Picks of the Week: August 9, 2015
Magic Origins has given us all kinds of sweet goodies to play around with across all formats. No card in the new set has caught my imagination quite like Demonic Pact. Sure, it doesn't have the same kind of raw power as Jace, Vryn's Prodigy or the versatility of Hangarback Walker; but Demonic Pact walks a really fun line between flavor, power, and build-around-me that is difficult to turn down. Whether we're talking about playing Pact as a finisher in a Blue-Black control deck featuring Disperse and other bounce spells, or in a Woodland Bellower deck that finds Invasive Species or Reclamation Sage like Antonio Del Moral Leon played at the Pro Tour last weekend, this is a card that I seriously hope to see more of. Pascal Maynard even wrote about some brews featuring Demonic Pact and the future of the card in this Standard format.
But my interest goes further than that. I'm imagining fitting this card into a cube, where it can be picked up with Kor Skyfisher or Cryptic Command. Sure, there's an enormous downside, but if you're willing to put in the work, this card is effectively a Cruel Ultimatum that costs four and comes with a built-in buyback option. There is no end to the cute ways to gain additional value out of this kind of card, and the games where you get to play with it are almost always going to be exhilarating, since no matter how far ahead you get, you can still just lose to your own pact.
Today I started writing my first Commander article is far too long, and was scouring the Magic Origins spoiler for new Merfolk besides Harbinger of the Tides and sweet artifacts. Then I stumbled onto Sword of the Animist, and my jaw dropped. How did I not know that this was a card? How did I miss this over the course of spoiler season? This is a card that does exactly what I want to do in Commander: bring anemic beatdowns while hitting land drops to set up for something silly down the road.
This is a sweet card that has an enormously low opportunity cost, and continues giving other colors the ability to compete with Green ramp decks. Burnished Hart is not super efficient, but it is recyclable. Solemn Simulacrum is similarly expensive, but provides plenty of additional value. Sword of the Animist has a comparable cost to these two cards; for the first land. The difference is that this is repeatable! As long as you have a creature to equip and an opponent without a blocker, you get a Rampant Growth. Every turn. Even as I'm writing this, I'm rereading the card to make sure I haven't gotten it completely wrong.
This card slots directly into my Kemba deck to help set up Emeria, the Sky Ruin and deal with expensive equipment costs. Similarly, it goes into my Grimgrin, Corpse-Born deck as well, to help ramp up the Swamp count so you can cycle through Gravecrawler some more. I can't even imagine how dumb this card starts getting in a deck that can take extra combat steps. Perhaps like an Alesha deck or Godo, Bandit Warlord brew. This isn't a flashy, showstopping card, but it is absolutely a powerful roleplayer that is going to be making its way into my decks for many years to come.
Megaman Battle Network
Towards the end of middle school, I had a few months where I took a lot of time off of school and was in and out of many doctor's offices, culminating in spending a few days in the hospital for surgery. During that time, my parents got me a Gameboy Advance SP and a handful of games for it back when that was the new and exciting thing. I quickly burned through Mario Kart: Super Circuit and Golden Sun, and was left with a Megaman game that didn't look like any Megaman game I'd ever seen before.
That game was Megaman Battle Network 2. This game was totally different than anything I'd played up to that point or that I've seen since, and I played through all six of those games during my time out of school that year. Recently, I picked up some kind of plague and had to take a few days off of work. Purely out of nostalgia, I decided to pick the game up again for a few hours while I was able to stay conscious, and I fell in love all over again.
The plot of these games is just as ridiculous now as it was when I was first playing. That's not what I played the game for. The reason to play is the combat system, which is absolutely glorious. You start with a 3x3 grid to move around on and a buster that you can shoot at enemies, and that's all well and good. But you also have a folder of special attack chips that you can send Megaman. The best part? You can customize the folder. Different combinations of chips do all kinds of unique, powerful things which you then get to try to execute in real time. On top of that, you get to customize some of Megaman's qualities to fit your playstyle.
None of these games are short. Even if you finish the plot in just a few hours, you can spend many more customizing your folder setup and hunting down secret bosses and trials. The game has all the awesome deckbuilding and customization elements of Magic, but also a dynamic battlefield and fast-paced gameplay that is incredibly addictive. The games were never super popular and were discontinued after six games, but they have their cult following of fans that have tried to create new games, faithful to the original series. If you've got some time and want to try something new, I cannot recommend the games enough.
Super Smash Con
My list pick for this week is an event that I am enormously disappointed I wasn't able to make it down for. This weekend, Super Smash Con is happening down in Chantilly, Virginia. This is one of the biggest gatherings of fans of all four Smash games, and features panels on the history of the games and its players, as well as some of the biggest events we've seen in a long time for some of the games. I'm not even a fan of games like Super Smash Bros: Brawl or Super Smash Bros. Wii U, and I still couldn't be more excited to catch the action.
This morning I got a chance to watch people playing the original Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 64 at a super high level, and it was absolutely amazing. The videos aren't up yet, but they'll be on VGBootcamp's YouTube channel some time tomorrow. I cannot recommend enough that you check out these people breaking the a nostalgic childhood game in half.
Right now, Super Smash Bros. Wii U is happening, and while I don't like the game, the crowd is excited, the players are passionate, and they are putting on an awesome show. Tomorrow, they'll be streaming Super Smash Bros. Melee, and we'll see the best in the world gather again; some looking to keep their throne after EVO 2015, and some seeking redemption. I guess I know what I'm doing tomorrow.