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Great Magic Writing of the Week, March 16

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A staggering amount of Magic content is published each day each day on a plethora of content sites, blogs, podcasts, and discussion forums. No matter how honest an effort you make, it's easy to fall behind and miss incredible articles because there just isn't enough time to read everything.

To that end, we've collected some of the best articles of the week covering a broad range of topics. If you're looking for articles, these are the ones you don't want to miss!


On Politics

Politics in Ravnica is like a giant game of dominos. All of the guilds are carefully setting up their plots and ploys for power, but all it takes is one guild overstepping their bounds to set the plane spiraling into chaos. This week Mike steps you through the story behind the set. What are the Izzet up to? Who are their allies? Who can restore the City of Guilds to its former glory?

GatheringMagic.com: Mike Linnemann (@VorthosMike) - Ravnican Politics

Let’s dive into Ravnica politics. Last time we were on Ravnica, Jace became the living Guildpact, basically a magical mediator that keeps the guilds from killing each other. We were having a relatively stable peace with guilds testing the current situation with negotiation and force, but on the whole, they were getting along.

During this time of relative peace, Izzet League guild leader and ancient dragon Niv Mizzet made the head of the Boros Legion, Tajic, look like an inept human fool over a bio-terrorism crisis with the Simic Combine.


On Cruelty

Are you feeling cruel? Modern has been prominently featured in a number of huge Magic events over the last few weekends. The results have left Blake lamenting the lack of Cruel Ultimatums being cast in Magic's newest eternal format. Why should you set aside your Hallowed Fountain[card]s and sleeve up [card]Blood Crypt alongside Steam Vents instead? Blake shares his thoughts on the format:

GatheringMagic.com: Blake Rasmussen (@Blakepr) - A Modern Ultimatum

I don’t understand Modern. Or perhaps I understand it all too well.

As any regular or semi-regular readers can attest, I’ve been advocating a Cruel Ultimatum control deck in Modern for some time now. As anyone with access to the Internet can attest, the deck hasn’t even remotely caught on.

Really, only Paul Cheon’s stream has been a haven for people wanting to play Cruel Ultimatum in Modern, but it just doesn’t make sense to me why that’s the case. Even at Pro Tour Born of the Gods, we only found two players playing any sort of Grixis deck. One was wildly misbuilt, and the other only slightly.

But two is incredibly low. More people played with the card The Rack than with Cruel Ultimatum. Three times as many people played Faeries—a deck almost universally panned as not good enough (though Alex Sittner is doing his best to disprove that notion, with yet another high finish at Grand Prix Richmond)—as played Cruel Ultimatum.

Even Patrick Chapin, King of the Cruel, Grand Arbiter of Grixis, Baron of Combining Blood Crypt with Steam Vents (that one was a stretch) didn’t seem to really consider it for the Pro Tour.

And I just can’t explain it.


On the Bench

For the longest time, Standard has cycled between Sphinx's Revelation, Pack Rat, and Thassa, God of the Sea. In the wake of Born of the Gods, we've seen the format starting to open up to allow all kinds of interesting decks to make their way to the forefront. This week, Jim Davis turns away from the top tier of cards to look at some of the players on the bench, patiently waiting for their time in the spotlight. Is now the time for one of these cards to break out? You be the judge.

StarCityGames.com: Jim Davis - Off The Bench & In The Game

There are 1362 cards legal in Standard right now.

It's safe to say that only around 150 of them will ever see any play at all. Just like in sports, the cream rises to the top, and not everyone can make the team.

Some aren't fast enough.

Some aren't strong enough.

And some look like they aren't even trying.

However, we are at the point of the Standard season now where substitutions are starting to be made. For many of the cards that are just on the cusp, toiling away at practice hoping for their day in the sun, this is a very exciting time.

Around the middle of a Standard format, once the established decks have been ironed out and the metagame has been fairly established, people often begin to complain the format has gotten old or stale. They use this as an excuse to be lazy and blame the fact they can't win on the format. This is also the time when exciting innovations tend to happen. Players who aren't interested in excuses start reaching deeper into the talent pool to see what they can pull out.

Formats shift, players move in and out, and there is no shortage of bench players just dying to get in the game. They've been watching all season, cheering on their team, and want nothing more than to contribute.

Bench

Slowly and quietly, they are starting to get their chance.


On BluManji

Fauna Shaman. Vengevine. It's like they were meant to be, right? Adrian Sullivan is wondering why this dynamic duo hasn't made more of a splash in Modern over recent months. Adrian has always loved Larry Swasey's take on BluManji - a Blue-Green creature deck built around the interaction between these two powerful cards. Is this type of deck viable in contemporary Modern? Adrian certainly thinks so.

StarCityGames.com: Adrian Sullivan(@AdrianLSullivan) - The Return of BluManji

A lot of people asked me for Modern help leading up to Pro Tour Born of the Gods in Valencia and Grand Prix Richmond. Last week I went into detail about one of my favorite decks in Modern, The Rock (B/G Midrange), but I ended the article mentioning the other decks that have been floating in my head. The wildest one was a deck I had only just decided to revisit: BluManji.

If you don't remember, BluManji is a G/U Vengevine deck first designed by Larry Swasey during the domination of Caw-Blade in 2011. Larry took this wild deck full of Fauna Shaman, Frost Titan, and even Consecrated Sphinx to two Standard Open Top 8s and nearly a third Top 8! Here is one of his lists:

[cardlist title=BluManji - Larry Swasey]

[Lands]

8 Forest

5 Island

2 Evolving Wilds

4 Misty Rainforest

1 Scalding Tarn

2 Terramorphic Expanse

3 Verdant Catacombs

[/Lands]

[Creatures]

3 Acidic Slime

4 Birds of Paradise

1 Consecrated Sphinx

4 Fauna Shaman

2 Frost Titan

4 Lotus Cobra

4 Nest Invader

1 Oracle of Mul Daya

4 Vengevine

[/Creatures]

[Spells]

2 Garruk Wildspeaker

4 Jace, the Mind Sculptor

2 Sword of Feast and Famine

[/Spells]

[Sideboard]

2 Tumble Magnet

3 Obstinate Baloth

4 Flashfreeze

1 Into the Roil

3 Mana Leak

2 Nature's Claim

[/Sideboard]

Watching this list was pretty inspiring. It was such a brilliant challenge to Caw-Blade, and when you played the decks head-to-head, it just felt so overwhelming in favor of BluManji. As the format developed, I started playing the deck constantly, and up until the printing of Dismember, I had a list that regularly destroyed Caw-Blade and was basically excellent in every other matchup. Three of us played the deck one weekend in two different PTQs; all of us made Top 8, and Larry won his event with my version of his deck.


On Paris

Legacy is a difficult format. Every small decision, from which land you play and when you play it to how you sequence your cantrips and prioritize your spells can be the difference between victory and defeat. This week Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa looks back at his Top 8 performance at Grand Prix Paris with UWr Miracles and walks you through the decisions he made in his on-camera matches. One of Magic's great players, playing one of the most skill intensive decks in one of the deepest and most complex formats in existence - it'd be hard not to learn a thing or two.

ChannelFireball.com: Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa (@PVDDR) - GP Paris Match Analysis: UWr Miracles


On Spirit

The spirit of the format. It's a phrase that gets tossed around quite a bit in reference to Commander, but what does it mean? What is the goal of Commander? What does the social contract mean really - is it more about cards, players, attitudes, or some combination of that? This week Adam talks about what the format means to him and shares some thoughts and decks from readers. What is the spirit of Commander to you? Maybe these ideas will inspire you to build a new deck or tweak an existing one. Maybe a clearer conception of what the "point" of the format is can lead to more enjoyment and fewer frustrating experiences.

DailyMTG.com: Adam Styborksi(@the_stybs) - The Spirit of the Format

What is the spirit of Commander?

Wacky. Fun. Multiplayer. Clever. Unique. Powerful. Expensive. Flashy. Big. Colorful.

Adjectives like these are those I'd use, although how each one applies can vary. One way to talk about the spirit of Commander is to focus on the colors of the commanders themselves. Both releases (2011 and 2013) of Magic: The Gathering—Commander decks included commanders that were three colors, and decks build on the different advantages the colors contribute. When I think about Commander I often think about these three-color legendary creatures, and how awesome it is to find so many cards of different colors that work together.

But does that mean less-colorful choices aren't in the spirit of the format?


 

If you have suggestions for next week's recap you can mention us on Twitter, or share throughout the week in the comments below.


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