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Picks of the Week, 4/19/2015


Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir is in the rearview, but there's still plenty of awesome Magic going on. This week, Carlos holds down the fort, sharing some of his favorite cards, decks, and discussions the week had to offer. Whether you're looking for sweet playmat ideas, traumatic Commander beats, or awesome Standard technology, Carlos has you covered.

Picks of the Week: April 12, 2015

Carlos Gutierrez is an Associate Editor for Gathering Magic, an engineer-in-training, and a Commander and Pauper enthusiast. By day, he works as a STEM educator, but he spends his weekends hitting all his land drops and trying new board games, puzzles, and video games.

You can find all of him sharing Commander craziness, baked goods on Twitter, and complaints about graduate school at @cag5383.

Making Playmats Better

I've been to a fair number of Grand Prix and received quite a few playmats, deckboxes, and other promotional goodies. Most of those products, while nice to get, are not especially exciting. This week, Mike Linnemann put together a stellar article outlining why some designs fall flat and what can be done to improve the quality of promotional playmats. For me, the biggest question is why so much iconic art goes unused. Where are my playmats featuring Baneslayer Angel or Thundermaw Hellkite? What about Jace, the Mind Sculptor or the new Swords to Plowshares?

There are all kinds of cards that people have fantastic art that evoke all kinds of nostalgia that I'm sure people would love to be able to carry around with them. Personally, I'd love a Gifts Ungiven or Life from the Loam. Going back further, things like Decree of Justice or Counterbalance would be absolutely insane. Even looking at exclusively newer cards, Marchesa Hates Non-basics

Lands are my favorite card type in all of Magic. There's nothing I like more than hitting every single land drop and burying my opponents in powerful, expensive spells. Generally speaking, this means that I play a ton of non-basic lands like [card]Temple of Mystery" href="/p/Magic%3A+The+Gathering/Formats+like+Standard+and+Modern+rotate+at+a+fairly+rapid+pace%2C+meaning+that+there+are+always+new+cards+rising+to+the+top+of+those+formats+that+I%27m+sure+people+would+love+to+sport+playmats+and+sleeves+of.+%0D%0A%0D%0AI%27m+always+enormously+appreciative+of+promotional+items+whenever+I+go+to+an+event.+Free+stuff+is+awesome%2C+and+something+like+a+deckbox+to+remember+an+event+by+is+great.+I+love+having+spare+playamts+for+friends+or+newer+players.+Whether+or+not+we+can+agree+on+what+the+future+of+promotional+products+like+playmats+look+like%2C+I%27m+sure+we+can+agree+on+two+things.+First%2C+that+these+kind+of+promotions+are+generally+a+good%2C+exciting+thing.+Second%2C+that+there%27s+plenty+of+room+for+improvement.%0D%0A%0D%0A%3Ch4%3E%3Ca+href%3D%22http%3A%2F%2Fwww.gatheringmagic.com%2Fmarkwischkaemper-041715-26-decks-in-a-year-episode-17-grixis%2F%22+target%3D%22_blank%22%3EMarchesa+Hates+Non-basics%3C%2Fa%3E%3C%2Fh4%3E%0D%0A%0D%0ALands+are+my+favorite+card+type+in+all+of+%3Cstrong%3EMagic%3C%2Fstrong%3E.+There%27s+nothing+I+like+more+than+hitting+every+single+land+drop+and+burying+my+opponents+in+powerful%2C+expensive+spells.+Generally+speaking%2C+this+means+that+I+play+a+ton+of+non-basic+lands+like+%5Bcard%5DTemple+of+Mystery">Formats like Standard and Modern rotate at a fairly rapid pace, meaning that there are always new cards rising to the top of those formats that I'm sure people would love to sport playmats and sleeves of.

I'm always enormously appreciative of promotional items whenever I go to an event. Free stuff is awesome, and something like a deckbox to remember an event by is great. I love having spare playamts for friends or newer players. Whether or not we can agree on what the future of promotional products like playmats look like, I'm sure we can agree on two things. First, that these kind of promotions are generally a good, exciting thing. Second, that there's plenty of room for improvement.

Marchesa Hates Non-basics

Lands are my favorite card type in all of Magic. There's nothing I like more than hitting every single land drop and burying my opponents in powerful, expensive spells. Generally speaking, this means that I play a ton of non-basic lands like [card]Temple of Mystery, Buried Ruin, and Emeria, the Sky Ruin to mitigate the effects of flooding out. In general, no one punishes you for playing a million nonbasics in Commander, so I didn't think twice about jamming as many as I possibly could.

As I was reading through Mark Wischkaemper's newest stop on his chromatic Commander quest, one thing stood out to me in particular. Not only has mark built an aggressive and synergistic deck with Marchesa, the Black Rose that looks like a blast to play. He built a deck that punishes my love for non-basics harder than anything else I've ever seen. Looking at Mark's deck, I kept having flashbacks to Grand Prix Boston and my first, traumatizing experience with Anathemancer.

I was playing my Child Lands deck. I had two Emerias active plus a Sun Titan, Eternal Witness, and High Market. I hadn't found Life from the Loam yet, but it was only a matter of time. Gathering Magic's very own content manager, Adam Styborski, calmly cast a Vampiric Tutor on my end step, untapped and cast Anathemancer. Take fourteen. I take my next turn. I dig for Diamond Valley or Zuran Orb. I miss. Adam sacrifices his Anathemancer to Mogis, God of Slaughter and unearths it. Take sixteen, kill you?

Adam's undefeated streak against my flagship deck continues, and I took to social media to bemoan my misfortune. Ever since then, I've played against more Anathemancers than I care to count. Coincidence? Probably, but I'd rather believe otherwise.

Tried and True, White and Blue

I'm a hardcore control player at heart. There's nothing I love more than grinding my opponent into the dust with counterspells and sweepers while I resolve Opportunity, Sphinx's Revelation, or Gifts Ungiven. Win conditions? Who needs them. Card advantage is its own win conditon. When I was watching coverage of Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir, the only thing that I could think was that all of these control decks were posers. Dragonlord Ojutai? Silumgar, the Drifting Death? Those aren't real control cards. Those are tap-out control cards, and that's not really my speed.

I didn't have to worry though. Andrew Cuneo had me covered with this beauty of a deck:

Alright, so there's still a few Dragons, but this deck is still much more like what I'm looking for. Hit some land drops, counter some spells, cast a sweeper. Suddenly I'm passing the turn with seven mana up, and you don't know if you should be afraid of Dig Through Time, removal, or Secure the Wastes. And Glimmerpost is one of my favorite lands, so don't even get me started on Radiant Fountain. The lack of Ugin in the maindeck is disappointing for me, but if I was playing Standard anytime soon, this is almost certainly what I'd be sleeving up.

Buzzing Along

At least if this weren't a deck. This deck has been something Caleb Durward has been tinkering with ever since Khans of Tarkir, and it's always been a cute, fringe deck. Until last weekend at least, when Sam Black put up an awesome performance with the deck at Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir. This deck does all kinds of cool things, and I can't tell you how much I enjoyed watching Sam dismantle opposing creature decks.

There's nothing I love more than a cool toolbox, and this deck does all kinds of sweet toolbox-y things with Chord of Calling. When you combine that with the cute interactions with Hornet Nest, I couldn't possibly get on board faster. Chandra, Pyromaster. Roast. Setessan Tactics. The number of ways that this deck can generate an overwhelming number of bees is absolutely absurd, and the fact that those bees then power your Chord of Calling endgame is just awesome. This is a sweet deck, and I can't wait to see more of it in the coming weeks.

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