9/25/2013 LI: "Weapons of the Gods"

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This thread is for discussion of this week's Limited Information, which goes live Wednesday morning on magicthegathering.com.

Some things to keep in mind: Last Breath can trigger Heroic (target a 2/2 creature; it gains a counter and the card is countered), as can Pharika's Cure, Viper's Kiss, a ping from Boulderfall, and Time to Feed (try casting on a Stauch-Hearted Warrior or Centaur Battlemaster!). I'm pretty sure this was the intent of the design.

After playing the prerelease, I found the only removal spells that felt at all playable were Viper's Kiss, Voyage's End, Sea God's Revenge and Sip of Hemlock.

With the exception of Viper's Kiss (which was mostly just monstrous hate), they were all good because they were unconditional. I had a red deck in one of my pools that felt like a constructed deck and the 3 Lightning Strike plus 2 Magma Jet rotted in my hand as often as not. Bestow is how you win games in this sealed format and removal that can't take down a bestowed creature is not very good. It will be interesting to reevaluate them in the context of draft, as draft is a bit faster generally and doesn't come with an automatic bomb rare but my guess is you want the big unconditional over the quick tempo something like 75% of the time.

Something that Mr.Sutcliffe didn't mention that is worth talking about is counterspells. Perhaps he does not consider them removal (which is fair) but they were much more effective as such than most of the spells mentioned in the article. It was easy to slam down a quick threat and then hold off the opponent with the bevy of countermagic available until you could bestow it and win. Annul was an all star, punishing opponents who thought to take advantage of my nearly tapping out for bestow. I don't know that you'll often be able to draft enough countermagic and bounce for a really strong tempo game as they stand the chance to become high priority but it is definitely a strategy I will personally be trying.

I'm pretty sure you can't even cast Hunt the Hunter unless you both have a green creature.

After doing a lot of simulated drafting on a non-wizards site, I agree that removal in this format is generally clunky, expensive, or bad.  On the other hand,  you have relatively quick archetypes like UW heroic and bestow.  I think this was done intentionally, because they wanted to encourage us to use the Heroic mechanic, and having good instant speed removal would have discouraged that.  The result is that there are quick archetypes and very little defense to slow them down.  Heroic reminds me a lot of Bloodrush functionally, in the sense that you can go: two drop-three drop; then the opponent has a tough time interacting with you at that point for the rest of the game because every time you attack you could have a trick + heroic triggers, which makes low power/high toughness blockers look silly and there isn't much good removal.  Imagine if Gruul had bloodrush, but also counters, and other good blue tempo oriented cards!  Yeah, I don't think there's any doubt that UW bestow/heroic is the best archetype.

 

Other than heroic/bestow the only archetype I've had a lot of success with is mono-black devotion.  Even so, this deck isn't so much an archetype as it is a Gray Mechant of Asphodel deck.  In limited he is a real card, it's not too difficult to clog the board with 2-3 blockers, and have him drain life for 5 or so with devotion.  If you have multiples, he's just sick...basically you just have to resolve multiple black creatures and if you can keep them on board while casting a couple of merchants you just win.  But that is the only way I've found to combat heroic/bestow with a defensive oriented deck.  GR monstrosity is fine, but not really on par with the others.  I've also played an Izzet deck, which is pretty good considering blue has a lot of really good flyers, and red has the only good cheap removal in the format.  However, this deck is basically reliant on Spellheart Chimera to be good.

Really, I think it comes down to who can draft the best UW deck, which I'm happy with because UW is my favorite limited archetype anyway.     

I'd like to add to my previous post that between U and W, those two colors have 80-90% of the very good commons/uncommons.  White has good two drops, three drops, the best removal, and the best pump.  Battlewise Valor is very good and I haven't heard a lot of people talking about it because Dauntless Onslaught is even better.  Gods Willing would be a card in limited even without heroic, but with heroic it's almost a three-for-one, and it's the worst of the lot!  Blue has very strong flyers in this format and the counters/tempo cards in this format are well above average.  Also, UW has the best bestow cards.

Finally, Artisan's Sorrow and Fade into Antiquity are main-deck cards in this format, due to Bestow creatures.  It's something he failed to mention in his article, but they may be the best "removal" in the format.  Much like Shatter was good in Scars of Mirrodin, these are good because they get enchantment creatures, plus you know real enchantments/artifacts.  

Based on the prerelease, the format is curiously split-minded. On the one hand it can be very slow, enough for Heliod's Emissary and Celestial Archon to be bestowed and monstrous abilities to dominate the game.

On the other hand... there are loads of 2-power two-drops including one in every colour, and three 2-power one-drops! An Ordeal of Thassa on a Vaporkin, Favored Hoplite, or Battlewise Hoplite makes for a very aggressive start, as does chaining together a number of Akroan Crusaders / Deathbellow Raiders / Arena Athletes / Satyr Ramblers with a small handful of Titan's Strength or Ordeal of Purphoros has potential to end games spectacularly quickly.

It's a Limited format that simultaneously reminds me of Gatecrash and Rise of the Eldrazi, which is bizarrely strange and somehow awesomely fun to play.

alextfish wrote:

Based on the prerelease, the format is curiously split-minded. On the one hand it can be very slow, enough for Heliod's Emissary and Celestial Archon to be bestowed and monstrous abilities to dominate the game.

On the other hand... there are loads of 2-power two-drops including one in every colour, and three 2-power one-drops! An Ordeal of Thassa on a Vaporkin, Favored Hoplite, or Battlewise Hoplite makes for a very aggressive start, as does chaining together a number of Akroan Crusaders / Deathbellow Raiders / Arena Athletes / Satyr Ramblers with a small handful of Titan's Strength or Ordeal of Purphoros has potential to end games spectacularly quickly.

It's a Limited format that simultaneously reminds me of Gatecrash and Rise of the Eldrazi, which is bizarrely strange and somehow awesomely fun to play.

Lol, couldn't have said it better myself.  However, I anticipate the slower archetypes will become increasingly less playable the more people understand the aggressive archetypes and how good they are. 

I think the premise that removal will set the speed of the format in this case is incorrect.  Based on my "limited" experience thus far, I have found that many games actually play out fairly quickly as a result of a character creating an enhanced creature that the other player can't take down.  There are also a fair number of low-cost, effective creatures, with pump spells to power through blockers. I also think the article was mistaken not to consider enchantment removal as "removal" in this set, since there are a large number of creature enchantments, and the enchantment removal is generally better than the other removal.

It is certainly a fun environment to explore, as it is very different.  Right now I am concerned at how "swingy" the environment can be.  One of the good things about removal is that it allows you to turn around a game where your opponent has gotten out a rapid threat that you can't otherwise deal with.  With bad removal, you can't do this nearly as easily.  It thus appears that in many ways this environment is about being the first to put together a hero or monster that the other side can't deal with.

Slow? Maybe not so much.

I built a RW deck at the Saturday sealed.. I had several games that went along these lines.. and if not T4, then maybe T5 or T6 but then I just had more bodies so it was even nastier.

 

T1: Plains -> Favored Hoplite or Soldier of the Pantheon

T2: Plains -> Phalanx Leader  [ Swing for 1 or 2 ]

T3: Mountain -> Anax and Cymede [ Swing for 2 or 3]

T4: Land -> Full attack with Coordinated Assault and Dauntless Assault on Anax and Cymede and Phalanx Leader [ Swing for 24 ]

Aggro decks definitely exist in the format.  This isn't RoE, where spending mana on a level counter that didn't actually do anything on its own was sometimes a reasonable play.  The reason that removal is so bad is because there are lots of defensive early guys that control decks MUST use in order to make it to the late game.  Stuff like Guardians of Meletis and Asphodel Wanderer might not look any good, but they are vital.  They've struck a pretty good balance here where control decks can't ever really push aggro out of the meta the way they did in RoE, but I think they're pretty much always going to be tier 2: as long as people remember to prepare for them, aggro probably won't be doing a lot of winning.

Cards like Anax and Cymede only seem broken now because people don't understand how to play against them in a format with no early removal.

carrionpigeons wrote:
Stuff like Guardians of Meletis and Asphodel Wanderer might not look any good, but they are vital...

Cards like Anax and Cymede only seem broken now because people don't understand how to play against them in a format with no early removal.

Neither of those cards is good against Anax and Cymede. Guardians might keep you around for a little while, but the Wanderer is actively bad.

carrionpigeons wrote:

Aggro decks definitely exist in the format.  This isn't RoE, where spending mana on a level counter that didn't actually do anything on its own was sometimes a reasonable play.  The reason that removal is so bad is because there are lots of defensive early guys that control decks MUST use in order to make it to the late game.  Stuff like Guardians of Meletis and Asphodel Wanderer might not look any good, but they are vital.  They've struck a pretty good balance here where control decks can't ever really push aggro out of the meta the way they did in RoE, but I think they're pretty much always going to be tier 2: as long as people remember to prepare for them, aggro probably won't be doing a lot of winning.

Cards like Anax and Cymede only seem broken now because people don't understand how to play against them in a format with no early removal.

If bad defenders are needed in the format to survive, as you suggested, that alone is proof that the format is very aggressive.

As with any limited format, it's exceptionally difficult to be able to draft a deck that can go: 1 drop, 2 drop, 3 drop, burn, burn, burn.  That's not what I mean by aggressive.  What I mean by aggressive is dropping a two-drop, putting a bestow aura on it, and the opponent being unable to answer.  It doesn't matter if the aggressive decks win on turn 5 or turn 7, in limited if the format is defined by dropping early drops and riding them to victory, that's aggressive.

I think we're only beginning to scratch  the surface on how aggressive  this limited format is going to be.  Here's an example: No one was talking about two-headed cerberus before the prerelease, but double strike in this format is very good.  For example, something as seemingly harmless as turn 3 cerberus, turn 4 leaf crown dryad, is INCREDIBLY difficult for any deck in limited to reasonably deal with considering how poor removal is in this format.  That's merely one example, there are many others.

Presently, I think the format is defined by making big creatures as aggressively as possible, and I think as time goes on it will only get more aggressive.

carrionpigeons wrote:

Aggro decks definitely exist in the format.  This isn't RoE, where spending mana on a level counter that didn't actually do anything on its own was sometimes a reasonable play.  The reason that removal is so bad is because there are lots of defensive early guys that control decks MUST use in order to make it to the late game.  Stuff like Guardians of Meletis and Asphodel Wanderer might not look any good, but they are vital.  They've struck a pretty good balance here where control decks can't ever really push aggro out of the meta the way they did in RoE, but I think they're pretty much always going to be tier 2: as long as people remember to prepare for them, aggro probably won't be doing a lot of winning.

Cards like Anax and Cymede only seem broken now because people don't understand how to play against them in a format with no early removal.

If bad defenders are needed in the format to survive, as you suggested, that alone is proof that the format is very aggressive.

As with any limited format, it's exceptionally difficult to be able to draft a deck that can go: 1 drop, 2 drop, 3 drop, burn, burn, burn.  That's not what I mean by aggressive.  What I mean by aggressive is dropping a two-drop, putting a bestow aura on it, and the opponent being unable to answer.  It doesn't matter if the aggressive decks win on turn 5 or turn 7, in limited if the format is defined by dropping early drops and riding them to victory, that's aggressive.

I think we're only beginning to scratch  the surface on how aggressive  this limited format is going to be.  Here's an example: No one was talking about two-headed cerberus before the prerelease, but double strike in this format is very good.  For example, something as seemingly harmless as turn 3 cerberus, turn 4 leaf crown dryad, is INCREDIBLY difficult for any deck in limited to reasonably deal with considering how poor removal is in this format.  That's merely one example, there are many others.

Presently, I think the format is defined by making big creatures as aggressively as possible, and I think as time goes on it will only get more aggressive.

Erluti wrote:
I'm pretty sure you can't even cast Hunt the Hunter unless you both have a green creature.
opps! missed that. thanks for pointing that out

 

Satyr Piper can get smaller creatures to block bigger creatures and lock out an opponent from getting creatures out when a threat must be blocked.

I think we should come up with a name for cards that aren't multiple colors, but require different colored mana to use or activate them. Although they're not true multi-color cards, I almost consider them multi-color because of their nature. Chained to the Rocks is a good example because it requires a different mana base to be played at all. What if we call them "K cards" short for Kaleidoscope cards... because when you take a closer look at them, they're more colorful than they appear at first. What names can everyone else come up with?

cross color
off color

I still hold to what I said about the format last week: it won't be as slow as some of the mechanics imply.

 
I think the big question, which can't be answered yet, is about R&D's attitude on removal.  Is this weakening a temporary thing, to enable build-your-own-behemoth in this block?  Or have they decided that if counterspells "aren't fun", Lords/mechanics that sometimes boost your opponent "aren't fun", and trading Planeswalkers or Legends with an opponents' "isn't fun", then the next logical step is that kill spells aren't fun?  Personally I think it's the latter, but every time I've suggested this in the past people have jumped on me for not having a signed confessions' worth of proof.  So I'll just say "we'll see". 

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The problem with lords sometimes boosting your opponent's stuff was that it was confusing and unintuitive. Why should my lord help your guys?

As for removal, that's mostly to craft the limited environment. Though they have moved away from having super strong removal at common, as it makes early draft picks a little trivial. Constructed continues to have quality removal.

Amarsir wrote:

I still hold to what I said about the format last week: it won't be as slow as some of the mechanics imply.

 
I think the big question, which can't be answered yet, is about R&D's attitude on removal.  Is this weakening a temporary thing, to enable build-your-own-behemoth in this block?  Or have they decided that if counterspells "aren't fun", Lords/mechanics that sometimes boost your opponent "aren't fun", and trading Planeswalkers or Legends with an opponents' "isn't fun", then the next logical step is that kill spells aren't fun?  Personally I think it's the latter, but every time I've suggested this in the past people have jumped on me for not having a signed confessions' worth of proof.  So I'll just say "we'll see".

Frankly, I've already seen this progression too.  People tease me for undervaluing removal in limited, but I think almost everyone OVER values it.  My belief is that removal is only good if you can make a positive trade with it, either by getting a tempo boost from killing a more expensive creature with a less expensive spell, or by killing a bomb with a removal spell that was picked later in the draft .  Well, most people pick removal pretty early so the latter is unlikely.  Also, removal these days are generally only able to remove cards the same CMC as they cost.  For example, if the removal costs B it can only remove creatures that cost 1 CMC.  If the removal spell can get a bigger creature say it gives the creature -4/-4 well then the removal spell is going to cost 4B because most 4/4 commons are around 5 CMC.  You don't really get much of an advantage.  Basically, the only thing removal is good for in this format is if it is instant speed you can try for a two-for-one in response to someone uses pump on a heroic creature, or as a last ditch out against a bomb your opponent drew.  But most removal isn't much better than a common creature for the same cost, unless it is red removal that can also go to the face.  So those people 1st or 2nd picking mediocre removal spells are wrong IMO, better to draft an archetype, and stick to it.

Removal also gives a choice when multiple targets are avgailable

 

EyeballFrog wrote:

The problem with lords sometimes boosting your opponent's stuff was that it was confusing and unintuitive. Why should my lord help your guys?

As for removal, that's mostly to craft the limited environment. Though they have moved away from having super strong removal at common, as it makes early draft picks a little trivial. Constructed continues to have quality removal.

 

because the world environment is not centered around the players

@ZursApprentice: I have yet to draft, but Theros' removal looks terrible, except for lightning strike, magma jet and MAYBE dark betrayal. In other sets, it was hard to see which was better when comparing removal to creatures. In Zendikar block for example, disfigure took out some fast creatures and mana dorks used to power out Eldrazi. You could also use it to help small or medium-sized creatures trade with larger ones. That spell and made my mono-black vampire deck playable without adding red for burn spells. Theros seems to be a set that encourages two-color decks. 

Theros does not seem slow at all. There are a lot of removal spells, but some of them are expensive to allow players a chance to build creatures to where they can weather it. On the other hand, in Standard, there's more than one option for ramp, so those big removal spells may be cast earlier. I see the big removal spells being a 1- or 2-of sideboard card. 

@ZursApprentice: Another difference between Zendikar and Theros was that the high-end removal (eg, inferno trap) was worth playing main deck. In many games I played, spire barrage was worth five or more damage, depending on how slow my opponent was. 

Yeah draft is a lot different because you not only have to recognize what is best, but also what other people will think is best.  Taking your Zendikar example, Spire Barrage was fine, although imo still not pushed.  However, red was heavily overdrafted in that format as it seemed as if everyone want to test out the monored deck.  Black was even more overdrafted.  I got my limited rating into the high 1800's in Zendikar forcing UG, which most people thought was unplayable.  But in Magic the three resources are mana, cards, and time.  In limited, it's hard to attack time very precisely because it's more difficult to develop an extremely quick curve, so it mostly comes down to mana and card advantage.  It's easy to win, when you have more mana and cards than the opponent, and UG is the combination best at generating an advantage in those two realms.  I also recall tabled Kraken Hatchlings buying me a lot of time in that format.  It really differs from draft to draft and format to format, but I'd say in GENERAL players overdraft removal in limited, picking it first or second when they should be picking most removal around fifth or sixth.  On top of that, "there are no wrong questions, only wrong answers".  Removal never wins you the game, it only prevents you from losing.  It is only as strong as the strongest creature that your opponent has played.  If you're playing stronger creatures than he is then you don't have much need for removal, except to kill the random evasive creature or bomb.  The question how much removal do you want in limited is answered by saying as little as you can get away with.  It's a concession to the fact that you sometimes do need it, but I don't like decks with more than a few removal spells in limited, and I certainly don't like taking removal over building an archetype.  You need to build A DECK in limited, not just a collection of cards, and removal almost never helps you build a linear, cohesive, strategy.

Constructed is completely different, however.  Mass removal buys you mana bc your opponent probably spent more mana to develop his board than the cost of your Supreme Verdict, it gives you card advantage if you take out multiple threats, and it buys you time.  Also, in constructed the power level of creatures is so much higher than that of limited to the point where you really do need spot removal because there are some creatures you must answer or just lose.

Still, in limited as a general rule, I think people overvalue removal.

>Still, in limited as a general rule, I think people overvalue removal.

perhaps players are casious of opponents playing rare bombs

Matt_Holck wrote:

>Still, in limited as a general rule, I think people overvalue removal.

perhaps players are casious of opponents playing rare bombs

Of course, that's exactly what it is.

However, it's flawed reasoning because the removal in this format generally doesn't answer bombs very well.  Also, even assuming someone gets a bomb out of every pack (which is unlikely in my experience) they will only have 3 bombs in their deck.  It's better to try to draft a cohesive deck that can win before your opponent's bombs come out than to overprioritize removal with your first picks as answers to bombs your opponent may not even have.

In limited this will make a bigger impact.

but for standard, there is enough low costed removal to make the high costed stuff mute (rtr block/M14).

But I guess this is what they wanted...they already slowed down the Meta with over costed creatures, and spells.

I got beat to death by Vaporkin and unsummons in draft last night

Also why is this title so damn missleading? Weapons of the gods. I thought he was going to talk about the enchant artifacts. like Whip of Erebo's.

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