Your browser (Internet Explorer 6) is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites. Learn how to update your browser.
X

Archive for June, 2015

Kobolds – Tales of a Casual Legacy Player

I’ve been playing Magic: The Gathering since I was introduced to it by a high school librarian in 1994.  Most of my experience with Magic has been at the casual level.  The goal for the most part was to find as many friends as possible, play huge multiplayer games around a dining room table, and worry more about having fun than being competitive.  I have great memories of Sol Ring, Demonic Tutor, Royal Assassin, and Rocket Launcher just being huge bombs in these games.

sol-ring  demonic-tutor  royal-assassin  rocket-launcher
In about 2014, I slowly made the switch to becoming a more competitive player thanks to the rise in popularity of real-time streaming (Twitch) and produced content (Youtube.)  These have been invaluable tools for helping a casual player understand competitive play and the strategies involved.  However, I still love revisiting my casual roots from time to time, and there’s been one challenge in particular that I’ve been obsessed with since those early days of Magic, and that is the kobold deck.

Kobolds are unique in the fact that the smallest members of the tribe cost nothing to cast.  When they were first introduced in Legends, the only synergy they had in the set was with their fellow creatures, and this made for a very weak tribe.

kobolds-of-kher-keep kobold-taskmaster kobold-overlord kobold-drill-sergeant crookshank-kobolds crimson-kobolds
The rare legendary kobold “bomb” lord of the set was terrible, even by the standards of the day.  Could you imagine opening your pack of Legends and getting this guy as your rare?

rohgahh-of-kher-keep

So the best that a kobold deck could hope for at this point was to get a few of the 0/1 kobolds on board, maybe attach a Giant Strength or play Blood Lust, and combined with a Kobold Taskmaster or two, swing in for a bunch of damage.  The problem is that this plan was easily ruined by the usual suspects: a strategic Lightning Bolt on Kobold Taskmaster wipes out damage from a bunch of kobolds.  From Legends specifically, Pyrotechnics could be a four-for-one in some circumstances, and Chain Lightning did a lot of work against the kobold deck as well.

lightning-bolt pyrotechnics chain-lightning giant-strength blood-lust
Kobolds in this form were not really playable (even casually – the deck was easily wiped out by every other deck out there), until the advent of Urza’s Legacy with Falter and Bravado.  Attaching Bravado with five or more kobolds on board was great value at two mana, and with the addition of Falter, at least the Kobolds had a way to punch through a defensive line to deal damage.  Combined with Final Fortune, it could do it again to get lethal damage through.  Card draw at the time was fixed by having Wheel of Fortune in the deck, but this usually worked against the kobolds deck as the opponent’s “fuel in hand” was a lot more potent than anything the kobold deck could draw.

bravado falter final-fortune wheel-of-fortune
When Kamigawa block was released, the deck took an interesting turn: by adding green.  Since the 0/1 kobolds cost nothing to cast, it made Glimpse of Nature very powerful.  Now the strategy shifted to finding a source of green, playing as many kobolds as possible, drawing as many kobolds as possible, and then closing it out with a few big attacks.  Green also allowed the addition of Yavimaya Hollow, which allowed you to protect some of your more valuable kobolds by regenerating them, and Alpha Status, which made it easy to create massively-sized kobolds.  At this point, the deck also included Lotus Petal so as to help ramp into these cards.

alpha-status glimpse-of-nature lotus-petal yavimaya-hollow
But the most impactful addition to the kobold deck, the card that has caused the deck to win more than any other card, is by far Shared Animosity.  Combined with Glimpse of Nature, it was possible to get an entire army of kobolds on the board quickly, and then attack as a team the next turn for massive damage.  If you were lucky enough to get a Kobold Overlord or Kobold Drill Sergeant on the board, then that meant this team had first strike and/or trample as well, and would come in for over twenty damage with just five kobolds on the table.  Shared Animosity replaced Bravado entirely and launched the kobold deck from unplayable to explosive – it actually started to function like a red aggro deck should.

shared-animosity

It was around this time that I had learned of Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014, which I spent a considerable amount of time playing.  A lot of people might slam it for not being “real Magic”, but Duels made Magic sound and feel more like an arcade game, and it let me experiment and have fun with a lot of casual decks.  Really, Duels of the Planeswalkers is everything a casual or beginning player could ever dream of.  The scripting language used to code cards within the game was easily modified, so I even cooked myself up the kobold deck in Duels of the Planeswalkers – here you can see me taking it for a spin against “Chant of the Mul-Daya”, a green ramp Eldrazi deck.

2015-05-31 16.42.17

My prized kobolds even looked great in the new card frame:

crookshank-kobolds

Shortly thereafter, I decided to become more serious about the way I played Magic, and joined Magic Online.  Surprisingly, aside from the massive amount of experience I gained playing competitively on Magic Online, there was also a thriving group of casual players.  Having put together a kobold deck on MTGO and put in a lot of repetitions with it in the casual play area, I tweaked the deck some more and the end result looks something like this (click to see a clearer, larger version):

2015-05-31_kobold_deck_mtgo

You’ll notice that Wheel of Fortune is gone, and in its place is Browbeat, which works great for the red aggro player either way (as opposed to Wheel of Fortune, which fueled your opponents hand as well as yours, Browbeat only draws you cards, if that’s what your opponent chooses.)  Lotus Petal was shed, Mikokoro was added for some extra card draw, as well as Gamble to help you find that missing piece (best used when you have a grip full of disposable kobolds so as to minimize odds of the fetched card being thrown away.)  The deck also adds Steely Resolve from the sideboard now for some protection against decks with heavy removal – you side out Alpha Status for those.  I’m still torn on the role of Adaptive Automaton and Door of Destinies though, and I’m still experimenting with the best balance for these cards from the sideboard:

2015-05-31_kobold_deck_sideboard_mtgo

Playing the deck itself aside, it’s been a lot of fun to talk to people about the deck, too.  It’s not meant to be a competitive deck, and I’ve had some great discussions with people in the MTGO “just for fun” room about it, even if they’re quick one-liners like “cool deck.”  Then, there are the not-so-great experiences with people who take “casual Magic” a little too seriously.  Take this conversation I had with a friend of mine about one particularly salty opponent:

kobolds-mtgo-casual-meta

I guess if opponents are scooping to the deck round one, turn one, I’m okay with that.  As of this writing, the deck is about $60 to buy through the various bots on Magic Online, which I think is very affordable so far as casual legacy decks go.

This deck has been a lot of fun to play throughout the twenty or so years and hundreds of repetitions.  Kobold creatures present a very unique Magic challenge in the sense that they’re very bad from a card advantage point of view: you’re wasting a card to be a very weak 0/1 body that does nothing on the board for the most part.  The deck is ridiculously weak to removal, it’s very linear, and doesn’t really interact with the opponent.  Trying to figure out a way to turn these dysfunctional creatures into something fun and powerful at the same time has been a great challenge, and one that I hope to keep up with for many years to come.