Sunday, August 30, 2015

I'm a little less depressed about Magic now

Embedded image permalinkHi Everyone!
So, Ulamog is back! He exiles two permanents and doesn't have annihilator, but he does exile cards from libraries. Maybe R and D decided that their grandiose Eldrazi were a little too grandiose. There's a mechanic that lets us do things using exiled cards, it's pretty bazaar and seems way, way underpowered (one card let us take two cards from an opponents exile and put them in their graveyard for 3 1/1 tokens, wow, what an overwhelming power).

The other notable announcement is that Zendikar fetches will be in the set as foil, full art and as rare as foil mythics, there will be 40 of these "Expedition" cards.

There's also a new cycle of dual lands for the allied colors. They have basic land types and come into play tapped unless you control two or more basic lands.

So there are some cool things going on but the absence of annihilator makes me sad. I think the mechanic was very powerful and essentially unbeatable. Wizards probably wanted the Eldrazi to have less of an impact on the board at least. The new Ulamog is only a 10/10 that's indestructible that mills 20 cards when it attacks. The mill will kill you, but it won't hinder you from winning in the mean time.

The Expedition lands....they seem neat but are a pure cash grab from Wizards. They are foil mythic rarity cards (15 of 20) aren't even standard legal. They are trying to get players who don't play standard to buy packs of cards. They will be available online but not redeemable so I'm not expecting them to be expensive on Magic Online.

So yeah, Battle for Zendikar isn't looking so bad anymore, but Wizards is being transparent in their desire to do things to make players buy more packs without doing anything to make the game better.

WINDOWS 10 has the most annoying default settings.

Hi Everyone!
This week I finally fixed all my problems with Windows 10 and by virtualization software (virtualbox).

Let me first clarify the problem. The problem was that I upgraded my host operating system and it would auto-update and restart. The restart would bring the computer to the login screen and wait for me to enter a password. So my computer would sit there not running my virtual machine until I re-opened it.

It was an easy fix. All I did was change windows Update settings from "automatically install" to ask for a time to install and restart.

Simple enough, but annoying because my computer wasn't set to automatically install updates before I upgraded to Windows 10.

Who sends out an upgrade that overwrites some of your settings? Microsoft, that's who.

Modern Bible of RG Tron chapter 28 - RG Tron vs Affinity

This week we take on one of the most successful aggro decks in the Modern format but one thing is very different from most other aggro matchups. The strength of Affinity is one of the main reasons we maindeck Pyroclasms in the first place and this is an aggro deck that is seriously affected by all our countermeasures (almost).

Still, it is a very powerful deck that can easily kill us if we stumble.

Is this a bad matchup for RG Tron?
This is close to a 50/50 matchup for Tron. We have a very good chance of surviving the initial onslaught of Affinity and Pyroclasm is just devastating.

Things to consider when playing RG Tron vs Affinity
The matchup is not about you getting to Tron. It is about you surviving the initial charge of Robots. Don't think too hard about Tron. It is perfectly acceptable to keep a hand that can cast Pyroclasm.

Cranial Plating must not stay on the table. It is the #1 target for Nature's Claim, except perhaps their man-lands (see below)

Remember that Oblivion Stone does not hit man-lands. This means that their biggest threat is Inkmoth Nexus and its more normal cousin Blinkmoth Nexus.

Arcbound Ravager is a very powerful card on their side and avoids most of your main deck removal, surviving Pyroclasm and putting his counters on the man-lands.

Ghost Quarter truly shines in this matchup.

You only need the Wurmcoil Engines to win. They are - again - both your best defensive cards and your road to victory.

Useful and less useful sideboard cards
I have been very against fililng your sideboard with cards that are useful in only one matchup. That would leave me with Nature's Claim (on my own artifacts) and Wurmcoil Engine to gain life. If Affinity is heavy in your meta you can bring in more specific sideboard cards but I am reluctant to do that. Still, I will mention them here.

Ancient Grudge: Instant speed and double removal is very powerful. Can deal with man-lands.

Feed the clan Gaining five (or ten!) life is quite useful against Affinity too. TThe problem is that Affinity - if it gets rolling - has no problem dealing 30 or even 40 damage.

Firespout: Pyroclasm 5-8 would be very useful here.

Nature's Claim: Our catch-all answer comes in here as well and truly shines. We can destroy any one of their cards for 1 mana. That is super important and if you don't pack 4 Nature's Claim in your sideboard you are probably doing something wrong.

Pithing Needle: Many players recommend it for this matchup. I have no experience playing the card versus Affinity.

Shatterstorm/Vandalblast: It is tempting but these are generally considered too slow for this matchup. That goes for Creeping Corrosion as well.

Spellskite: Spellskite blocks some of their creatures and make Arcbound Ravager very hard to use efficiently. If someone actually uses an Arcbound Ravager it is pretty much game over but most Affinity players will not make this mistake.

Wurmcoil Engine: This is the way you win this match like so many others. The Coil has a lot of problems with the flyers but being able to hit for 6 and gain 6 is often enough.

Less useful main deck cards
Emrakul: The big girl does nothing in this matchup. She is just a dead draw. Take her out if you are still maindecking her. 

Eye of Ugin: In theory you can chain Wurmcoil Engines with this card or even get a crucial Spellskite. I am reluctant to take it out but it is sloooow.

Karn Liberated: The threats are multiple and fast. Karn does not do enough in this matchup but he is still Karn. I can see sideboarding out one or two Karns if you need the space.

Oblivion Stone: Oblivion Stone fails to hit the man-lands but they still do kill most of Affinity's threats.

Relic of Progenitus: Relic does not do anything here. 

Sundering Titan: This is not the matchup that Titan shines in. Sideboard him out.

Sylvan Scrying: This is the slowest of your engine cards. I would not fault you for taking out one or two to fit in more SB cards, but try to avoid it.

Ugin, the Spirit Dragon: If Karn is too slow, Ugin is ever worse. To the sideboard with him. This is one of his worst matchups.

Ulamog, the Infnite Gyre: You are better off if this is your maindeck Eldrazi but it is hard to keep him in after boarding. He is just too slow. The fact that he hits man-lands really helps in the first duel. 

As you are not as focused on getting to your Tron this is one of the few matchups where you can consider taking out a single compy of Chromatic Sphere or Sylvan Scrying. Try to avoid it, though, if at all possible.

What do they bring in?
Artifact Destruction: We are vulnerable to this but I feel that it dillutes their deck too much and it does nothing to save them from Pyroclasm.

Blood Moon is something you will see but as you are already boarding the full playset of Nature's Claims means that you come well prepared for the Moon. Also your focus on finding your removal instead of finding Tron saves you here. Beware losing all your Green mana to the Blood Moon. Keep a sphere or a star around.

Molten Rain/Stone Rain: I think it is a mistake by the Affinity player to try to 1-for-1 your lands. This will dillute their deck. They should just go for the kill instead.

Thoughtseize: T
his will be useful as they can remove your removal. They only need one more turn to win. Possibly their strongest sideboard card against us.

Sample video
In this video I take on Affinity with one of my RG Tron builds.

Next week we take on the little blue men. Its RG Tron vs Merfolk!

For a full list of the chapters of The Modern Bible:

Zendikar Expeditions

A few hours ago the PAX Prime Battle for Zendikar took place and some spectacular facts were revealed about BFZ. Wizards introduced Zendikar Expeditions which are 25 premium foil full-art lands randomly packaged in Battle for Zendikar boosters. Approximately as rare as opening a foil mythic, meaning your chance is 1:432. Five of them are the new dual lands from Battle for Zendikar (take a look at photo on the right). The other 20 are two ten-card cycles: the fetch lands and the shock lands. Twenty more Zendikar Expeditions promos will be in boosters of the second set of this block ("Sweat"). They are all numbered as part of the same, 45-card set. These cards will be legal to play in draft and sealed if you open them, but not in Standard unless they also have a normal printing in a Standard-legal set.

Let the hunt begin.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Yesterday Wizards had a rough MTGO update

Yesterday Wizards of the Coast released a MTGO update building the core infrastructure for Leagues.

The build was big and required 12 hours of downtime instead of the usual 4. At the end of the downtime Wizards had several problems affecting many functionalities of Magic Online, including trades and events. Trades and Events have been disabled for 2 hours. In general MTGO was not stable after the downtime and was pretty slow.

The issues seem to be resolved now, and Magic Online is again fully operative.
No bot update is required. If you experienced problems with your MTGO (disconnections, low trades, random withdraws) this was ok.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A new take on blue black in Standard Pauper by rrmedio1

If you follow my Standard Pauper career you know that I am in love with all decks featuring Gray Merchant of Asphodel and Treasure Cruise. Those decks were earlier called Gary's Cruise but with the introduction of the Exploit mechanic the decks turned even better - and changed name.

Here is a video of me playing the latest iteration of my list.

The master of these decks is rrmedio1. He won MPDC 30.03 with a new take on Blue Black, featuring Grave Titan Jr. = Grave Servant.

Grave Titan Jr. The Deck

2 Macabre Waltz 
3 Sultai Emissary 
3 Palace Familiar 
4 Black Cat 
3 Dutiful Attendant 
3 Nantuko Husk 
2 Gurmag Drowner 
1 Vulturous Aven 
4 Undead Servant 
4 Dismal Backwater 
3 Gray Merchant of Asphodel 
4 Evolving Wilds 
2 Peel from Reality 
3 Treasure Cruise 
6 Island 
9 Swamp 
4 Sign in Blood 

2 Reave Soul 
2 Sidisi's Faithful 
1 Vulturous Aven 
1 Mnemonic Wall 
3 Festergloom 
3 Disciple of Phenax 
3 Negate 

Here is the final results of the tournament and all the decks mentioned below:

Roberto kindly offered to explain his deck and these are his words:

"Well, the main idea was to have a black deck that would abuse Nantuko Husk, specially for the interaction with Dutiful Attendant and for keeping my creatures from being exiled. Added blue because I love Grumag Drowner and because Peel From Reality is usually great with black creatures. Also, I would be able to play Treasure Cruise, which is maybe a good card, not sure.

The original list had Artificer's Epiphany for ditching creatures in the graveyard, but in the last minute I replaced it with Sign in Blood because the deck doesn't have that many card draw and I was afraid of running out of gas.

The list is not very polished, specially the sideboard, which probably lacks Duress, Disdainful Stroke, and probably some other cards. Black Cat is not great as it used to be because it basically only works against heroic. Undead Servant floats between MVP and useless very easily, since the deck is not designed around it. I was very lucky not to face green decks, since I had no Deathtouch creatures.

The matches
I was late but gwyned was nice enough to allow me to join the tournament with a bye.

First match (2nd round) was against an interesting UB Control by Erwiddan deck which was controlling me very effectively. First game he did not give me much air to breath and he was almost stabilized in the second game, when his time ran out. I guess he was into really awful lag.

Second match was against SFlaren's Izzet Control, with main deck Hexproof creatures, and game 1 let me hopeless after being crushed so easily. But the deck worked very well after siding in the Disciples and Negates. In both games 2 and 3 it looked like he would win with early Hexproof fatties, but all the recursion was too much for him to keep 1 for 1'ing me. I have to say that this was an awesome and crazy match.

Top 4 was against Malum's Boros Tokens which also crushed me in game 1 with Magmatic Chasm. He almost got me in game two but a timely Festergloom saved the day. In game 3 he didn't got the aggressive start and we traded creatures until the card advantage gave me upper hand. Despite many mistakes and misclicks, I ended up winning.

The finals were against JogandoPelado, aka PlayingNaked, and his Mono Black deck. It was very similar to my deck (but no Cruises for him), also based on the Nankuto-Attendant engine. In the first game he got 3 Garies very soon, I dragged the game a bit recasting my single Gary a few times until he finally killed me. Game 2 was a bit odd: I slowed him down with the Disciples of Phenax but he was attacking me in the air. Then Gary landed and I won out of nowhere attacking back when some of his creatures were tapped. In game 3 he had some mana problems and it was my time to draw early Garies, who finished the game when he was starting to develop his board. 

Reave Soul was good against the tokens deck and not bad against the Mono Black deck.
Sidisi's Faithful was also good against the tokens deck
Aven was good in all matches
Wall was never cast (sided it in against the Izzet deck, I think, then sided it out again)
Festergloom won me a game against tokens
Disciple was the better card in the finals and also good against Izzet. The UB Control deck never let it be resolved
Negate was great in all matches, not counting the finals, where I did not use it."

Thank you, Roberto!

BTW, if you are at all interested in Standard Pauper check out the free touranments with real prizes runing at They are the best.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Why am I so disappointed with Magic right now?

Hi Everyone!

I get asked why I'm so disappointed with Magic right now a lot lately. I constantly badmouth Wizards grab for cash with the changes to standard, the weak Origins set that isn't anything that even appropriately closes the 20 plus years of core sets. It's just another set focusing on the planeswalkers, probably because "the focus groups really like planeswalkers". The big one lately is the BFZ spoilers.

Everyone gets all excited about full art lands and whatever else but let's look at what they've shown us. They have shown us weak spoilers that I think don't compare to the cards from the original Zendikar.

Therein lies the problem. The problem being that Battle for Zendikar is not Zendikar. Look at Mirrodin. There were some problems with Mirrodin and players didn't like the "ravager" deck. There were some power level problems. So when it came time to come back around to Mirrodin they went in a different direction.

Ravnica was a well loved set, yet still, the return was "different" than the original. Now that we're back to Zendikar they are again "doing something different". The problem here is that Zendikar is really loved. Zendikar was what players wanted sets to be. Using the name "Zendikar" to do something different will usually result in there being some dissatisfaction because the benchmark was the original Zendikar and the return needs to be as good or better to satisfy players. I just don't think it's even close to as good as the orginal.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Modern Bible of RG Tron chapter 27 - RG Tron vs Burn

Oh, Atarka's Command! Why are you Atarka's Command?

I thought I had this matchup figured out and then you came along!

Oh well, I guess eight ways to negate my lifegain from Nature's Claim and Wurmcoil Engine is just what we have to live with now.

Is this a bad matchup for RG Tron?
I used to be very convinced that this was a 50/50 matchup for Tron. Then it all changed. The most recent version of Naya Burn uses another card we truly fear - Wild Nacatl! That is even worse. 

Here is a deck list:

This does look pretty bad for us. 

Things to consider when playing RG Tron vs Burn
It is all about Wurmcoil Engine and surviving. Don't make the mistake that this matchup is about assemling your Urza lands and casting powerful bombs. It is all about gaining life and not taking damage. 

If you manage to land one hit with Wurmcoil Engine you are quite well off, especially if you can then Nature's Claim it on their turn and surprise block some of their attacks and gain additional life. 

You only need the Wurmcoil Engines to win. They are both your best defensive cards and your road to victory.

Useful and less useful sideboard cards
I have been very against fililng your sideboard with cards that are useful in only one matchup. That would leave me with Nature's Claim (on my own artifacts) and Wurmcoil Engine to gain life. That used to be enough.

Now I am not so sure. If Burn is heavy in your meta, you have to pack your sideboard with specific cards.

Dragon's Claw:  While this may look good in theory I think it is too slow and yet another Smash to Smithereens target.

Feed the clan Gaining five (or ten!) life is quite useful against Burn. The problem is once against his ability to negate your life gain. 

Leyline of Sanctity  Leyline requires you to dedicate at least three slots in your sideboard that are not useful against many other decks but it is an option. Be aware that a lot of cards in the burn deck will ignore this. Some RG Tron players consider this the #1 best card against Burn.

Nature's Claim: Our catch-all answer comes in here as well. The sole purpose is to gain 4 life by claiming your own stars (or other artifacts) to stay alive. 

Spellskite: Spellskite both blocks their creatures and reduces the damage of some of their burn spells by 1. This is worthwhile. Spellskite is key to the matchup.

Thragtusk: Five mana is a lot against Burn but if it resolves you have an excellent blocker as well as five more lives. I have not tested this properly yet but some RG Tron players like this option.

Wurmcoil Engine: This is the way you win the match. 

Playing White-Green instead of Red-Green: This matchup is the biggest argument to exchange Red for White in your Tron deck. I generally think this is a really bad matchup (as you are giving up the best Dual Land in Modern), but now you have access to white sideboard cards such as Timely Reinforcements.

Less useful main deck cards
Karn Liberated: While Karn is super powerful you can hardly afford to tap out and he does very little to stabilize. Removing a card from their hand each turn is very useful though. He is slow though.

Emrakul: The big girl idoes nothing in this matchup. She is just a dead draw. Take her out if you are still maindecking her. 

Eye of Ugin: In theory you can chain Wurmcoil Engines with this card or even get a crucial Spellskite. I am reluctant to take it out but it is sloooow.

Oblivion Stone: I have mixed feelings on the O-stones here. They are very slow but they can just save you. Getting a stone smashed to smithereens is the worst. Against a more red Burn deck with Blood Moons, O-stone is obviously more useful. 

Relic of Progenitus: Relic does not do anything here. 

Sundering Titan: Of your giant threats Titan is the most useful. He blocks and he totally wrecks their greedy manabase. 

Sylvan Scrying: This is the slowest of your engine cards. I would not fault you for taking out one or two to fit in more SB cards. 

Ugin, the Spirit Dragon: If Karn is too slow, Ugin is ever worse. To the sideboard with him. The lifegain looks tempting but it is just too much mana. 

Ulamog, the Infnite Gyre: You are better off if this is your maindeck Eldrazi but it is hard to keep him in after boarding. 

As you are not as focused on getting to your Tron this is one of the few matchups where you can consider taking out a single compy of Chromatic Sphere or Sylvan Scrying. Try to avoid it, though, if at all possible.

What do they bring in?

Ancient Grudge: Turns out that killing our artifacts can wreck us in the early game, allowing them time to set up. They are also pretty good against Oblivion Stone.

Blood Moon used to be a big consideration but given their greedy mana bases now you don't have to fear it as much. It would hurt to take out the O-stones and face a Moon though.

Destructive Revelry: See Smash to Smithereens.

Molten Rain/Stone Rain: I think it is a mistake by the Burn player to try to 1-for-1 your lands. This will dillute their deck. They should just go for the kill instead.

Path to Exile: This is one of the few matchups where I really fear Path. It does dillute their deck but our extra land helps very little in this matchup. Being able to out-wurmcoil their paths is probably a reason to keep Eye of Ugin in your deck. Spellskite shines here, of course.

Smash to Smithereens: This has the unique ability to both wreck your development and do damage. Fear it. Destructive Revelry does the same thing.

Skullcrack: Expect the full 8 cards to stop your lifegain in the second and third duel.

Sample video
In this video I take on Burn with one of my RG Tron builds.

Until next week -  may you please gain twelve life from your Wurmcoil Engines.

Next week we take on that beast that never truly goes away; Affinity.

For a full list of the chapters of The Modern Bible:

Deck building time change

After drafting each player is given 10 minutes for deck bulding, what is relic of V3 times. Unlike the previous client version of MtGO, current client allows you to construct a deck while in the middle of draft. Thus, Wizards decided to lower the deck building time from 10 minutes to 5 minutes in 8-4 Single Elimination drafts starting with the August 26 downtime. At first, only experienced drafters will notice this change, who are playing more challenging drafts. Nonetheless, Wizards will observe reaction of people and maybe one day they will implement it in other drafts too.

The very same day, August 26, ROE flashback drafts are coming back and will be firing untill September 9.

Friday, August 21, 2015

MTGO Library Bot 10.15

ML Bot version 10.15 is compatible with Windows 10. Previous versions, in fact, had problems with Windows 10 and the bot was not able to work properly.

Still, given the many problem that Windows 10 is having with virtual machines & unscheduled reboots (read more here:, here: and here:, we DO NOT recommend to upgrade your copy of Windows 7 or 8 to Windows 10 yet.

As for anything that can affect your business, we suggest to wait till Windows 10 is stable and mature (at least a couple of months)

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Magic is in a sad state if you ask me

Hi Everyone!

Lately, I have been nothing but disappointed with Magic as a card game. The existing game is great, but Battle for Zendikar is fixing to be a major let down.

Seriously, let's look at the glaring miss of no fetches in BFZ. Why are there no Zendikar Fetches in Zendikar 2? Fetches are what really made Khans of Tarkir an anticipated set.

Now let's look at the mythic that was spoiled a while ago.

When did we go from Emrakul, to this as our mythic? Yeah, yeah, yeah, it's cheaper than emrakul, but still, it's a very un-Eldrazi Eldrazi.

I don't know how everyone else feels about this, but I think it's been nothing but disappointment for for me regarding BFZ so far.

There better be some sweet cards coming because we don't want worse two color man lands, we want equally powerful man-lands.

Anyway, I think one of the things we loved about Zendikar were the sweet cards, many of which are playable in Modern, worse man-lands won't make the Modern cut. I think Wizards gets scared of power creep then backs off a lot in a single set, I think they either need to ramp down, or spend more time not printing over powered cards (we wouldn't complain about a 3/4 Celestial Colonnade type land if the original Celestial Colonnade had been a 3/3).

Anyway. I'm dissappointed in Wizards about this set so far. I hope they change my mind and remembered that the set is about the Land, not something else that's just set on Zendikar.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Another chapter in the Windows 10 Saga

Just another update if everyone is thinking of updating to Windows 10 with VirtualBox. Don't!

Windows 10 has the lovely feature that it auto updates. I can't choose when they happen anymore and it makes my computer restart at random times.

Unfortunately, this means my virtual machines aren't running until I can get to my computer. It's a shame, but it's how it is until Windows is changed from forced auto updates.

Just wanted to share an update.

If they are not in Battle for Zendikar, where will the Zendikar fetchlands be reprinted?

To my great surprise, Mark Rosewater announced that the Zendikar fetchlands would not return in Battle for Zendikar this fall.

You can read more about that here:

So, if they are not in BFZ, when will they be reprinted?

Wizards of the Coast is probably pretty confident that BFZ will sell well. Zendikar is a beloved plane. Two appreciated mechanics are already known to return - Allies and Landfall. The Eldrazi are scary villains and without Annihilator they will not cause as much grief as they did the last time around.

But what about the next block after that? Maybe it is a new world and they are unsure whether it will be popular or not. What if they put the fetchlands in that set to make sure that it sells? Then they are guaranteed two successful blocks in a row.

The other obvious option is the next Modern Masters set. People generally think about that set as Modern Masters 2017, but both Modern Masters sets have been well received. Maybe the fetchlands will arrive in Modern Masters 2016? When Commander turned out to be a successful set Wizards had no problem making it a yearly thing. Why would they act differently with Modern Masters, a product that I believe is more successful than the Commander sets.

I would be very surprised if we don't see the fetchlands before the end of 2017 but I don't think many people disagree with me on that. The cost of the manabases in Modern is still a barrier to entry in the format.

Special thanks to Ted, who presented this theory to me first.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

MTGO Library Bot 10.12

We released ML Bot 10.12. The update introduces a new card transfer mode: "Transfer entire collection (give cards)". The old mode, "Transfer entire collection (get cards)", is still available.

As for the "refill" and "balance" modes, the "give" mode is used to donate cards to another bot, while the "get" mode is used to take cards from another bot.

You can use the new transfer mode in the bot client GUI or in the file TransferCollection.txt, dropping a line like this:

Open trades with botA from 2am to 1am on every day Transfer entire collection (give cards)

Sunday, August 16, 2015

From the Vault: Angels

From the Vault: Angels releases on August 21 with an MSRP of $34.99, but the market price will be much higher due to exremely limited print run. The set contains exclusive spindown life counter, collector's guide and 15 premium foil Angels (5 cards feature new art):

Akroma, Angel of Fury
Akroma, Angel of Wrath
Archangel of Strife
Aurelia, the Warleader
Avacyn, Angel of Hope
Baneslayer Angel
Entreat the Angels
Exalted Angel
Iona, Shield of Emeria
Iridescent Angel
Jenara, Asura of War
Lightning Angel
Platinum Angel
Serra Angel
Tariel, Reckoner of Souls

Modern Bible of RG Tron chapter 26 - RG Tron vs Splinter Twin

(co-written with David Musick)

This week we will talk about the deck that is perhaps the #1 reason to choose another deck than RG Tron for your next Modern tournament. Before we go any further I want to stress that. If Splinter Twin is strong in your meta (say 20% or more) you should try to play another deck if you can. Actually, the BGx decks we discussed last week would be excellent choices in such a meta. 

Right now Splinter Twin is 7.5% of the MTGO Meta. 

Why is this such a bad matchup for RG Tron?
The premier combo deck in Modern is Splinter Twin and it has been a tier 1 deck since forever. The deck has won several Pro Tours.

RG Tron is weak to combo. Combo decks don't care as much about you sweeping the board with Pyroclasm or Oblivion Stone. They don't care that Wurmcoil Engine is in the way. They just win.

This is a losing matchup for RG Tron which means that if Splinter Twin is a big presence in the meta (and if often is) and you still elect to play RG Tron you have to be prepared to use many of your sideboard slots to combat it. 

To further my ability to help you win this matchup I enlisted the help of David Musick, a Tron player with a winning record against Splinter Twin. We had a long discussion about the matchup and he even wrote a tournament report and shared his deck list (see below). Thank you, David.

Things to consider when playing RG Tron vs Splinter Twin
Game 1 is a nightmare. All you can do is do your thing. If you maindeck Spellskite(s) you are slightly better off. Try to get a Spellskite or Oblivion Stone active before they combo off. If you manage to do this and keep mana open you can just durdle until you have a ton of mana. If they combo on turn 4 you are just dead. Their tempo control plan is weak against your Pyroclasm but will work better against you in game 2 and 3.

The match becomes more interesting after sideboarding. 

David recommends keeping any combination of Rending Volley, Grove of the Burnwillows, Spellskite and Nature's Claim. You need to forget about getting to Tron. Getting to Tron is not your priority. If you can answer the combo they are just a bad aggro deck and we have no problems handling bad aggro decks even if our Pyroclasms are sideboarded out.

Maindeck Dismember may be a consideration (replacing Pyroclasm) in a Tron-heavy meta.
If you destroy their combo you always win. 

Consider getting a colored source with your Sylvan Scrying and Expedition Maps instead of trying to complete your Tron. Remember, you have to disrupt their combo to win.

Remember if you have something to break up there combo, ALWAYS keep the mana open to cast it. There are no exceptions to this. If you tap out you are doomed. That is one of the big strengths of Splinter Twin. Why we care about their combo they can just win with their tempo aggro plan. However, Wurmcoil Engine makes us less vulnerable to this than many other decks. 

Use Karn to get rid of their 2nd red source or their 4th mana.

Consider replacing your Torpor Orbs with Spellskites (see below).

Useful and less useful sideboard cards
Any Twin hate card must be useful even if they have boarded out their combo.

Boil: Boil is used against counterspell decks to cast at the end of their turn, then it gets countered and you are able to resolve a bomb on your own turn. That is not the way games against Splinter Twin goes. Boiling in response to a Deceiver Exarch at the end of your turn is pretty sweet though (see tournament report below)

Nature's Claim: Our catch-all answer comes in here as well. Deceiver Exarch taps our green source of mana at the end of our turn so it is definitely less useful than Rending Volley but if you can keep a green mana available and not get countered Nature's Claim will save you. Just use Nature's Claim on the creatures targeted by Splinter Twin AFTER they activate it to create a copy for the first time and you will disrupt their combo.

Rending Volley: This replaces Combust in all RG Tron sideboards. Just having to keep one mana open instead of two helps a lot. Even if they play Exarch to tap your mana, you just destroy the Exarch in response to the Exarch trigger going on the stack.

Slaughter Games: Surprisingly this card is not good enough against Twin. Some Twin decks sideboard out the combo and cluttering your deck with this card might leave you vulnerable to their tempo control plan. Other Twin decks have Kiki-Jikis as backup and can still combo off after you take their Splinter Twin. Slaughter Games is our #1 tool against combo decks but strangely enough the Games are not the solution here. You could make this argument for Nature's Claim as well if they board out Splinter Twins but at least Nature's Claim can still be used to kill a Blood Moon or get yourselves 4 life which might help against their aggro plan.

Spellskite: This little guy can steal their Splinter Twin but note that he can not stop the Deceiver Exarch trigger as it only targets creatures your opponent controls and thus Spellskite is not a valid target. If they are playing Tarmo Twin Spellskite is your best bet as an early blocker for the Tarmogoyfs. Spellskite also has the advantage of being uncounterable once it is on the table. 

Torpor Orb: The standard SB card against Twin. However, David argues that Torpor Orb is too obvious. We both agree that there are few other relevant matchups where you bring in Torpor Orb. If you replace it will Spellskite you get a card that is useful in many other matchups as well.

Less useful main deck cards
Karn Liberated: While Karn is super powerful you can hardly afford to tap out and he does nothing to disrupt the combo.

Emrakul: The big girl is tempting to take out as she will not disrupt the combo but it can be nice to have inevitability against a deck that can essentially turn into a bad tempo control deck. Games against Twin can go long. I have seen good Tron players both keeping Emrakul and sideboarding her out. 

Pyroclasm: 2 damage at sorcery speed does not do enough against Splinter Twin. Killing a Pestermite or a Snapcaster Mage on your turn will not save you.

Relic of Progenitus: The Relic can disrupt a Snapcaster Mage but that is not good enough.

Wurmcoil Engine: The big snake is not at his best here but you need to have something left in your deck to win with. I would consider sideboarding out one copy but I am reluctant to go down to less than two Wurmcoil Engines in my deck against Splinter Twin.

Ugin, the Spirit Dragon: If Karn is too slow, Ugin is ever worse. To the sideboard with him.

As you are not as focused on getting to your Tron this is one of the few matchups where you can consider taking out a single compy of Chromatic Sphere or Sylvan Scrying. Try to avoid it, though, if at all possible.

What do they bring in?

Ancient Grudge: Turns out that killing our artifacts can wreck us in the early game, allowing them time to set up. They are also pretty good against Oblivion Stone.

Blood Moon is a favorite staple in Splinter Twin decks (especially the Izzet versions). As you are not too concerned about finding your own Tron and only intent on disrupting their combo their Blood Moon can actually help you find enough red mana for Rending Volley. Some Twin decks main deck Blood Moon so always keep the card in mind when playing against Twin.

Echoing Truth can come in to counter your Torpor Orbs. Sadly, this card works great against your Spellskites as well.

Molten Rain/Stone Rain: This will delay our Emrakul kill but as we are not focused on getting to Tron quickly it simply delays us.

The rare Splinter Twin deck splashing white can be a nightmare for you. If they board in Stony Silence your Spellskite plan (and most of your other plans) go out the window. Nature's Claim and Oblivion Stone are your only hopes here.

Here is a Pro Tour player talking about how easy this matchup is for Twin:

Here is one disheartening quote from Dickmann's article: "The common kill will be an early combo in game 1 and a slightly delayed one in game 2 although it is, as always, possible to win by beatdown."

Dickmann's article is a tournament report and he finishes his RG Tron matchup with reporting the following:  "Everything went as said above with the nice bonus of leaving my opponent without a single permanent in game 2 as multiple Molten Rains, Snapcaster Mage and Ancient Grudge did their dirty work."

This is the kind of soul crushing defeat we risk in this matchup. You have been warned. Never think that any sideboard card of yours can make this an easy matchup. It never is.

Further notes on maindeck Dismember
Please note that I do not recommend playing Dismember in the main deck. However, David does and he is the one who is beating Splinter Twin decks all the time.

David: Dismember gives us another resource against other decks. It's a battletrick, they don't expect it. Every player usually is confortable playing against tron because you only think in your turn. Tron doesn't know about the instant speed

Destroy an infect creature, they usually keep only 1 against us

Destroy the lethal damage of an affinity cranial plating

It's a battletrick, it's risky. But it makes the difference so many times against the fast aggro decks.

Dan: I suppose Dismembering a Siege Rhino could also be useful but then we are talking about a lot of damage.

Sample video
In this video I take on Splinter Twin with one of my RG Tron builds.

David reports from a PPTQ playing RG Tron against Splinter Twin twice
Well I finished the PPTQ in 9th place! Unfortunately just outside top 8. There were 42 people and 6 rounds. I played twin round one and won 2-0. I played burn round two and after a mull to 3 in game two I went 1-2. Then 2-0 against grixis delver round three. The best part of the tourney came round four. I was up against twin again, he comboed me game one, game two I delayed until I could Emrakul for the win. Game three my opponent played a blood moon turn three. Turn four he plays his land and has steam vents and 3 islands. I play my fourth land and say go. He taps all his islands for pestermite and in response I boil his whole mana base. Highlight of the night. He looked at the card looked at his lands and said "Is that legal?" You could just tell that I rocked him. He didn't know what to do with himself. It was just a matter of a few karns taking every land he played before he conceded. So I'm 3-1 going into round four and I get paired up against the only undefeated player in the room. He asked to draw but I had natural tron karn and spellskite in hand and he mulled to 5 on Boggles. I easily take game one. Game two was a blow out. Game three I kept two spellskites and he had path of exile for both of them. 1-2 and it turns out the draw would've changed the final round pairings. Unfortunately everyone 4-1 going into the final round was able to draw into top 8 so I barely missed it. I played abzan in the final round just for fun, it didn't effect the standings. It was fun, I was pretty happy with the deck. The twin match up was straight locked up. 

Here's the deck list I'm running

4 Ancient Stirrings
4 Chromatic Sphere
4 Chromatic Star
4 Expedition Map
4 Sylvan Scrying
3 Pyroclasm
4 Oblivion Stone
4 Karn Liberated
2 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
2 Spellskite
3 Wurmcoil Engine
1 Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre
1 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
4 Urza's Mine
4 Urza's Power Plant
4 Urza's Tower
4 Grove of the Burnwillows
2 Forest
1 Eye of Ugin
1 Cavern of Souls

3 Rending Volley
1 Boil
3 Nature's Claim
1 Spellskite
1 Wurmcoil Engine
1 Sundering Titan
3 Relic of Progenitus
1 Feed the Clan
1 Ghost Quarter

So basically what I've learned is game one you can't really interact. We have no idea they are on twin which means you can't really justify keeping any hand with a Spellskite and two lands. That being said we just try to do our thing and hope we don't lose to a tapper on three and twin on four. Assuming we have made it to tron and aren't stone dead, we are on the hunt for an immediate oblivion stone or Spellskite. If we get the stone we literally play "land go" being sure  we have 5 mana for our stone. From that point on we really just try to get a ton of mana and lock them out. The cavern of souls naming "horror" is pretty sweet interaction too. Spellskite is the bain of twins existence. Never block with it. I cannot tell you how many times I've had a Spellskite sitting there half the game until they just go crazy and double bolt it. Game one really just comes down to if your opponent has the combo early or not and finding a fast answer if they don't. We eventually win if the game drags on due to more impactful cards.

When boarding I bring in:
3 Rending Volley
1 Boil (or 4th claim)
3 Nature's Claim
1 Spellskite

I take out:
1 Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre
2 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
1 Karn Liberated
1 Chromatic Sphere
2 Pyroclasm
1 Sylvan Scrying

The Sundering Titan and Boil in the side have been flip flopping in and out for me. Usually for another natures claim. I'm not 100% convinced on any of the three.

After board I feel a TON better. I tend to keep any hands with some combination of rending volley, spellskites, nature's claim and grove/forest. I would say the grove is probably the most important thing to have post board. It turns on all of our best hate. We do not care at all about tron post board. If we can stop the combo, we win. Stopping the combo will drag the game out long enough for us to just naturally draw or cantrip into tron, then we get Emrakul and it's over. This strat also plays around blood moon. If you don't care about your tron pieces what good is the blood moon? They usually wind up slowing themselves down just as much as us and that's exactly the game we want to play. We can O-Stone or claim the moon when we are ready to go off. A lot of times they will also bring in ghost quarters against us. Again, if we ignore tron, what good does a ghost quarter do? Give us a basic forest? Sweet. Now we can play our claims, stirrings and scryings at will.

I'm not trying to sound like an expert or anything, I've only been playing the deck a month and I never even played modern before that. However, I did my homework. I do feel like I have a solid understanding of the deck (mostly thanks to you) and have been performing very well and consistently with the deck so far. Like I said, I went 5-0 last night at the Modern Monday event I attend every week (usually 20+ people). I played Twin 3 times and only lost game 1 to my opponent in the last round. It's not the first time I won the tourney with tron and it won't be the last. Looking forward to trying out the build at a PPTQ this weekend!

Until next week -  may you please not die to 1,000,000 Deceiver Exarch copies.

Next week we take on the most played deck in Modern right now: Burn.

If you have any tips on winning this most dreaded matchup, share them in the comments below.

For a full list of the chapters of The Modern Bible:

Saturday, August 15, 2015

VirtualBox Update

Hi Everyone!
Just here with an update today about the wonderful Windows 10.

As you may have read last week (I'm not sure if it was the week before, I have been deathly ill and I lost track of time) I "upgraded" to windows 10 and immediately experienced a non-running army of bots caused by the VirtualBox software not being compatible with Windows 10.

I found that they released version 5.0 and it works on Windows 10 but is not officially supported. Since i had already upgraded Windows, I didn't have a lot of choice. I installed VirtualBox 5.0 and tried to run my VM. Luckily for me, it worked.

I am able to run my bots without a problem.

I'm updating everyone because VirtualBox may not work with Windows 10 for them. If you have the option to not upgrade windows, I recommend you not upgrade until a stable and officially supported version of VirtualBox is released.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Magic Duels: Origins deck building challenge

As you know, I have been playing a lot of Magic Duel: Origins. Wizards even gave me some free boosters. The card collection I have assembled is sort of a giant sealed deck. That gave me an idea and I issued a deck building challenge.

You can participate. What deck would you build with the cards from this pool?

Me and Sam go through the card pool from 19:55 in the video.

Here are some suggestions I have received from viewers on the YouTube channel:

Mono White Aggro
Creatures (33) 1x Annointer of Champions 3x Elite Vanguard 1x Kytheon, Hero of Akros 4x Perilous Myr 4x Kinsbaile Skirmisher 2x Topan Freeblade 1x Runed Servitor 2x Relic Seeker 2x Knight of the White Orchid 1x Knight of the Pilgrim's Road 2x Stalwart Aven 3x Skyhunter Skirmisher 3x Ampryn's Tactician 2x Juggernaut 1x Kytheon's Irregulars 1x Archangel of Tithes Other (4) 1x Kytheon's Tactics 1x Knightly Valor 1x Alchemist's Vial 1x Veteran's Sidearm Lands (23) 2x Foundry of the Consuls 21x Plains

Blue Black Control
Creatures (15) 1x Sigiled Starfish 2x Harbinger of the Tides 2x Jorubai Murk Lurker 3x Jhessian Thief 2x Darkslick Drake 3x Grave Digger 2x Whirler Rogue Instants and Sorceries (20) 1x Bone Splinters 2x Reave Soul 1x Displacement Wave 2x Read the Bones 1x Talent of the Telepath (for the fun of it :-)) 3x Disperse 3x Telling Time 3x Calculated Dismissal 3x Inspiration 1x Cruel Revival Lands (25) 2x Drowned Catacombs 2x Foundry of the Consuls 4x Dimir Guildgate 2x Evolving Wilds 9x Island 6x Swamp

What deck would you build with this card pool? If your deck is good, it may be played on stream on next Tuesday night (stream starts at 9PM PST with the MagicGatheringStrat podcast live recording)

I very much want to build Elves but I am not sure it is possible.

Monday, August 10, 2015

No searching during the Battle for Zendikar?

Volcanic IslandHi Everyone!

Last week I was very ill. I think I cought a flu or cold that's going around in California. Just a warning to be mindful of the ease it is to get sick and be home from work for an entire week coughing so hard you can't even take a deep breath to cough better because you're so sore.

Anyway, I'm doing better today, I still have a gnarly cough and I don't sound so hot, but I'm going back to work tomorrow.

I heard about it when I was sick, I wasn't sure exactly when, but MaRo Tweeted that there will be a new cycle of dual lands but they are not fetch lands. One person speculated that they were come into play tapped lands that bounce for a colorless to enable landfall. That isn't good, and would be really poor for a rare land in the scheme of "good rare lands to open from packs".

Many others speculated that they must be the enemy color pair man-lands.

Any of those are possible, Wizards is known for creating a great game while completely missing what we said we wanted, but making it good enough that we didn't care that we didn't get what we wanted.

I just want to throw this one simple idea out there....what if they are really, really, good dual lands? What if they're better than Ravnica shock lands? What if they redefine the list of"lands you "need" to play in Modern?

What if they're snow covered original dual lands? They probably won't be, but Zendikar is the Land Block.....just saying..

Sunday, August 9, 2015

MTGO Library Bot 10.08

It's summer but the mtgolibrary team is at work and is preparing some new tools you will see right after August. In particular with ML Bot 10.08 we are preparing the field to move the "Prices & Margin" tool on the Online Control Panel. This will happen on September and will have several practical benefits:

  • you will be able to adjust the prices and the margins for many bots at the same time. The current implementation forces you to copy and paste the settings for each bot
  •  you will be able to change the setting without stopping and restarting the bot - updates will be delivered and will take effect immediately
  • there will be a finer grain control over rarities and prices, allowing to better follow the market
  • the controls will be on a webpage - the layout will be clearer and easier to use than the current one on the bot client
The current settings will be copied online (they are already copied online indeed) so you will not have to type them twice.

ML Bot 10.08 fixes also:
  • an overbuying problem happening when using shared inventories
  • a program crash rarely happening when downloading profit protection from the server
  • a problem causing the bot to be unable to pause/unpause by pressing CTRL+C
We hope you are enjoying the summer and return back from holidays fully recharged :-) 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Modern Bible of RG Tron chapter 25 - RG Tron vs BGx

Its week 25 of the Modern Bible and we are now going to move into specific matchups. This week we will talk about different BGx decks such as Jund or Abzan.

BGx decks are based around Tarmogoyf and Liliana of the Veil. They are value decks, happy to 1-for-1 with the opponent and then eek out a little advantage and come out on top. They are very popular decks with the pros as they feel they never have a really bad matchup against anything, thus rewarding play skill. With a strong discard element in Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek, BGx deck has traditionally done well against all combo decks.

BGx comes in many variants, primarily Abzan (GBW) or Jund (GBR) but straight GB and
GBRw have also done well in the past.

BGx have long been tier 1 in Modern and are often the #1 deck in the format. RG Tron has a fairly good matchup against these decks. In fact, their presence at the top is one of the primary reasons to play RG Tron at all.

Mtggoldfish recently launched a very useful feature with Modern Matchup statistics. You can find it here:
Mtggoldfish gives us a 59,38% win percentage against Jund and even though the Abzan matchup may be a little bit harder it is not a lot harder. It is still a winning matchup for us.

Why is this a positive matchup for RG Tron?
In the world of 1-for-1s and attrition tactics the guy who can play a big sweeper, a Karn or an Eldrazi is king. Our threats are so huge and so hard to deal with that the BGx decks are unfavored to win. We are happy to play from the top of our deck and do not care very much about getting things discarded once we have Tron.

Things to consider when playing RG Tron vs BGx
When you fight Tarmogoyfs with Pyroclasm + Relic of Progenitus make sure you resolve Pyroclasm first. That way, when you use the Relic the damage is already on the Goyf and Pyroclasm does not count towards the Goyf's Toughness.

Emrakul is necessary to keep in your deck because games against BGx often ends up in topdeck wars. Emrakul tends to win topdeck wars and she also makes Eye of Ugin a very severe threat.

If BGx is huge in your metagame consider playing Sundering Titan over Ulamog as your second big threat. Sundering Titan wrecks decks with greedy mana bases and is even better against Abzan as his ability triggers again if he is Path to Exiled.

Even if they successfully wreck your mana base in game 2 or game 3 you can easily win by hardcasting Oblivion Stones and Wurmcoil Engines.

If you use Chalice of the Void against Jund, set it to 2 to disrupt Goyfs and Bobs.

Ugin, the Spirit Dragon shines in the Abzan matchup IF you can get to Tron. He is not as decisive in the Jund matchup but still good. In fact, I think the Abzan matchup is the main reason to play Ugin in your main deck.

Useful sideboard cards
Against any BGx deck featuring white you have to bring in at least two Nature's Claim as there are white sideboard cards that just destroy you (Stony Silence comes to mind).

The 4th Wurmcoil Engine comes in against BGx decks.

I hate Pithing Needle as a sideboard card but bringing it in here for Fulminator Mage is where it shines. I still don't think it is worth a sideboard slot ever. The second Pithing Needle is set to Liliana of the Veil but then all your Oblivion Stones are close to worthless.

Less useful main deck cards
Spellskite is not that useful against Jund but may be needed to redirect Path to Exiles from Wurmcoils and Ulamog from Abzan.

Almost all your cards are useful in this matchup. It is very hard to know what to take out, meaning that you probably can't. Many RG Tron players do not sideboard at all in this matchup, reasoning that this is the matchup RG Tron is built for.

Relic of Progenitus is useful against Tarmogoyfs but not 100% necessary. It is also hit by Stony Silence so is a good card to take out against BGx decks with white in them.

This probably means that Relics and Spellskites are what you take out if you need to bring in Wurmcoil Engine or Nature's Claim.

Against Abzan, Pyroclasm is not that useful and can be taken out before you take out Relics and Spellskites.

What do they bring in?
Fulminator Mage is the #1 card you fear. If they are on the play they can disrupt you before you can assemble Tron. If they are not, you really want to land Karn on turn 3 and start destroying them.

Do not get fancy with anti-LD sideboard cards. Your deck is built to dig up the lands you need and have reciliency against LD. 

Jund can sometimes bring in Sowing Salt which is considered the #1 threat by many RG Tron players. It is not as dangerous as Fulminator Mage, though, mainly because it is much slower. 

Jund could also bring Blood Moon to the table. That is probably a mistake as it affects them as much as it affects us.

Having access to the best sideboard color makes Abzan more dangerous after sideboarding. You fear Stony Silence a lot and have to bring in Nature's Claims unless you are 100% sure they don't have relevant sideboard hate for you.

Sample video
In this quite recent video I take on Abzan with Ugin in the deck.

Enjoy this matchup. It is a good one for us!

Next week we take on Splinter Twin.

For a full list of the chapters of The Modern Bible: