Magic the Gathering “Competitive” EDH Primer: Kangee, Aerie Keeper UW Bird Tribal, Don’t worry just peck their eyes out

Yes, I can’t believe that this is happening either. It dawned on me that while I claim this is a blog is about like 7 different card games, we only ever talk about Yugioh (mostly due to the fact that Yugioh is easy to write about). So in an attempt to try something completely different I’m going to go into way too much detail about my only EDH/Commander deck Kangee, Aerie Keeper which is essentially Blue/White Bird tribal.

 

Why of all the possible EDH generals are you playing this?

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So despite having access to many Magic cards, this became my only EDH deck to not get scraped/sold when my local meta became nothing, but Storm and Infinite Combos. While I had many decks at one point this is somehow only deck I somehow really cared for.

What does this thing actually do and why should I remotely care?

Kangee, Aerie Keeper is a 2 generic, 1 white, 1 blue legendary bird wizard (high ho erratas) that reads Kicker 2x, when Kangee enters the battlefield put x feather counters on it if it was kicked (an additional mana cost you can choose to pay). Other birds get +1/+1 for each feather counter on Kangee (Erratas reee).

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So what does this mean? Kangee is essentially an anthem effect for birds. The issue is that in order to gain any benefit you have to pay a minimum of 8 mana to get a mere +1/+1. Now to be honest this is a pretty good effect if you actually have the mana. I’ve cast Kangee where x was 6 before (which gave my birds +6/+6). While this cost a whopping 12 mana it did create a dangerous board. Kangee is a cool anthem that gets better the later in the game, which is only hindered by the fact that Blue/White are terrible colors for ramp…

Now wait a second here… Isn’t Derevi, Empyrial Tactician a Bird Wizard too? Isn’t he an infinitely better commander in far better colors ???

Yes, that’s all true. Derevi is a good commander that’s also a bird. He also gives access to the birds in Green (one of which we all know about and many others that we don’t). Why don’t I just play Derevi instead? Well think for a moment about the type of mindset that makes one consider playing BIRD tribal at all. If I said I came here with the aspiration of winning that would be a boldface lie.

 

Strengths and Weaknesses of Birds

To be fair birds aren’t a bad tribe. Flying is and will always be a good keyword, giving every bird  essentially pseudo-unblockable. Furthermore, as a result of being fairly common in world-building there are tons of these darn things.

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Another major strength of this deck is that absolutely no one will deem you enough of a threat to waste resources on in the early to mid game. The target should only appear on your head after who’ve hopefully assembled a flock, played an anthem and hit one player for enough damage that they will likely lose the game. After which a board wipe will happen and you won’t be able to recover because you’re playing birds…

And thus we reach the first (of many) weaknesses of this tribe. Birds are completely wrecked by any sort of wrath (board-wipe) effect, which are unfortunately very common in the EDH format. Furthermore, unlike most magic tribes the actual bird specific support cards are beyond sub-par. Here’s a quick example…

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The stats of almost every bird are also pathetically weak as if to add insult to injury. So how do we get anywhere with a tribe of non-synergistic weak creatures?

 

A Clear Bird Strategy

In order to survive the horrible situation you’ve knowingly put yourself into by playing birds you need a solid strategy that makes the best use of these fowls. For example, I play a very low to the ground (hah!) aggro deck that uses very low cost birds and many high-end anthem effects. The creatures I use are typically 2-3 drops like Welkin Tern and the anthem effects are 3-5 drops like Gravitational Shift. I have tried multiple variants of bird tribal and would not claim my current build to be the best one. I’ll discuss some more variants later on.

 

Staple Birds 

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Aven Mindcensor

In a sky of creatures barely above your 5th draft pick, an actually good bird soars above the average mediocrity of the flock. This is one of the only birds in the game that’s actually a good creature worthy of competitive play. Aven Mindcensor pretty much stops your opponents from searching their decks and can be flashed in allowing you to hold up counter-spell mana (You are a Blue deck after all). This card does everything you could possibly want other than hit for big.

Thrummingbird

This card is really good in combination with many cards in the deck. It adds counters to Kangee, Door of Destinies and Soulcatcher’s Aerie. While normally just a 1/1 for 2 mana it synergies very well with many other cards.

Warden of Evos Isle 

It makes your birds cost less. By bird standards this thing is amazing. Need I say more?

Keeper of the Nine Gales

This one is hard to gauge. On paper its effect is adequate, tap it and 2 other birds to bounce literally anything. The issue is that in practice, this means that you’re not attacking with 3 birds…

Mirror Entity

While not a bird technically, this card is on the short list of ways that you can actually kill someone with this deck. Use its effect, make your flock have actually respectable stats and then hit one player for big. This is as close to win condition as we’re going to get people.

 

Staple Enchantments, Artifacts, Sorcery/Instants (Sort of)

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Always Watching

How are we going to play to the Alfred Hitchcock “Birds” theme if the flock isn’t always watching?! This makes it so your birds can attack and block (in theory). It’s also another solid anthem effect.

Marshal’s Anthem

So after your birds inevitably die a painful death and you have nothing to your name, this card is one of the best ways to revive your crew and prepare for another attack on the next turn. Also anthems for the win.

Soulcatcher’s Aerie

This is an absolute gem of a card. It turns your birds dying into a positive as every subsequent bird you cast becomes larger and larger. I’ve gotten 8 counters on this card before which made every bird I top-decked an actual threat. It’s slow in the early game, but amazing late game.

Favorable Winds

It’s a 2 cost anthem for birds…

This is quite frankly amazing.

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I don’t need to explain why EDH staples like Sol Ring and Sensei’s Divining Top are in this deck. If you have them, you put them in every Commander deck…

Skullclamp

Another card that makes the death of your birds hurt less. There are also many birds with 1 toughness you can just kill to draw more cards (until you start stacking anthem effects ofc).

Obelisk of Urd/Door of Destinies

I play Obelisk of Urd over Door of Destinies (gasp!) because I like the immediate +2/+2 boost over the eventual high end boost of the Door. Both do the same thing essentially as an artifact anthem though.

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Migratory Route is the only “staple” here. These are just some of the cards you can play that I find acceptable (or the case of Sphinx’s Rev actually good). I highly recommend Counterspells to protect your birds though.

Well time to stop beating around the nest, here is my actual deck:

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This is by no means the best (or likely even decent) way to build the deck. My greatest success is usually just killing one player before running out of resources or hitting one player for big damage. I do enjoy this deck (more than any normal person should) because once you get the chain of anthem effects going it’s very satisfying to see just how big you can grow a tiny little Storm Crow.

Here are some other ideas I had for the deck.

 

Other Potential Strategies

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Big Bird(s)

You could drop the low cmc birds and focus on ramping into huge birds instead. Some of these creatures actually have decent stats/effects. Aven Fateshaper is efficient card filtering and Aven Brigier is a cheaper anthem than Kangee (he also rewards using bird soldiers).

Birb Tokens

Other than Migratory Route, there are many cards that make bird tokens (more than I listed ofc). With Eyes in the Skies and Scion of Vitu-Ghazi you can make a flock of tokens to attack the enemy. Playing tokens also gives you access to the anthem Intangible Virtue and the wrath protection using cards like Rootborn Defenses (which also makes you even more bird tokens!).

Morph Synergy

While I didn’t have any to pictures, there are many birds with Morph that also care about you flipping cards face-up. Cards like Aven Liberator for example give protection effects when flipped up. One appeal to this play style is that it might be fun to play multiple Morph creatures. The caveat is this that is likely even weaker than my current deck xD

Ishai, Ojutai Speaker

I honestly forgot this was a card until I added it last night. It could be a good general, especially since the partner mechanic can give us access to green and thus ramp! That being said it might lead us down the long and dark path to just being discount awful Derevi deck (my greatest of fears).

Alright, I’ve discussed this more than anyone ever should have.

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Thanks for reading as usual (if anyone could manage to get this far)

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Is it expensive to play Meta? (In Yugioh)

Disclaimer: Submitted by a friend referring to a regional BEFORE Zoodiac was released. I think the story holds true even more so now.

 

Once again, Yugioh players await the release of a new pack that completely redefines the meta as we know it. And once again, the rarity of the cards for that particular archetype are among the hardest to obtain, and priced the highest on preorders. For a deck that already mandates a minimum investment of $400 of cards both in the main and extra deck, the recent revelation that 3 of the core cards in Zoodiacs are secret rare certainly do not offer much resolve to those looking to play the deck, myself included. The deck has shown extreme success in the OCG, a likely precursor to what will happen in the TCG. Unless Konami issues an emergency banlist, similar to what they did during PePe (Performapal Pendulums), the cards will likely maintain their $50+ value and the deck cost will sit at around $600-800. For anyone, this is an enormous sum of money to put aside for one deck, especially when metalfoes and ABCs cost as little as $200-300 to build. Although it is, there are definitely ways to minimize the initial investment and still have decent success. You can still play meta, at a discounted price, as long as you are willing to accept that you will lose some matches because you don’t have the expensive cards to win.

 

Personal Example 1: Philadelphia Regional with Metalfoes (No desires, no barriers, no strikes).

 

I played Philadelphia Regional with a Metalfoes list as seen below. Granted I borrowed most of the deck (Thank you to player who loaned me the cards), I was able to be successful (initially) without pot of desires, dimensional barrier, or solemn strike in my decklist. By the end of round 5, I was undefeated with a record of 5-0 against 1 Brilliant ABC and 4 mirror matches. Although every single one of my opponents activated pot of desires at least twice during each match, I was still able to edge out my opponent because of my conservation of resources and deep knowledge of my deck. Despite them generally having +1 or +2 advantage due to desires, or stopping me for an entire turn with strike/dbarrier, I was able to play around it. I instead played a very Orichalc/Mithrilium/Alkahest turbo version, which utilized my monsters as traps in place of dbarrier and strike. There were plenty of times where I would have won sooner if a summoner’s art was a strike/barrier/desires instead, but I was still able to make it work. At least until the later rounds.

 

Rounds 6-9 were an absolute nightmare. Round 6 was against an extremely rude mermail frog player who attempted to blatantly cheat me on 4 separate occasions. Game 1 he opened double toad moulinglacia (ban soul charge pls) so I scooped before he could see what I was playing. Game 2 I bricked and he opened with gaios, the equip spell that negates spell cards, and moulinglacia. He tried to attack for game with moulinglacia, but I reminded him gaios had xyz material attached to him and he couldn’t win that turn (despite saying he played the deck for years and is the best mermail player ever). He then tried to use swap frogs bounce effect twice in one turn, and tried to scoop my cards for me when he tried to attack with gaios for game when I had bounced moulinglacia the previous turn, rendering him unable to conduct his battle phase. In the end, I grinded enough to make Vermilion with gofu and cleared his board to put him at 4k life. He topdeck’d soul charge and trish’d me, but I drew eccentric and was able to pop his trish and swing for game. In this case, the presence of strikes and barriers didn’t matter, but desires certainly would have helped me come back game 2 quicker and not get sucked into time, leaving the match in a draw.

 

Rounds 7-9  truly proved the power of expensive staples. Round 7 my opponent outgrinded me in the mirror because he could desires twice to gain more advantage than I could, and Round 8 my opponent had barrier and strike, calling fusion and then striking my pendulum summon in my last attempt to make a play. Had he been playing any other card, I would have been able to steal it from him. However, the true power of these staples spoke for themselves, and I couldn’t win.

Round 9 my opponent opened infinity kirin and I had no way of outing it easily without strike, so I proceeded to lose that game as well due to low advantage.

 

The same scenario occurred with my budget ABC deck. I ran it at Yugioh day at Alternate Universes, a pretty competitive locals, opting to play floodgates and chalices over dbarriers, desires and strikes. I ultimately finished top 8 and received a token, but the two matches I lost were because I didn’t have those staples, and my opponent had them instead. The advantage they bring is just too strong to pass up.

 

What started out well, proved that at the highest level, the fact remains that expensive staples will outright win you games. Any top 8, 16, 32 YCS or regional decklist will reflect that. You can still be competitive, but you will never be able to consistently perform because the fact is you’re at a disadvantage. Unfortunately, the same rule applies to anti-meta decks this upcoming format. As of right now, Zoodiacs will ultimately dominate the format-and the market-until nationals. That doesn’t mean you can’t build anti-meta decks, but if you do, they require the expensive staples to be relevant. Unfortunately, this is not a format for budget players. If you’re a budget player reading this, I’m sorry to say you should take a break until after nationals. Hopefully everything will cool down by then, or just suck up the initial cost and sell the strikes and barriers before nationals to minimize loss. Either way, it’s going to take a huge chunk out of your bankroll.

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Yugioh: Why Zoodiac is not PePe and will not be hit by an Adjusted Banlist

As many Yugioh players open cases of the new Raging Tempest set to build the new tier 0 Zoodiac deck, there is a small group who fears that the same thing will happen as last year with the PePe (Performage/Performapal) deck. Konami in order to prevent a tier 0 format released an adjusted banlist that forbid/limited the key cards in the deck roughly two weeks after the release of Breakers of Shadow. Thus, players who invested in the deck lost a large amount of money and faith in the game was momentarily challenged. I for one, do not see this happening again and would like to briefly explain why.

 

PePe was a Mistake Caused by Unfair Card Interactions

One of the key aspects of PePe was the interaction between Performage Plushfire and the destruction enablers Luster Pendulum, the Dracoslayer/Peformapal Pendulum Sorcerer. Destroying Plushfire for value allowed the player who used them to go a large amount of card advantage from only 2 cards. In addition  Performage Trick Clown and Damage Juggler both fed into this strategy by offering further card advantage through repeated xyz-summoning. You might be asking now “isn’t this just a worse version of Zoodiac?” You might also be asking “isn’t Ratpier much worse since it’s a 1 card combo as opposed to a 2-card combo?” Well therein lies a key difference between the 2 decks. The pay off of the PePe deck was infinitely better than that of Zoodiac (at the time of its release). Pepe made an end board of Cyber Dragon Infinity (and in the OCG Number 16: Shock Master). Despite all of its strength Zoodiac Drident is not as powerful as Cyber Dragon Infinity as negating an effect can likely prevent a player from boardwiping (Dark Hole) which is the easiest way to punish spamming the board.

You now be asking why I started this by saying that PePe was a mistake. Well I posit that almost none of these cards were intended to work with each other. Performages and Performapals despite their similar naming convention only interact with the card Bubble Barrier, otherwise both are separate archetypes. Luster Pendulum, a vanilla enabler for pendulums while being generic pendulum support was just too strong as a searchable source of card advantage (Draco-Faceoff). The biggest offender in the PePe deck however, was Tellarknight Ptolemaeus. This “reasonlessly” generic xyz card gave allowed PePe to summon Cyber Dragon Infinity. This made light of its intended purpose (making Constellar Knight Diamond) and gave rank 4 spam decks the access to a powerful rank 6 monster that they had no business summoning. While it may seem highly presumptuous, I would like to believe Konami R&D doesn’t want unfair card interactions to exist. The banlist, while mostly a method to promote the newer cards does also make up for mistakes like PePe.

 

Zoodiac (despite all of its absurdity) seems to be working just as Konami intended it too

We can discern that Konami intended Zoodiac to work as it does now from the articles on the deck written on the Konami blog. The 1-card xyz summons (while in my humble opinion and hopefully many others’) are a slap in the face to xyz summoning, which was already the most mind numbing-ly simple summoning mechanic. That being said Konami from the passionate way in which they describe Zoodiac wanted it to be like this.

Another advantage for Zoodiac is that the archetype barely abuses older Yugioh cards. Many of the tier 0 decks from years past all acted in a way that Konami likely did not anticipate or desire. PePe  (as aforementioned) broke Tellarknight Ptolemaeus, which had been released for a few months before BOSH seeing little play outside of Satellarknights. Dragon Rulers broke the card Super Rejuvenation (letting them draw a billion cards) and similarly Nekroz abused the card Djinn Releaser of Rituals (to prevent their opponent from playing). All of these decks were unfair not only for being too consistent, but by also by gaining too much advantage from older cards. In the case of Zoodiac, the only “old” cards that they seem to have broken are Speedroid Terrortop and M-X-Saber Invoker.

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And that’s all I have to say on the topic. I for one won’t be investing the $300+ that Zoodiac will cost to build. Instead I’ll be following my own advice and main-decking Raigeki, double Dark Hole and triple Interuppted Kaiju Slumber in any Yugioh deck I play from now until Zoodiac is like all Yugioh decks is inevitably power-crept. Also as a parting thought I want you to imagine for a moment what the deck that powercreeps Zoodiac will look like…

Thanks for reading as usual.

Yugioh! Why I rather play tier 1.5 rather than tier 1

Disclaimer: I am not arguing that playing ridiculously outmatched decks like my long-time favorite crystal beasts will bring favorable results or even marginal happiness at a YCS, regional, or even local tournament. Instead, I am simply arguing that you don’t need to play Zoodiacs to have a fun time J.

On the eve of the Raging Tempest release, it seems that the player base is becoming increasingly polarized in yugioh. The serious, more financially-invested (and financially-able) players are capitalizing on the best set since BOSH, while there is a significant portion of the player base that simply wishes to take a break from yugioh until the summer banlist and pretend this upcoming format never existed. While I definitely am concerned about Zoodiacs, I think people are underestimating the level of creativity, fun, and excitement there will be in posing as David against the metaphoric Goliath.

After playing a few different decks competitively (domain and xyz monarch, blue eyes, toadally heroes), I have come to realize that I personally prefer playing a competitive but not overpowered deck, i.e. tier 1. Here are some of my reasons.

Lower Cost

This is probably the most “no-brainer” aspect of my argument. Supply and demand is economic law, and yugioh is no different. At Blue Eyes’s peak, the White Stone of Ancients was a crisp $20, and now it is a somewhat pathetic $5 as everyone jumps for Zoodiacs instead. As individual card prices have dropped, assembling a complete Blue Eyes deck is now completely feasible. This is important as I distinctly remember although many blue eyes players had all the “blue eyes” related cards, they couldn’t afford the additional solemn strikes, pot of desires, and expensive side deck cards. In my opinion, a complete tier 1.5 deck fares better than an economic version of a tier 1 deck most of the time. Lastly, playing tier 1 is like asking Konami to ban or limit your expensive cards and make you sad and neg.

Mind Games

Yugioh is a multi-faceted game. There’s elements of luck, pressure, time, technical skill in resource management, and mind games. In my opinion, yugioh is mostly a game of interactions, so having a leg up on mind games can be a serious difference maker. Firstly, if you just dropped $500 on a deck, you probably will be feeling a lot of pressure from yourself and your peers. Pressure leads to less risk taking, more distractions, and possibly more errors. Don’t let yourself get caught up in all that when having fun with yugioh. Secondly, nothing freaks me out more than to see someone summon an obscure monster with a paragraph of effects of size 3 font. While I doubt a Zoodiac player will not understand the effects of Stone of Ancients, I think its plausible to believe they won’t know all the different interactions and resource management techniques of a lesser deck like Blue Eyes. Lastly, siding is now more important than ever in yugioh. With outrageously strong decks like ABC last format, some people were siding in as many as 8 cards (System down, Random Kaijus, Effect Veiler, Maxx C, Cherries) out of the 15 total side deck cards. Playing an obscure or less common deck gives you a chance to dodge those tough counters.

More Favorable Technical Match-Ups

Lastly, playing an anti-meta or non-meta deck can potentially also give you a leg up on specific match ups if you structure your deck to combat their specific strengths and weaknesses. For example, a good friend of mine designed a Yosenju Kaiju deck specifically to break the boards of Blue Eyes and Burning Abyss Phantom Knights since he recognized significant ways to get around Beatrice with Kaijus and Blue Eyes with Kama 1’s bouncing effect and Barrier Statues (which few other decks that special summon can play). This type of strategy typically works best if the top meta is less diverse and concentrated with similar strategies and/or archetypes. This next format does seem to skew a bit on the less diverse side.

As a closing thought, yugioh honestly is a very fun, complex game in which you luckily don’t have to be like everyone else to be successful (unlike some other facets in life). Don’t be afraid to try something normal and meta or weird and less expensive (the second one is really fun though)! At worst, you have a great time and you lose at a game.

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(Submitted by a friend)