dawnglow Infusion allows me to gain double the life for the mana that was spent, and then Boon Reflection doubles that again!
wheelofsunandmoon safewrightquest
With Safewright Quest for land fetch and Wheel of Sun and Moon helping to keep spells rotating through the deck, I’m just about guaranteed to stay up on land counts.
knightofnewalara bantsureblade
Bant Sureblade gets bonuses for other multicolored creatures being in play; Knight of New Alara gives Bant Sureblade an additional +3/+3 (because Blue is also in its casting cost)!
wheelofsunandmoon eladamriscall
I love this little combo for being able to pull whatever creature I like to my hand, many times over!
grizzledleotau shieldoftheoversoul
Putting the Shield on Grizzled Leotau = indestructible flying blocker cat. (This is an LOLcat waiting to happen)

Other Cards I Love Using in This Deck

loamlion oversoulofdusk
qasaliambusher watchwolf
kitchenfinks safeholdduo
sigilofthenayangods chromemox
sungrassprairie templegarden


Any Changes I’d Make?

Since I haven’t kept up with new developments in White/Green, I need to research to find out if there are any new creatures I’d swap into this deck.

…And that, my friends, is where we’ll pick up next week, with some epic new research into the Selesnya guild and White/Green in general. 😀 Stay tuned!

Unusual MTG Creature Types, part 5: Shade

To wrap up this little series on unusual Magic: the Gathering creatures, I’ll end with the Shades, which are a small but interesting part of Black’s pool of creatures. As you’ll soon see, Shades give Black a little more combat punch than it usually gets!

What Do the Shades Do?

nantukoshade Almost all of the Shades work off the mechanic of paying a certain amount of mana to get +1/+1 till end of turn, like Nantuko Shade at left. This amount of mana can be paid as many times as possible, so you can easily end up with a ridiculously powerful Shade swinging at your opponent! (Black doesn’t get such combat-ready creatures very often, so this can give an otherwise control-based deck another way to win.)

Several of the Shades also manipulate mana in various ways, whether enabling you to search for it, giving you more mana per tapped land, or allowing you to sack lands to give it further +1/+1 boosts till end of turn. Other than that, there are a few scattered combat-aiding abilities like flying, regeneration, defender, fear, swampwalk and haste floating around the Shade creature type.

With 26 Shades printed thus far, most of them black (only 1 white and 1 red/black Shade exist), they can make a neat Black creature-based deck if one is so inclined. Their mana curve runs from 1 to 6, with most of them hovering around 4 mana.

More Examples of Shades

deepwoodlegate dungeonshade
lilianasshade perilousshadow
whisperingshade zofshade

All card images are from MagicCards.info.

Further Research: Complete List of Shades in Magic: the Gathering

Shade: Gatherer Search

Unusual MTG Creature Types, part 4: Ooze

Okay, all grossness and revulsion aside, Ooze IS indeed a creature type in Magic: the Gathering (even though only 23 exist to date). It’s a type that is not often explored on its own merits, but finds itself worked into various generic-creature-type strategies. Let me show you:

What Do the Oozes Do?

experimentone Oozes are all about +1/+1 counters, thematically speaking, even though their specific abilities vary quite widely among the 23 Ooze creatures printed. There are a couple with Deathtouch, one with Indestructible, and a few with cumulative upkeep costs, but even the cumulative upkeep costs have benefits resulting in +1/+1 counters. Depending on which Ooze you run, you can get +1/+1 counters for:

  • playing other, larger creatures (like Experiment One, at left)
  • sacking other creatures (like Gobbling Ooze)
  • attacking (like Predator Ooze)
  • tapping (like Experiment Kraj)
  • playing a black or green permanent (like Bloodhall Ooze)
  • playing any spell (like Manaplasm)

(There are plenty more abilities contained within the Ooze creature type which give you +1/+1 counters–it just depends on what you need.)

Oozes are mostly printed in Green, with a few Red and Black scattered among them; there is Blue involved in the casting costs of a few Oozes as well, though not many. The mana curve runs from 1 to 7. (There are also a couple of Unhinged joke cards that have the Ooze creature type, so be ready to laugh at some of their abilities!)

Other Examples of the Ooze Creature Type

bloodhallooze experimentkraj
gobblingooze manaplasm
necroticooze predatorooze

All images from MagicCards.info

Further Research: Complete List of Ooze Creatures in Magic: the Gathering

Gatherer Search: Ooze

Unusual MTG Creature Types, part 3: Griffins

As part of my “unusual creature types” series, I’ll be reviewing the Griffins today. I started off this post believing that Griffins were merely uglier, stronger Birds, but as you’ll see, I soon found out how wrong I was about them!

What Do the Griffins Do?

divinggriffin First and foremost, the Griffins are flying combat creatures, as expected, and quite a few carry vigilance and/or first strike as well. They are mostly 2/2, 2/3, or 3/2 creatures (though there are a few Griffins with larger powers or toughnesses than that), which make them fairly strong contenders against other flying-based creature decks.

But aside from their combat prowess, the Griffins have another feature: possessing some of the most random and unusual creature abilities. Here’s just a sampler of some of the stranger abilities within the Griffin creature type:

  • Pay a snow land to gain first strike
  • Sacrifice to deal 3 damage to target attacking/blocking creature
  • Can be recast from exile
  • If no enchantments are in play under your control, the Griffin dies
  • Bounce back to hand to return another Griffin from grave to hand
  • Sacrifice to destroy target black creature
  • Gets a +1/+1 counter for each damage you were dealt from an opponent’s source

In essence, many of the Griffins carry abilities from other colors into White, since most of the Griffins are White, with only a few exceptions (a few Blue and one Red/Green/White). It makes them an interesting creature type to play in a Tribal deck, and makes them also suitable for playing in more generic White or multi-color decks as well.

With a mana curve running from 1 to 6 mana, most of them hovering around 3 or 4, the 33 Griffins printed so far in M:TG can make a pretty solid White creature-based deck. Give them a try–they’re a very different flavor from Birds!

Other Examples of the Griffin Creature Type

abbeygriffin azoriusfirstwing
darajagriffin misthollowgriffin
mistmoongriffin peregrinegriffin
screechinggriffin zuberigoldenfeather

(All card images retrieved from MagicCards.info.)

Complete List of Griffins in M:TG

Griffins: Gatherer Search

Unusual MTG Creature Types, part 2: Orc

Continuing my foray into obscure M:TG creature types (begun last week with Sphinxes), here’s one that I bet many modern players haven’t even heard of: Orc. For that matter, many old-school Magic players probably don’t remember Orcs, either. But, as I’ll demonstrate, Orcs aren’t necessarily a forgettable or useless creature type–actually, they have some useful abilities!

What Do Orcs Do?

orcishveteran With only 20 creatures in the entire game bearing the “Orc” creature type, Orcs are a rare and interesting side of Red. Not quite as efficient as Goblins, Orc creatures are often used as support cards for general Red decks rather than being used in a tribal deck of their own. In fact, the most prevalent of Orc abilities is a hindrance–many of them cannot block creatures power 2 or greater, and some have conditional abilities to attack or block based on the color or number of creatures attacking or blocking.

But going beyond Orcs’ handicap, they provide a risk-based control strategy, just like Red likes it. Many Orcs allow you to sacrifice something on your field (a creature, a land, an artifact, etc.) to deal damage, get a P/T bonus to your creatures, or other bonuses. Others deal damage merely by tapping, and some sack themselves to deal damage or destroy lands. There is even an Orc that allows you to look at the top 3 cards of any player’s library (take that, Sensei’s Divining Top!).

Several Orcs are just 1 red mana to play, and the most expensive are Orcish Squatters and Sek’Kuar, Deathkeeper, both at 5 mana. (Mana isn’t necessarily an issue for the Orcs, but since some of them sacrifice land, it’s better that they cost relatively less.) This feature allows them to fit into generic Red decks with a little more ease.

Overall, the Orcs printed thus far offer Red decks some much-needed utility; they aren’t necessarily meant for combat, since most of them are 1/1s or 2/2s. But including a few Orcs may just enable your Red deck to do more control and resource management than it has before–you just have to be willing to take the risk!

More Examples of Orcs

orcishspy orcishlumberjack
orcishcannoneers ironclawbuzzardiers
orcgeneral orcishlibrarian

All card images retrieved from MagicCards.info.

Further Research: Complete Orc List

Find the complete list of Orcs on Gatherer: Orc Search

Unusual M:TG Creature Types, part 1: Sphinx

With all the popular decks built around ubiquitous creature types (such as Elves, Fairies, Merfolk, Elves, Angels, Goblins, Elves, Zombies, Clerics, and did I mention Elves? LOL!), many of the other, less-printed creature types can go by unnoticed. As a direct result of both number of creatures printed and “the new hot decks” being played to death in tournaments, most MTG players don’t often get to dig into these rarer creature types (which is what spurred this new series of blog posts).

Thus, I begin my “Unusual Creature Types” series with a personal favorite rare creature type: the Sphinxes!

What Do the Sphinxes Do?

sphinxofthesteelwind Basically, the Sphinx creature type is Blue’s answer to Angels. Sphinx of the Steel Wind, at left, is as close to Akroma, Angel of Wrath as you can get (all that’s different about her abilities is what colors she’s got protection from, and the lifelink instead of haste).

Aside from flying like Angels, however, the 27 Sphinxes printed so far in M:TG operate very differently from their White counterparts. Sphinxes provide a lot of card draw, offer a fair amount of synergy with artifacts, and have neat mechanics where you can name a card and then do something cool with that information (like Isperia the Inscrutable’s ability, seen below). Otherwise, Sphinxes can manipulate cards, shuffle and search libraries, mill opponents, or glance ahead at the top card of your deck.

The cheapest Sphinx so far is Vexing Sphinx, at 3 mana; the most expensive Sphinxes are 8 mana (both Sphinx Sovereign and Sphinx of the Steel Wind cost this much)–the mana curve is very similar to Angels. Primarily, Sphinxes are Blue, but a few splash in White and Black; they feature huge power and toughness (but, unlike Angels, their toughnesses are often larger than their powers). Sphinxes can definitely handle combat, but only a few of their number actually deal with boosting P/T or are given combat-centric abilities such as vigilance.

Overall, Sphinxes are a really interesting addition to Blue; they take the Angels’ basic combat numbers and add card draw and manipulation to the mix. I like ’em–how about you?

Other Examples of the Sphinx Creature Type

vexingsphinx isperiatheinscrutable
sphinxofmagosi ceruleansphinx
windreadersphinx sphinxsovereign

(Images of cards retrieved from MagicCards.info)

Further Research: Complete List of Sphinxes in Magic: the Gathering

Gatherer Search: Sphinx

Mental Magic

If you’re familiar with Magic: the Gathering and other such games, you know that usually, you come to the gaming table with a deck you built ahead of time, and you know generally how to play the deck so that it wins.

The only problem with this setup is that boredom can set in after a while. After you’ve played the same two or three decks against another player, it almost becomes predictable–you play this card, then this one and this one, and then in a few turns, you win. There’s not a lot to shake it up.

That, my friend, is where Mental Magic comes into play (quite literally). If you want an unpredictable Magic game that makes you REALLY think about the cards you’re playing, give it a shot!

How to Play

A game of Mental Magic always begins with a big random stack of cards and at least two players (though it’s hilarious with four or more). Each player draws seven cards to fill up their hand, then they choose who goes first (first player doesn’t draw). Then the game begins!

The basic challenge of Mental Magic: to play these randomly-drawn cards not as themselves, but as another card with the exact same mana cost. For instance, if I drew a Fog (with the mana cost of 1 green), I could not play that card as Fog–I would have to think of another card which costs 1 green instead, such as Noble Hierarch, Llanowar Elves, Rancor, Oxidize, etc. Once you have played a card name, you cannot play another card by that same name until the game is over.

This requires you to have more internal card knowledge, not depending on a decklist or an established strategy, but depending on your own wits. This is a great way to test how much Magic knowledge you have, AND you can learn from your group of friends as you play.

Now, from here, Mental Magic’s rules diverge greatly depending on the group you learn it from. There are several different rules sets out there, so I’m going to briefly cover a few of them under the following headings.

Mental Magic the Mike Flores Way

  • Players can play out of a single shared library or have separate libraries.
  • You can play any card facedown as a land which can produce 1 mana of any color.
  • Make sure to have a good mix of colors and mana costs, for the most randomized and fun game.
  • All lands should be taken out of the stack of cards beforehand, so they don’t get confusing.
  • Don’t play deck-searching cards, land-return cards, or cards that get stuff back out of the graveyard–these effects are too overpowered for Mental Magic.
  • Follow the Type 1.5 Banned/Restricted list.

Mental Magic: The Beginning

Mental Magic the Team War Zone Way

  • Players have separate libraries.
  • Some nonbasic lands may be allowed, and played as any other land card.
  • Basic lands are sorted into a separate pile and divided amongst the players–these piles are called “Utopia Libraries,” and these lands can be played facedown or faceup as a land which can generate 1 mana of any color.
  • When you draw as a part of your turn, you can either draw a card from your regular library or from your Utopia Library.
  • Any spell that targets a player’s library can target either the regular one or the Utopia Library.
  • When a card is discarded to the graveyard, you can name it as a particular card, but you don’t have to.
  • Certain cards’ rules texts have to be bent a bit for Mental Magic’s unusual format, such as Gaea’s Blessing, Demonic Tutor, Timetwister, etc. See linked rules document for a complete list and appropriate rulings.

Mental Magic Rules V1.21

Mental Magic the Steven Glowacki Way

  • Players preferably have separate libraries.
  • Lands can be left in the stack or taken out at players’ discretion.
  • Certain card mechanics, such as Domain, spells requiring certain land type, library searching, graveyard abilities, flashback, etc., should preferably not be played, since they can be too strong for the format or may not work properly.
  • The cycle of Wishes (Golden Wish, Burning Wish, etc.) should preferably not be included.
  • Be careful with mechanics like Cycling, Madness, and Morph. (See linked rules document for more on this.)

Laying the Rules for Mental Magic

Footnote: Mental Magic Strategies, and Why They’re Kind of Unnecessary

There are several articles out there discussing ways to build up a good stack of cards for Mental Magic, and what kinds of cards and plays to set up. For instance, Mike Flores’ Mental Magic: Basic Strategy article demonstrates a few basic things, and ChannelFireball’s Travis Woo discusses more metagame tactics on Breaking Mental Magic.

Trying to strategize is great, and if that helps you enjoy the game more, then go right ahead. But I think that actively strategizing to win a game of Mental Magic kind of misses the point. After all, Mental Magic’s not really a tournament, and it’s not really a real format of Magic (at least, not yet). It’s basically a way to expand and test your knowledge of the cards that have been printed, and it’s all up to chance what kind of cards you draw.

Yes, you can come up with some cool combos, very splashy effects, and even a game-winning effect on occasion, but that’s just icing on the cake. Mental Magic offers you a rare opportunity to learn from other players about cards you may have never seen printed, or to use 2 or 3 cards together in a way you would have never tried before. It offers room to innovate, room to try dumb things that actually end up working when they hit the table. It’s great just as it is; it provides a lot of laughs and a lot of camaraderie along the way, if you don’t get too caught up in trying to “win win win.”

Further Reading

Mental Magic @ MTGSalvation.com Wiki
Mental Magic Format @ Wikibooks.org

Graceful Shades and Lines: The Art of Rebecca Guay

Of all the art in Magic: the Gathering, many of my favorite card arts come from one artist: Rebecca Guay.

She’s well known throughout many fantasy gaming franchises, such as Magic: the Gathering, the World of Warcraft TCG, and Dungeons and Dragons, but I first became acquainted with her art through M:TG. I was immediately drawn to her use of subtle shading, thin lines, and overall soft coloring, plus the general subject matter of beautiful natural landscapes and graceful yet powerful ladies dressed in flowing, soft fabrics. All the pictures seemed like the kind of illustrations I remembered from fairy tale books, just right for some of the fantasy flavor that M:TG included in its worlds.

So, with this appreciation for her artwork, it seemed only right that I should honor some of my favorite Magic: the Gathering card arts by her in a blog post. Scroll through and see what I mean about “graceful shades and lines!”

angelicpage angelicrenewal
angelicwall atalyasamitemaster
auramancer calmingverse
devoutharpist dwellonthepast
elvishlyrist enchantresspresence
gaeasblessing haruonna
nantukoshrine oborobreezecaller
planeswalkersfavor predict
resuscitate samiteblessing
seedtime serrasblessing
silentattendant starlitangel
sustainingspirit travelerscloak
wallofwood wanderlust
wordsofworship yavimayadryad

For More Information

MagicCards.info (where I retrieved all the card images)
Wikipedia article about Rebecca Guay
Gatherer Card Search: Cards illustrated by Rebecca Guay

Favorite Magic Cards, part 3: Permanents

I enjoy playing permanents in my M:TG decks, certainly much more than playing one-turn-only spells–I like game effects that continue on past one turn, that help me build up strength, life points, etc. The following twelve cards help me toward that long-term-survival goal:

Angelic Chorus: Finally, a reward for playing the creatures with huge toughnesses! Indomitable Ancients, anyone?
Boon Reflection: Because gaining single-digit totals of life is paltry. 😀
Pristine Talisman: Hmm, tap it to not only get a mana, but gain a life. Fun with Well of Lost Dreams. xD
Quiet Disrepair: This is one of those cards you can use to destroy your opponent’s enchantment or artifact, or use on your own stuff to gain a free 2 life every turn. It’s a win-win!
Scourge of the Nobilis: Firebreathing and lifelink, together in one creature enchantment!
Shield of the Oversoul: I admit it: I play this because of the indestructible ability. Makes Green stompy creatures that much funnier.
Steel of the Godhead: The combo of lifelink and unblockability is AWESOME.
Story Circle: Because the Circles of Protection, as cool as they are, are only situational. THIS one covers the board.
Sun Droplet: Because it’s hilarious to watch your opponents grimace as you get back all the life points they knocked from you, one turn at a time.
Test of Endurance: I love this win condition so much I have a deck built around it.
Wheel of Sun and Moon: The #1 way to survive a mill deck’s onslaught. Also funny in a deck that draws a lot of cards–this way, you don’t accidentally deck yourself!
Worship: Just never block with your last creature, and make sure you have a way to quickly put out another creature on the fly, and you won’t have to worry about dying from combat damage!

Favorite Magic Cards, part 2: Spells

Building off of last week’s post about favorite creatures, this week I’m focusing on favorite spells in Magic: the Gathering. This list is much, much shorter, because I don’t play a whole lot of spells–I usually play permanents more than anything. But these eight cards have made the list:

Dawnglow Infusion: Epic life-gain for Green/White.
Dwell on the Past: Not only do I love the art for this card, but the ability to bring back 4 cards from the graveyard for 1 mana is very attractive.
Holy Day: Also known as “how to completely frustrate your combat-heavy opponent for one turn.” 😀 (I also like Fog and Darkness for the same reason.)
Kindle: This card’s strength ramps up over time–eventually you’ll be able to do 5 damage for 2 mana. And if your opponent is using Kindle also…well, the damage can get pretty silly. 😀
Lightning Bolt: Simple. Effective. Classic.
Lightning Helix: Being able to do direct damage to a creature or player, PLUS life-gain? YES PLEASE!
Rootgrapple: See how this says “destroy target noncreature permanent?” That means this card can destroy LANDS. Treefolk have Land Destruction. Awwwwwww YEAH.
Safewright Quest: Being able to search for a Plains on first turn is POWERFUL. This one card helps the mana flow in about 90% of my decks.