Archive for the ‘Around the Web’ Category

The Modern Age: Deck Tech – Vial Blade

June 17, 2013 Comments off


Modern is awesome. I have more fun with modern than almost any other format. However, I do have a couple of issues with it; I can’t play Jace, the Mind Sculptor, I can’t play Ancestral Visions, and I can’t play Stoneforge Mystic. I can play Cryptic Command, Snapcaster Mage, Thirst for Knowledge, Mana Leak, Swords, and Tarmogoyfs though! I’ve played a LOT of decks in the format (including every deck that has had something in it banned) and I love how the format is decently open. You can’t play whatever you want, but you can play a fair number of different decks. There are a lot of super powerful cards that aren’t seeing a lot of play that once either dominated their own standard formats or other formats such as legacy or extended.  I really wanted to take advantage of Hawks and Swords again so I got to thinking.

I remembered a deck that I had theory crafted before modern was even officially announced. I had envisioned a deck that played Stoneforge, Squadron Hawk, and Serra Avenger along with blue counterspells, Ancestral Visions, and Jitte. Once the format was announced and we eventually got the original banned list I dismissed the idea of ever being able to play a deck like that. During the first modern PTQ season one of my buddies was piloting an incredibly similar deck except it was more aggressive build featuring Geist of Saint Traft and Sword of War and Peace. It had problems keeping up with the card advantage of Jund, or the speed of combo decks in the format.

Since Jund and most combo decks have slowed down or become a bit more fair I feel that a deck like this has a chance to make a real impact. U/W/R midrange decks are doing quite well in the format and I feel that this deck uses its mana in a more efficient way while doing more powerful things earlier in the game.

Without further ado here is the list I’ve come to:

4   Misty Rainforest

2   Moorland Haunt

3   Breeding Pool

3   Hallowed Fountain

2   Seachrome Coast

1   Glacial Fortress

7   Island

1   Forest

1   Calciform Pools

24   Lands


4   Snapcaster Mage

4   Squadron Hawk

4   Tarmogoyf

12   Creatures

Other Spells:

4   AEther Vial

1   Sword of Feast and Famine

1   Sword of Fire and Ice

4   Thirst for Knowledge

4   Mana Leak

4   Cryptic Command

2   Sphinx’s Revelation

2   Steelshaper’s Gift

2   Vedalken Shackles

24   Other Spells


I’ll go over some of the individual card choices and some of the

The Creatures:

4 Squadron Hawk –  Ancestral Recall that you get to play for 2 mana or for free off the vial is AWESOME. I loved playing this card and I always will.

4 Tarmogoyf – Goyf is just the most efficient beater in the game and being able to flash him in to block opposing goyfs or smaller guys is incredible. He lacks evasion but he can block and smash when needed.

4 Snapcaster Mage – I’m playing great spells and Snappy lets me re cast those great spells. He’s the best with Vial in my opinion.


The Spells:

4 Aether Vial – This is the engine that really drives the deck. It makes all of your creatures free, instant speed, and VERY difficult to play around. It’s a great card and it hasn’t seen enough love in modern.

aethervial (1)
4 Mana Leak – It’s the best counterspell in modern for under 4 mana and I’m looking to play at instant speed so these are a must.

4 Cryptic Command – The best blue card in modern. I play 4 whenever possible and this deck can abuse every mode better than any other deck. Tap your team, bounce your land is honestly just as common if not more common than counter/draw in this deck.

4 Thirst for Knowledge – This is the basic draw engine of the deck. Discarding your 2nd – 4th vials for 2 other cards is INCREDIBLE. Drawing into more Cryptic Commands or Swords is even better than you think. Thirst for Knowledge is also better in this deck than most other decks playing it since it’ll turn your useless mid/late game Squadron Hawks into fresh cards. This also helps the 2 copies of Moorland Haunt pump out some dudes if you’ve ever run out of cards (I don’t know how but if it happens we’ve got a back up plan)

2 Sphinx’s Revelation – This card is a little slow and sucks to flash back in your typical U/W/x “control” deck, but in this deck when you’ve got free Snapcaster Mages it’s even better.

2 Steelshaper’s Gift – This is NO Stoneforge Mystic but it can get the job done. It’s a bit better than running additional swords since it’s whichever one you need more at the time you need it.

2 Vedalken Shackles – We play a lot of Islands and not a ton of creatures so having a great way to take them and whack our opponents with them is pretty important.

1 Sword of Fire and Ice – This card is so F**KING INSANE. It’s your removal, it’s your draw, it’s your protection. SofaI is a total babe and I LOVE being able to play with this card again.

1 Sword of Feast and Famine – I started playing when Caw-Blade first came out so I’ve got some fond memories of this card. This is the best sword by far, but it’s not the one you’ll always tutor for. It’s the most synergistic with the rest of the deck and really shows off how much better with mana this deck is than almost ANY other.


There are a few traditional U/W cards that aren’t present here and there are good reasons, I’ll talk about some of them:

Path to Exile – Path is pretty terrible if you’re trying to fight your opponent on mana so it’s not making it’s way into the deck.

Vendillion Clique/Kitchen Finks/Restoration Angel – They don’t cost 2 mana and Restoration Angel only interacts with one of my creatures (Squadron Hawk only needs to trigger once to get every ounce of value out of it).

Tectonic Edge – I actually feel pretty awful that I can’t fit this card in. I’ve tried to, but I can’t play both Moorland Haunt and Tectonic Edge. I’ve found that Moorland Haunt is slightly better since I want to give my self as many chances to connect with a sword as possible. I had a Goyfless version of this deck built and it played 4. It worked pretty well, except the deck didn’t play defense as well as this version.

Remand – I’m not playing much in the way of hard removal and I’m not SUPER aggressive, so I’m going to be mana leaking as it gives a more permanent solution to the spells I’m trying to interact with. Remand is an excellent card, just not so much here.

Why Green over Red? – Red gives us a slew of good spells, and we already had enough awesome spells, the deck needed a creature. Red doesn’t have a great 2 drop, which is what we needed. I contemplated Voice of Resurgence, but it makes white even more important, and I don’t feel that I’d be abusing the token as well as other decks.

This deck is extremely fun to play and has an absolute TON of options. I love U/W aggressive decks and this one is actually very good. If you guys and gals have any comments or suggestions I’ll be happy to listen and respond! Thanks a ton for reading!

Grafdigger’s Cage… Good or Bad?

January 17, 2012 Comments off

Dark Ascension is only a couple of weeks away, and preview cards are appearing daily all over the Internet. Most players (myself included) can’t wait until the Card Image Gallery on the mothership is updated each day. If you’re out prowling the web today, there seems to be a LOT of discussion about this card:

Some folks seem to think that this card was designed to hate the Dredge decks that populate the Legacy format. I do play Legacy myself, but I’m not going to add this card to  my Zoo main deck right away. Dredge can be dealt with already, and I’m not sure I want to go devoting any sideboard slots to it either.

TJ’s Online had a little discussion about this card earlier today. Online general manager Jon Lewis remarked that Grafdigger’s Cage will be a very interesting card to have in Innistrad Block Constructed. He’s also confident that the more casual FNM crowd will devote a couple of sideboard slots to it in their Standard decks.

Time will tell how important Grafdigger’s Cage will be. I’m excited to see what creative uses this card will have after Dark Ascension is released.

Have a comment? Let me know what you think about this card!

Dungeons & Dragons 5.0 Coming Soon!

January 9, 2012 Comments off

Exciting news has come for all D&D fans!

Wizards of the Coast has announced that the next iteration of Dungeons & Dragons is in the works, and YOU get to help make it! In this article, the new system is announced, along witht the exciting news that Wizards of the Coast is asking the player community at large to be part of the playtesting process:

D&D is more than just a set of rules for fantasy gaming. It launched an entire gaming genre and played a pivotal role in creating the entirety of the gaming industry, both analog and digital. The game has lived and thrived because it has awoken a spark of creation, visions of daring adventure, wondrous vistas, and untold horrors that pull us all together as a community of RPG fans. It is the countless players and DMs who have brought it to life over the years. The game is at its best when it is yours.

For that reason, we want your participation. The goals we have set for ourselves are by no means trivial or easy. By involving you in this process, we can build a set of D&D rules that incorporate the wants and desires of D&D gamers around the world. We want to create a flexible game, rich with options for players and DMs to embrace or reject as they see fit, a game that brings D&D fans together rather than serves as one more category to splinter us apart.

-Mike Mearls

It appears that the players will have the opportunity to leave important feedback and let their voices be heard. Wizards of the Coast wants to make sure that they’ll deliver an outstanding product, so let your voice be heard and tell them exactly what you think when the new system debutes!

It’s an exciting time to be an adventurer! I’ve already submitted my email for the playtesting phase of Dungeons & Dragons 5.0. If you’re a D&D fan, click the link above, and sign up for yourself. It seems that D&D 5.0 is bringing some great new adventurers into the world, and that leaves this author one happy Pixie. Happy Gaming!

Links to more D&D news around the web:

Cheating- Just Don’t Do It!

December 13, 2011 Comments off

A quick scan of Facebook pages and articles today shows that quite a few Magic players are weighing in on the cheating controversy surrounding Alex Bertoncini. It seems that the Star City Games Player of the Year has, in fact, been caught cheating.

You can see the video of one of his cheats caught on camera here.

Blogger Drew Levin has a very thorough write-up of the whole situation.

This author is finding the whole situation very discouraging. Why would the SSG Player of the Year resort to cheating? Cheating is one of the worst offenses you can commit in the game of Magic. It always gets you a big fat DQ from the tournament if you get caught. Every competitive Magic player should know that cheating is a really bad thing to do. Just don’t do it!

Some comments have been made that Alex Bertonchi didn’t get caught during the tournament, so nothing should be done at this point. Regardless of when the cheat was caught, the video is here to show what happened. It seems that the DCI has taken this fact to heart, and there is an investigation in the works. Star City Games even came out with a statement in regards to how they have been handling the cheating investigation. You can find that article here. 

This author has heard the phrase, “If you’re going to cheat, just don’t get caught,” many times. It seems that now we should all remember “If you’re going to cheat, don’t do it in front of a video camera in a feature match!” Epic fail, Mr. Bertoncini.

The moral of this sad story is that cheating is bad.* Don’t try it, especially if you’re a player at one of our events. Life is more fun when we all play by the rules.

* The only time you should even think of cheating in a game of Magic is when you draw this card.

Yu-Gi-Oh “Photon Shockwave” Details Revealed

November 3, 2011 Comments off

Konami has released details on the Photon Shockwave core booster release, which will street November 15th (originally announced at San Diego Comic-Con).  Top new cards will include Galaxy-Eyes Photon Dragon, with the power to take a monster with it to a distant galaxy; Rescue Rabbit, which can become a Normal Monster’s best friend; and D-Boyz, which can boost some of the most popular theme decks.
For purchasers of the Lost Sanctuary Structure Deck, the set will nclude ten new LIGHT monsters, Spells, and Trap Cards to power up the LIGHT monsters.  Cards that fit well with Generation Force, Hidden Arsenal 5: Steelswarm Invasion, and Gates of the Underworld Structure Deck are all included.

Packs of nine cards from the 100-card set will retail for $3.99.

Major Changes to 2012 Magic Tournament Structure

November 2, 2011 Comments off

Wizards of the Coast announced today major changes to their Pro Play organized play offerings for 2012. This is the third of a series of announcements designed to dramatically modernize and improve their organized play program, starting with the Grand Prix announcement and Planeswalker Points later on. These new changes are aimed at the World Championships, National and Pro Points.

2012 World Championship

From the official announcement:

For the first time since the creation of the Pro Tour, Magic: The Gathering will have a single tournament to determine the best player in the world: the 2012 World Championship.

To accomplish this goal, the World Championship is changing from a Pro Tour-sized event to an exclusive sixteen-person tournament. These sixteen titans of Magic will battle for a $100,000 prize purse at Gen Con 2012 in Indianapolis (August 16-19). The field will be made up of the following players:

  • 2011 World Champion
  • 2011 Magic Online Champion (determined at the 2011 Magic Online Championship held at Magic Weekend San Francisco)
  • Winners of the previous three Pro Tours (Philadelphia, Dark Ascension in Honolulu, and the second Pro Tour in 2012). Pro Tour Philadelphia champion Samuele Estratti is the first invitee to the 2012 World Championship.
  • The top-ranked player from each geo-region (Asia Pacific, Europe, Japan, Latin America, and North America) in the Planeswalker Points 2012 Professional Total who are not yet invited based on the above criteria.
  • The top-ranked players in the worldwide Planeswalker Points 2012 Professional Total who are not yet invited based on the above criteria sufficient to bring the total number of invited players to the 2012 World Championship to sixteen.

In 2012, a player’s Professional Points total consists of the Planeswalker Points earned at Pro Tours, Grand Prix, and the 2011 World Championships for a twelve-month period (see Premier Event Invite Policy for specific dates), so this will select the players who have done the best against the highest level of competition for an entire year.

“Think of the best Pro Tour Top 8 ever and then double it,” said Aaron Forsythe, Senior Director of Magic R&D. “The live coverage will be awesome as we showcase these players as the masters of the game. The 2010 Player of the Year playoff showed how Magic fans around the world got behind seeing the best play against the best.”

With live video match coverage each round, in-depth player interviews and deck techs, analysis from experts in R&D and the world of Magic, and more opportunities for fans to follow and support their favorite players through social media, the 2012 World Championship promises to be unlike any other Magic tournament ever.

“Under the current system, you can make an argument for several different players being the best in the world,” said Scott Larabee, Magic Organized Play Program Manager. “Is it the Player of the Year, who had the most top finishes but may not have won a major tournament? The World Champion, because that’s what the title suggests? A Pro Tour winner, because Pro Tours probably have the toughest field of players? We wanted a clear answer, and the new World Championship provides that.”

Further details about the format and schedule of the 2012 World Championship will be announced next year.

National Championship

Given the above, there will no longer be a higher level event for the National Championships to feed into, but that doesn’t mean that the National Championships to go away, thankfully. From the official announcement:

National Championships will no longer be feeding a larger global event. With the World Championship moving to its new model, as well as a growing need for individual regions to tailor their organized play offerings, it was necessary to separate Nationals from a larger organized play path. This change helps individual regions develop the right tournaments and events—from Wizards Play Network events up to National Championships—to meet the needs of their region’s player base.

“As the Magic brand grows across the world, Wizards has faced challenges in attempting to apply a one-size-fits-all approach to certain programs, and Nationals was one of those,” said Helene Bergeot, Director of Organized Play Programs and Operations. “It is up to the regional offices to decide on the size and scope of their countries’ National Championships, and we’ve seen that in many of those countries, the pride of being your country’s champion is a primary motivation for players.”

National Championships will be run at a Planeswalker Points multiplier of 8x, the same as Grand Prix. Along with the expanded Grand Prix schedule, Nationals provide a good opportunity for many players around the world to experience a large-scale Magic tournament and earn high amounts of Planeswalker Points in a single event.

Expect to see the complete National Championship schedule by April 2012.

Pro Points & Pro Player’s Club

This is perhaps the most disheartening of the announcement, especially if you identify yourself as a “pro player”:

As previously announced, Wizards of the Coast will be honoring all Pro Players Club travel, invitations, and appearance fee benefits at 2012 Pro Tours, Grand Prix, and National Championships based on a player’s level at the end of the 2011 Pro season. Pro Points will no longer be awarded at events starting in 2012, and the current Pro Players Club will end after the 2012 season (concluding after the last Grand Prix of 2012). Wizards of the Coast plans to replace the Pro Players Club in 2013 with a new system that accomplishes the goal of making sure the most deserving players are recognized through Pro Tour invitations and other rewards.

For 2012, all players qualified for a Pro Tour via Planeswalker Points will earn airfare to that Pro Tour. Players who win Pro Tour Qualifier tournaments will continue to receive invitations and airfare to the Pro Tour.

As with any new system, Wizards of the Coast will be evaluating the effectiveness of the new tournament structure and Planeswalker Points into 2012.

“We are making important changes to our organized play system,” Larabee said. “Planeswalker Points is a major step in this process, and it is important to better understand how the new system will impact the players. That gives us the flexibility to adjust our programs accordingly. While we’re in this transition phase, honoring the 2012 benefits is a priority.”

Added Forsythe, “As we see how the new system works when released into the wild, we’ll be looking at ways to make sure players who represent the game well at the highest level are rewarded for their dedication. The idea behind the Pro Club is sound, but we need to do some amount of reconfiguring.”

The Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year awards as they currently exist will end with the 2011 season. The 2012 World Champion will replace the function of the Player of the Year award. Wizards of the Coast is investigating a new version of Rookie of the Year award, as well as other new end-of-season awards that are not dependent on the outgoing Pro Points system.

Because the Magic Pro Tour Hall of Fame is tied so closely to Pro Points, Wizards will be adjusting the process by which players become eligible for induction and how the voting committees are determined. More information on the changes to the Pro Tour Hall of Fame eligibility and voting systems will be coming next year as we approach the voting period for the Class of 2012.

You can learn more about these changes, too, from a Q&A with Magic Organized Play Manager Helene Bergeot.


It is the opinion of this author that overall, these changes are not good ones – for the community, at least. We do have to bare in mind that at the end of the day, Wizards of the Coast is a for-profit company and they need to do what they feel is best for their bottom line. In a way, this is a good thing: if WotC’s balance sheet is better, it stands to reason that Magic will remain for that much longer.

In the same vane, WotC is a company with a strong, passionate community behind it. If they were to upset that community to much, it certainly is likely they could jump ship if unhappy. Then again, no matter what happens, many people simply continue to play Magic anyway.

That said, these changes seem geared toward the high competitive, more “professional” level players. And yet, what about those folks at home who enjoy reading and watching the coverage; checking up on their friends or their favorite player? Is the new Worlds make up really a good indicator of who the best in the world is? This author is leaning towards not. In addition, a part of what makes Worlds so special is the fan fare it receives between the opening ceremony, the pride of all the National champions, the coverage and more. This seems like a set back. Moreover, cutting the prize purse back from $250,000 to $100,00 is certainly a deterrent. Why would so-called pro players want to play in this event now?

With Nationals, it seems like these events will become more like Grand Prix events with little else changing, which is a good thing. However, while the pride of being the National Champion of one’s country is important, there will certainly feel like something is missing when this event doesn’t qualify one for Worlds or any other event, for that matter.

Finally, we have perhaps the biggest blow to the pro player community – the removal of Pro Points and the Pro Player’s Club. It’s good that WotC has decided to honor current commitments. However, the future looks bleak. It is a surprise that Pro Tour Qualifiers – now the best shot at qualifying for the Pro Tour (which there is technically only three per year now!) – will still have the air fare award; and even though WotC claims that they plan to allocate the resources into some other kind of reward program, it will never be the same and it stands to reason that the rewards will not favor the players so much. Again, this begs the question, why aspire for pro play at all anymore? Why not just play in a Grand Prix, win some money and call it a day?

Overall, a sever blow to the pro community the lasting effects of which are, naturally, unknown at this time. In the end, the aspiration aspect of the game of Magic is, in this author’s opinion, a very important aspect to what makes Magic the Gathering so incredibly great and sets it apart from every other collectible card game on the market place. Hopefully, Wizards has not forgotten this.




Dark Horse Planning New Star Wars Comics

October 31, 2011 Comments off

Comic book publisher Dark Horse has announced, according to, plans for several new Star Wars comic book titles including a Jedi origin store and a death story for popular character Boba Fett. Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi will examine a previously unexplored time period taking place some 25,000 years before the events in the famous six Star Wars films. This new series is slated to debut in February.

The events following the death of Boba Fett will be released in Star Wars: Blood Ties—Boba Fett is Dead.

The next Knight Errant title, the five-issue arc Star Wars: Knight Errant—Escape, will launch in June 2012.

Star Wars: Darth Vader and the Ghost Prison, a five issue miniseries will launch in May 2012.  The setting is a year after Revenge of the Sith, and in addition to Darth Vader, characters include Moff Trachta, who plays a key role.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic—War will launch on January 11, 2012.  It’s set during the war between the Republic and the Mandalorians, in which the Jedi are involved, and is being positioned as an entry point for readers interested in the Star Wars universe.

Remember everyone, if you’re a comic book fan, you can order these books and many more from TJ Collectibles! Subscribe with us and have your books bagged & boarded for you and ready to read every week! All you have to do is sign up. It’s that easy! Please visit our brick-and-mortar store for more details. You can also manage your TJ Collectibles comic book subscription with Comixology!

Martin Juza Takes Down Grand Prix Hiroshima

October 31, 2011 Comments off

Magic Grand Prix Hiroshima is now in the books. After 18 rounds of swiss (including the top eight), Czech Martin Juza is the Grand Prix Hiroshima 2011 champion, having bested Kouichi Tanaka, Rin Satou and Takahiro Shiraki in the finals with his Green & White Token-based deck.

Click the links below for the official coverage. Plus, the top eight deck lists!

Day Two Coverage

Day One Coverage

Top 8 Deck Lists

Top 8 Player Profiles

New to Magic the Gathering? Learning to Play is Easy!

October 26, 2011 Comments off

Have you ever wondered about Magic the Gathering? Wanted to learn how to play, but thought it was to hard? Well, put those fears to rest!

Magic the Gathering, produced by Wizards of the Coast, is a fantastic game of high fantasy in which the player assumes the role of a powerful Planeswalker in the battle over Dominaria. But that’s just the beginning. Magic is a highly strategic, in-depth and deeply rewarding card game. Oh, did we mention super fun, too! Moreover, contrary to popular belief, is actually very easy to learn but, like Poker, may take a lifetime to master.

So, curious yet? Well, we can help! Come on down to TJ Collectibles in Milford, MA any time during normal business hours and we will be happy to teach you how to play. In addition, for those who are new to the game, to get you started we will give you a 30-card, introductory deck for FREE. Plus, you can visit us at any one of the conventions at which TJ Collectibles is present running events and learn to play there, as well (currently New York Comic Con & PAX East).

In addition, all of our local Magic events are open to the public. Come on down any time and get a first-hand view into what playing Magic is really like and hang out with tons of awesome, like-minded individuals.

Finally, there are all kinds of resources in place to assist in learning to play. In fact – and perhaps among the most important – Wizards of the Coast has extensive resources for new, would-be Magic players:

Wizards of the Coast – Learn to Play Center

Learn to Play Demo & Interactive Videos

Also, we have a plethora of resources & links on this very website! Please check them out.

Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions about this awesome game, too!


Premium Deck Series Graveborn Packaging Revealed

October 25, 2011 Comments off

Greetings dear readers! The packaging for the up coming release of Premium Deck Series: Graveborn has been revealed! No, your eyes do not deceive you: that IS an Entomb you see!

Description, courtesy of Wizards of the Coast:

Legions of corpses await your sinister commands. This 60-card, all-foil deck entombs, exhumes, and reanimates some of the most powerful Magic creatures from all five colors of mana. Harvest your graveyard for an assortment of these face-beaters as you walk over a field of bones to claim your victory.


  • 60-card premium foil deck, including 8 rare cards
  • Exclusive Spindown life counter
  • Foil deck box
  • Strategy insert
  • Magic “learn to play” guide

Deck Design and Development: David Humpherys
Release Date: November 18, 2011
MSRP: $34.99

Remember, you can preorder this awesome product from us online. Just click here!


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