The Return of Talking Time

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  #61  
Old 02-17-2013, 03:13 AM
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Originally Posted by Mogri View Post
I just want to say that this is the best thread.

How much are you planning to cover?
I'll keep going until something else demands my time or I run out of things to say. Once I get past Alpha it'll probably be just one post per set, but I'm not sure yet exactly what that will entail.
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  #62  
Old 02-17-2013, 08:02 AM
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Blue's biggest strength is that it's usually always been the colour that can achieve the greatest amount of "tempo". Tempo, to try and describe it in one sentence, is about using your mana efficiently (alternatively, making your opponent use THEIR mana inefficiently).

The classic tempo explanation involves a player who has a deck filled with nothing but forests and Grizzly Bears (a 2/2 for two mana), while his opponent has a deck filled with nothing but mountains and Grey Ogres (a 2/2 for three mana). If both players played each other, the Grizzly Bear player would likely slowly get ahead: his deck features more efficient creatures. He has the ability to drop a creature on turn 2, and two at a time on four and five mana, while the Ogre player must hit six mana before he can drop two on one turn.

Counterspell is so good because it doesn't (usually) care how much mana your opponent is using. Whether it's a White Knight or a Shivan Dragon, it will stop it cold. Where blue excels however, is when they can leave a small portion of their lands untapped to counter spells, while using the rest to "win" the game. Few decks before more modern design could match blue's efficiency, often requiring your Armageddons (and other four casting cost +) spells to win, which played right into blue's gameplan. And, should the need to counterspell something not be necessary, there's been a long history of cheap blue card drawing (not as broken as Ancestral Recall mind you, although some are relatively still broken), from Brainstorm, Opt, and Thought Scour, along with more expense (but powerful) spells like Accumulated Knowledge and Fact or Fiction. All of which, of course, allow the blue player to dig for more counterspells and/or their win condition.

Speaking of drawing cards, the other thing that blue has tended to stand out in - as Sanagi mentioned - is broken cards. It's not just limited to the original Alpha; if you look at the Banned and Restricted list for the Vintage format (which allows you to play with the fewest restrictions), you'll notice that there are thirteen blue spells on the restricted list, compared to 14 artifacts - which include the full set of Moxen and Black Lotus (black is second with seven spells, green has three, red and white each have one. There are also three lands restricted).

(All the outright banned cards in Vintage are either ones that reference Ante, or ones like Chaos Orb that require you to do some athletics to use.)

Why? Well, the strongest cards in Magic usually all have one thing in common: they break a fundamental "restriction" of the game. Under normal circumstances, a player can get one additional mana per turn (by playing a land), draw one card per turn, and must pay the full cost of any spell they cast. While breaking one of these rules isn't enough to get you on the banned/restricted list of a format, doing it a lot better than other cards tends to, and blue has a history of "breaking" the rules, a theme that will show up as these series progresses. Needless to say, Ancestral Recall and Time Walk are classic examples of cards that snap these fundamental "restrictions".

Some individual card comments:

Drain Power: this card had to receive some errata thanks to the fact that Mana Burn no longer exists. The spell in its original wording, would only "drain" the mana from the opponent that the spell tapped; opponents would have the choice of letting you have that mana, or tapping it in response (and suffering one point of life lost for each mana unspent at the end of the turn). As that would make this spell useless now, Drain Power now empties an opponent's mana pool no matter where the mana came from.

Lifetap: a favorite early "combo" to use alongside Magical Hack.

Lord of Atlantis: Woe be the Lord of Atlantis in Alpha; while obviously a merfolk himself, the rules only allowed one "subtype" back in the day, so he was doomed to be just a "Lord", and not receive the benefit of other Lords of Atlantis on the table. The biggest tragedy, however, was that the only Merfolk in Alpha was a POS 1/1 for one. The Lord would eventually have his day in the spotlight with "Fish" decks that used cheap blue creatures (like the Lord) alongside blue's counter magic to create an aggressive deck that could stall until it had one the game, but modern Fish decks no longer play with Merfolk, instead preferring bigger (and better) creatures that are just as cheap.

Prodigal Sorcerer: Blue had a history of "Tim" creatures (named after the character from Monty Python and the Holy Grail), although they've moved into red these days. You could build a pretty good deck with these and Pirate Ships.

Stasis: No one liked Stasis, but it was a great combo with Chronatog, which I find delightfully goofy.
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  #63  
Old 02-17-2013, 08:09 AM
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control magic is still in blue, with cards as recent as gatecrash's Simic Manipulator.
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  #64  
Old 02-17-2013, 09:24 AM
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So like I was saying, I never played much control, so I mostly had experience playing against these cards. Goddamn Counterspell.

I *do* like the trickster stuff, and it's cool that some of it moved to red later. It's just the denial that puts me off of blue.

Individual thoughts:

By my time around Revised, Time Walk and Time Twister were already shadowy concepts spoken of in hushed tones, with Ancestral Recall just behind (not that it's not as powerful, but it seems less crazy to hear about). I think my uncle owned at least a couple of them (he also had a Lotus), but he didn't usually play them.

It's interesting that there's two slightly different cloning cards in this set (Clone and Vesuvan). Plus Copy Artifact as well.

I'd almost forgotten that "Enchant Enchantment" was a thing that exists (Feedback).

What with the creature power creep, Tims look kind of expensive now, but I remember them being played everywhere at the time.

I also remember Twiddle being a fun little annoyance. Good for pulling off a variety of last-minute hijinks.
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  #65  
Old 02-17-2013, 11:27 AM
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Originally Posted by TirMcDohl View Post
That ability has partially migrated to Red, with stuff like Act of Treason.
True, but those effects are temporary, in keeping with Red's theme of impulse. Actually, blue and red would also overlap in the theme of copying and redirecting spells.

Fork : Twincast : Reverberate
Deflection : Shunt : Redirect
(They also worked together with Swerve.)

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Originally Posted by Kirin View Post
So like I was saying, I never played much control, so I mostly had experience playing against these cards. Goddamn Counterspell.
I am so glad that I no longer need to be worried that I'm going to get my useful spells countered because my opponent has two blue open.
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  #66  
Old 02-17-2013, 12:31 PM
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I am so glad that I no longer need to be worried that I'm going to get my useful spells countered because my opponent has two blue open.
Yeah, I mean as much as I love being an asshole like that I've come to realize that mechanics that restrict and well, control, what the other player can do so tightly to the point where they can't do hardly anything just ends up frustrating the other player to the point where they want to punch you in the jaw. I never wanted to play my friend's Alchemy Lab deck just because it was fucking boring and absolutely no fun for me; not getting to do anything is miserable. Control styles in general are difficult to balance I feel in and outside of Magic.
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  #67  
Old 02-17-2013, 02:25 PM
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Also it was nice to start building 60-card decks again in blue, rather than 56-cards-plus-4-Counterspell.
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  #68  
Old 02-18-2013, 12:54 AM
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It might be interesting for you to post multi-color deck examples, particularly to illustrate how colors which work naturally together (like white and blue) can complement each other. Or to show how colors that ought to be totally opposed (like white and black, or red and blue, etc.) can be made to work well together. As terrible as I was at building decks myself, I was always leery of single-color decks because I was deathly afraid of being stymied for lack of diversity. Likewise, decks of three colors (or more, if you were feeling particularly nuts) posed difficulties as they were too diverse, and you could never rely on having the right combination of necessary mana. Although if I had to pick just a single color to play, it probably would be blue, on account of its myriad ways to wriggle around the standard means of play.

Also, it may just be my imagination, but it seemed like, at least in the earlier sets, blue and red were in particular mutually antagonistic. Blue had Blue Elemental Blast, red had Red Elemental Blast, and these spells were specifically designed to counter spells of the opposite color only. And I think Mirage (or possibly Visions, or possibly something even later still, though not by much) had Hydroblast and Pyroblast, which were basically the same thing, though perhaps with different casting costs. I guess white and black had that mutual antagonism going as well, but I liked it for the flavor it added to the game.

Anyway, don't mind me. It's late, and I'm probably rambling.
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  #69  
Old 02-18-2013, 01:10 AM
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Originally Posted by Wolf View Post
Also, it may just be my imagination, but it seemed like, at least in the earlier sets, blue and red were in particular mutually antagonistic. Blue had Blue Elemental Blast, red had Red Elemental Blast, and these spells were specifically designed to counter spells of the opposite color only. And I think Mirage (or possibly Visions, or possibly something even later still, though not by much) had Hydroblast and Pyroblast, which were basically the same thing, though perhaps with different casting costs. I guess white and black had that mutual antagonism going as well, but I liked it for the flavor it added to the game.

Anyway, don't mind me. It's late, and I'm probably rambling.
Don't forget Lifeforce and Deathgrip. I don't think there were any particularly overly antagonistic hosers in the old design. For every Conversion there was a Flashfires. It was just how the game was designed at the time. I can't remember the names but I'm pretty sure there was a blue enchantment that prevented Forests from untapping and vice versa (or close to it).
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  #70  
Old 02-18-2013, 09:33 AM
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I'm still not sure if Blue or Red is my favorite Magic color, which is why most of my decks end up as a mixture of both. I do know that Counterspelling/Mana Leaking(?)/Negating/Counterfluxing/Dispelling your opponents game winning threat is the best feeling in all of Magic.
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  #71  
Old 02-18-2013, 10:01 AM
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Originally Posted by Wolf View Post
As terrible as I was at building decks myself, I was always leery of single-color decks because I was deathly afraid of being stymied for lack of diversity. Likewise, decks of three colors (or more, if you were feeling particularly nuts) posed difficulties as they were too diverse, and you could never rely on having the right combination of necessary mana.
Well yeah, this is exactly why 2-color has pretty much *always* been the Magic gold standard, from the early days to they Guild things they've got going on now. Mono and 3+ can certainly work, but you have to be a lot more careful, in the former case to be able to counter hosers and in the latter to be able to do color fixing as needed.

Legends was an early expansion that really pushed on this though, with several single cards requiring 3 or more colors in addition to a bunch of 2-color ones. Pretty sure there were some good man-fixing gadgets in that and antiquities to help out.
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  #72  
Old 02-18-2013, 10:14 AM
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blue white control is the only true path. submit or be bound.
------
That said, a lot of the early mana generators were colorless (moxen not included), and that's what made cards like Birds of Paradise so valuable. It was one of the only cards that could reliably generate multiple colors. I mean yeah, you had stuff like felwar stone, but it took a while before there was easily available color fixing.

Oh, and dual lands. those helped a lot. Wish i still had mine =/
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  #73  
Old 02-18-2013, 10:36 AM
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Weren't dual lands kind of rare, though? I bought my fair share of starter packs back in the day, and I don't recall ever acquiring a dual land, like, ever.
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  #74  
Old 02-18-2013, 11:48 AM
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they were rare, yes.
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  #75  
Old 02-18-2013, 02:32 PM
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Yeah, the initial design idea was that if you're going to run a deck with the power of two colors you were going to have to figure out how to work it, since running two colors was a way to get around mono hosers as well as giving you the power of multiple colors that could cover for the other's weak points. Like Kirin said Legends was the first real big push to make multicolored cards, I'm pretty sure Legends was the first set to include gold cards period. That's also why the original original dual lands are like a million dollars now, they were so coveted because they didn't have "comes into play tapped" or "tapping for a color pokes you", and its also why you don't see the dual lands making a comeback. That effect is just too powerful.

These days playing two colors is just kind of a thing you do without thinking about it and it doesn't give you much of an explicit power advantage simply because the design philosophy has shifted so much over the years. But back then it was a power move.
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  #76  
Old 02-18-2013, 02:50 PM
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It sounds like single-color decks are pretty common, then.

I'm sorry for sounding so ignorant. I haven't really been into Magic since, oh, right around the time of Weatherlight, or whatever expansion came immediately after it. The additional rules and abilities were becoming a bit of a headache for me to manage (it seemed like new rules and abilities were being added with greater frequency at that time). I also felt like everyone I played against was getting pissed off at me for slowing down the game, because I wasn't as on top of what cards did or didn't do as everyone else, and had to take time to read, and re-read, and think, and... Also, the "feel" of the game seemed to be undergoing a change that I didn't fully appreciate. I like the older stuff, I guess. Kids, lawn, etc.
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  #77  
Old 02-18-2013, 02:58 PM
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I think you'll find that it would be a long time before Magic would really give players - all players - the "tools" to effectively play two and three color decks. Even Invasion block, which was probably the first real attempt to really push multi-colour decks, was still a bit too shy with mana-fixers.

But we'll get there eventually.
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  #78  
Old 02-18-2013, 03:03 PM
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I'm sorry for sounding so ignorant.
Dude, its totally okay. This thread is all about watching the design change over the years and teaching people stuff. I haven't played Magic with any real fervor in like 4 years but I still keep up with the design changes because game design is really interesting to me.
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  #79  
Old 02-18-2013, 04:45 PM
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For now I'm doing mono-color decks to explore what each color has to offer on its own. Beyond Alpha I'll probably just use whatever colors are interesting for a given set. I'm not planning ahead too much because half the fun is figuring it out.
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  #80  
Old 02-19-2013, 10:22 AM
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Originally Posted by Tefari View Post
That's also why the original original dual lands are like a million dollars now, they were so coveted because they didn't have "comes into play tapped" or "tapping for a color pokes you", and its also why you don't see the dual lands making a comeback. That effect is just too powerful.
Yeah, it's not even just an issue of raw power, it's the fact that there's no drawbacks at all. If you're using both colors of a dual land, even if you're just barely splashing one or them, there is absolutely no reason not to run four copies of it - other than the fact that they're rare and cost a lot of money. That quickly became one of the textbook reasons for restricting or banning a card, or at least dropping it from future sets, and still is today: if there's no conceivable reason *not* to put it in a winning deck.

One of the main "mistakes" in Alpha, which was admittedly due to not anticipating the whole game becoming a big thing, was not looking out for the inevitable "cash wins tourneys" effect of relying on rarity to temper the power of a card. If everyone's main source of cards was random packs and *ante* (which was a real thing in the early going), then taking rarity as a mollifying factor makes sense. When people are purchasing individual cards, it goes out the window.

Sort of. It's not like the company doesn't still rely on the power of the after-market to drive their prices. They just have to keep it from being so egregious that everyone gets pissed off when only $1000 decks win big tournaments.

(Man, for some reason I'm feeling wordy about a game I've barely played in a couple decades today.)
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  #81  
Old 02-19-2013, 10:42 AM
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Originally Posted by Kirin View Post
Yeah, it's not even just an issue of raw power, it's the fact that there's no drawbacks at all. If you're using both colors of a dual land, even if you're just barely splashing one or them, there is absolutely no reason not to run four copies of it - other than the fact that they're rare and cost a lot of money.
Not entirely true. Those are marginal cases, though.
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  #82  
Old 02-19-2013, 12:32 PM
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The thing I still hate about dual lands is that they're required to have any kind of consistency in a dual-colored deck. If you're running 2+ colors and trying to place decently at an FNM, then you need to invest in rare lands immediately.
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Old 02-19-2013, 01:48 PM
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Is that really the case? Back when I was playing a lot (mid- to late 90s, very early 2000s), Most of the people in my circle of friends ran two-color decks, and I never saw very many dual lands come into play. Granted, none of the people I played against were really into tournament play (maybe it wasn't quite such a thing at the time?), but it doesn't seem like it should be really necessary.
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Old 02-19-2013, 01:53 PM
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Sanagi are you going to talk about the downsides of the CCG model at all? I figure it'd be worth going in to and some of the talk is shifting towards it for sure.
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Old 02-19-2013, 02:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Wolf View Post
Is that really the case? Back when I was playing a lot (mid- to late 90s, very early 2000s), Most of the people in my circle of friends ran two-color decks, and I never saw very many dual lands come into play. Granted, none of the people I played against were really into tournament play (maybe it wasn't quite such a thing at the time?), but it doesn't seem like it should be really necessary.
It isn't as necessary if everyone else playing doesn't have them. The reason they're so important is because it's an increase in consistency without the loss of tempo. I'd say they're important at FNMs because people at FNMs will be playing good cards, and if you're stuck on the wrong colors unable to play your cards (which are presumably less-good than theirs if you're playing on a budget), then you're just gonna get that much more destroyed.
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Old 02-19-2013, 03:35 PM
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The problem is that dual lands should never have been rare, and it's about the only remaining unfixed problem from Alpha that modern Magic R&D still embraces.

I was thinking about bringing it up when we look at the set a whole, but in the very early days it was seen as a game where rarity could be equated to power. Rarity alone was considered a balance against cards like lotus or recall or bayou because even if they were degenerate they figured most play groups would one, possibly two of this level of card total, so they couldn't really warp entire decks and archetypes. The reason there's a rare boon (the healing salve/dark ritual/ancestral recall/lightning bold/giant growth cycle) is that Richard Garfield knew going into it that three cards for U was on a different level than gain 3 life for W. It's undercosted for symmetry, and since it's rare it was assumed it couldn't really break anything.

The problem, however, is a properly costed recall is an uncommon. Properly costed duals are still rares, and $20 rares every player wants a full set of 40 to deckbuild with. Because they're such workhorses good dual lands would absolutely fit better into the uncommon slot given that rares these days are supposed to be big and flashy and complex.
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Old 02-19-2013, 04:07 PM
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I imagine part of the reasoning is that keeping duals rare keeps people buying packs.
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Old 02-19-2013, 06:14 PM
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Alpha, part 4: Black

Card of the day: Contract From Below

Take a look, friends. Here is the most powerful Magic card ever printed. One mana, draw seven cards. You put the ownership of one of your own cards on the line, but with a new hand, you should have no trouble winning.

The reason Ancestral Recall is worth $1500 and Contract From Below is only worth a paltry $100(and later printings as low as a measly two bucks) is this thing called Ante. Originally it was thought that everyone would be playing the game this way, with each player wagering the top card of their deck on the outcome of the game. The trouble is Magic players were, and are, highly possessive of their decks, even aside from the fact that low print runs made Alpha cards way too valuable to throw away so recklessly. Even here, in the first set, there's a clause recognizing that some players won't play for ante.

Adding to the problems with ante, it's hard to imagine a worthwhile casting of some of these ante-exploiting cards, like Darkpact, that doesn't end with someone getting punched. In the future, at their most abusive, ante decks will go past "broken" to become "actually evil," and no well-informed player will even consider playing for ante. Needless to say, the mechanic won't survive Magic's first few years.

The concept behind Contract From Below will continue to be one of Black's defining characteristics, though: High risk, high reward. When you're willing to lay everything on the line, you have an advantage. You have options and power and speed that nobody else would dream of because they're thinking about consequences. They're thinking that some things are sacred - their friends, their family, their body, their soul. Black knows that true power lies in seeing past attachment to these meager details.

Mechanically this means that Black's cards are strong but have a tendency to backfire. Demonic Hordes will eat your lands if you don't pay its upkeep cost of three black mana. Lord of the Pit demands a sacrifice. And when I say "demand," I mean you have no choice in the matter. If you run out of creatures to sacrifice, the Lord will take a bite out of you. Playing Lich risks losing the game entirely!

Black easily has the best thematic flavor of the colors in Alpha. I mean, they're all good, but Black has such a vivid character that makes it fun to play, and the artists really rise(or should I say fall?) to the occasion. Demonic Tutor. Animate Dead. Unholy Strength. The kind of stuff that can really get the PTA's panties in a twist, which is the definition of all great art. Wizards of the Coast will downplay the influence of Satan in their products for a decade or so, then welcome back the demons with open arms once the PTA gets distracted by other things(and also once WotC has Hasbro's lawyers to back them up).

When you go Black, not only do you not go back, you just keep going Blacker and Blacker. The power increases and the knife's edge becomes sharper. Pestilence gets crueler. Drain Life gets hungrier. The Black mage is seduced by power, and may accidentally kill himself before his opponent gets the chance. And for an extra twist, a Black mage's worst enemies will be other Black mages, who laugh off Terror and Fear.

Alpha also establishes an evil twin relationship between black and white. There's White Knight vs. Black Knight, Holy Strength vs. Unholy Strength, Crusade vs. Bad Moon, and Serra Angel vs. Sengir Vampire.

As for the color relationships in general:
Black's despotism envys Blue's control.
Black's risk-taking matches red's impulsiveness.
Black's greed goes against White's fairness.
Black's courting of death is antithetical to Green's love of life.

Last edited by Violet; 02-23-2013 at 01:36 PM.
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  #89  
Old 02-19-2013, 06:39 PM
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Alpha Black Contract Necro
4x Black Knight
4x Hypnotic Specter
4x Juggernaut
4x Sengir Vampire
4x Dark Ritual
4x Contract from Below
3x Unholy Strength
3x Paralyze
1x Demonic Tutor
1x Black Vise
1x Black Lotus
1x Mox Jet
1x Sol Ring
1x Mind Twist
24x Swamp

This deck is an anticipation of the Necrodeck that will dominate the tournament scene in a couple years. The strategy is to flood the table with cards thanks to the explosive mana of Dark Ritual and the explosive card-drawing of Contract from Below. With luck the deck can be extremely broken, dumping handful after handful of nasty monsters onto the table. One of the Necrodeck's strengths will be its army of cheap, powerful creatures; I've had to settle for a menagerie of powerful creatures at a variety of costs. This is very subject to chance but if the timing is right they make a nice curve.

By "curve" I'm referring to the likelihood of having a strong play on all the early turns of the game. Turn one: Dark Ritual, Hypnotic Specter. Turn two: Black Knight or Ritual, Juggernaut. Turn three: Hypnotic Specter. Turn four: Juggernaut or two Black Knights. Etc.

Hypnotic Specter is one of the most feared creatures in Magic history. Although it is merely a solid deal on the face of it - an efficiently costed creature that's hard to block and has a strong "saboteur" ability - It is the perfect partner to Dark Ritual, costing exactly three and becoming a more critical threat the earlier in the game it is played. There was little question that every black deck had to play four Dark Rituals, and the "Hyppie" was always close behind.

Although it isn't Black, another creature worth singling out is the Juggernaut. Juggernaut is a great deal and it fills a niche that is sorely lacking in early Magic: the sub-five mana powerhouse. There aren't a lot of Alpha creatures along those lines that are even worth mentioning in the same breath(Phantasmal Forces?). If you were going to time travel to 1993 to play Alpha and (for some reason) just play solid Magic decks and not stock up on Black Lotuses, I would say invest heavily in Juggernaut and Mana Vault because every deck I've thought up for this thread has tempted me to play four of each.

I opted for Paralyze over the more commonly played Terror. Paralyze is an underrated card, as it is cheaper, hits a wider range of targets and invites the opponent to spend mana untapping their creature again and again, when usually the better choice is to consider it dead.

I've generally shied away from Black Lotus and the Moxes in making these decks because it leads away from structured deck-building and toward crazy brokenness, but I felt like it was on-theme to include them just this once. This is the sickest deck I'll make for Alpha, but at least it only works if you're playing for ante!
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Old 02-19-2013, 09:02 PM
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Serephine Serephine is offline
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Turn one: Dark Ritual, Hypnotic Specter.
I have seen this so many times playing against my friend's discard deck it makes me want to puke,
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