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Andrew Colman- Serum Visions: Wassailing the Holiday Cube

Hello everyone and welcome back to Serum Visions!

 

It’s Christmas, it’s Christmas!

Well, actually, at the time of this writing it’s still Advent, but I went to the Royal Winnipeg ballet doing Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker last night and it sure is starting to feel like Christmas. And since I am writing for the future, Merry Christmas!!

Nothing says Christmas in the MTG community like the Holiday Cube. My goodness, I am so happy for twitch.tv. I have been watching so much cube streaming these last few days, it’s silly. I saw DZYL draft some absolute joke decks. There was the classic turn-one [card]Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre[/card] off of a [card]Black Lotus[/card] into [card]Channel[/card] opening hand. But what he didn’t do is play the [card]Karn Liberated[/card] that was also in his hand because it would have opened him up to losing to a turn one [card]Lightning Bolt[/card]. I’m not sure about you, but I would have gone for it! And the other deck that sent his sacred bell dinging (every time something goes his way he dings a bell) was his [card]Crucible of Worlds[/card]/[card]Strip Mine[/card]/[card]Wildfire[/card]/[card]Burning of Xinye[/card]/[card]Tanglewire[/card]/[card]Smokestack[/card]/[card]Rishadan Port[/card]/[card]Maze of Ith[/card] deck. It went 6-0, not even close, except for one close game where he beat a turn-three [card]Blightsteel Colossus[/card]. The deck was absolutely soul crushing. There was not a single bad draw during the whole six games. Merry Christmas.

Okay okay, I just needed to get some ridicupants cube stories out there to help bolster my other series. On to the beer.

This week’s topic is Christmas beer with a special focus on hot beer. Yes, hot beer. I am not talking about beers that have a really high alcohol percentage that have a really hot smell or nose, or even a beer that warms you on the way down. Nope, I am talking about a beer that you enjoy after you have heated it up on the stovetop and ladled into a mug or stein.

I’ll start with a little history, then discuss some of the style, and finish with a recipe, which will be our style of the week!

If I ask you to picture a beer in your mind’s eye, chances are good that you’ll see brown bottle or a can of lager with some condensation dripping down the side. Depending on how much football you watch, you might see some rather attractive females surrounding that beer, but that’s a whole other topic. If we were living a few hundred years ago, you would be instead be picturing a room temperature mug of ale being served to you by a bearded, jolly bartender in a tavern. The advent of lagers and artificial refrigeration contributed to the demise of the hot beer. Here’s how.

Before we had effective sanitation and refrigeration practices, there was a much higher chance of something undesirable getting into beer and giving it an infection, making it taste less than perfect. It’s important to note that infection is not necessarily a bad thing and is often sought for certain types of beers. We also need to know that not all infections are created equal. Some are described as smelling like rhino vomit that has sat in the sun a few hours, and others are not so bad, like lactic, which can give a very clean tart flavor to the beer. If a beer is not infected by the former it can still be very drinkable.

 

Wassailing

Traditional WassailingOne solution (often used in the 1600s) to masking the slightly undesirable flavor was heating and spicing the beer. This is very similar to mulling wine, except you’re using beer. The most popular version of a mulled beer is called Wassail. It’s named after a celebration for the health of the apple trees from Southern England. While doing research for this article, I found that the most popular version of Wassail seems to be Lambswool.  It blends the pulp of six apples into the spiced and heated beer and it creates a beautiful froth on the top of the cup that looks just like the wool of a lamb! However there are many versions of Wassail and it does not seem to have a definitive form. I’ll supply you with the two most popular preparations and you can decide for yourself which one you like best.

 

Recipes

Simple Mulled Beer

Recipes for this are greatly varied but there are some constants.

For the beer, use a brown or strong ale, and make sure it’s more malty than hoppy—this is not the time to embrace your inner hophead. A brown ale or a strong ale will work well. I haven’t seen any Belgian mulled beers so try and keep it American or British. I would look for a beer around 5-6% ABV (or more) with good malt character.

For the spices, use your favorite blend of Christmas spices: Cinnamon sticks for sure, nutmeg, clove, ginger, mace, allspice. The key here is to keep it light and make sure to start with a little and add extra if you’d like to taste them more. A good guide is to try and use around a teaspoon total per pint of whatever spices you decide to use .

Add some sugar—it seems like a tablespoon per pint is a good measure. You can use any type you like: honey, agave, brown sugar, whatever.

You may want some extra booze. Add half an ounce per pint (or more) of spiced rum, whiskey, Irish whiskey, or brandy. You could try gin, but leave vodka out of this one.

Finally, you’ll want s slice of citrus for garnish, either orange or lemon.

Mix everything but the citrus together in a pot. Bring to just below a simmer and take the pot off the heat and let it sit for five minutes. Ladle into a mug, add the slice of citrus, and enjoy!

 

And for the foodies in the crowd…

 

Lambswool Wassail DrinkLambswool

Recipe Ingredients:

1.5 liters (3 x 500ml bottles) of traditional real ale

6 small cooking apples, cored (Granny Smith)

1 nutmeg, freshly grated

1 tsp ground ginger

75g brown sugar

 

1. Roast the 6 apples for an hour at 250 degrees until soft and pulpy—the flesh should peel easily away from the skin.

2. Add the sugar to the bottom of a large pot. Add enough to beer to the bottom of the pan to dissolve the sugar. Try not to splash while stirring.

3. Add spices and the rest of the beer, keeping just below a simmer for a couple minutes.

4. Let rest off the fire for 10 minutes.

5. Separate the pulp from the skins of the apples and and blend the flesh smooth, you want no lumps in the final product.

6. Add the apple purée to the pot and let it steep for 30 minutes. Do not let the beer simmer on the fire at this point.

7. After 30 minutes, whisk vigorously or blend with a hand blender. If you mix long enough, the apple will froth up and look just like lamb’s wool.

8. Ladle it out into a tulip or stein and enjoy.

 

When you make one of these recipes this holiday season, shoot me a pic on Twitter @awcolman. You’re really going to love these drinks, and if you come up with or already have your own version, post it in the comment section because I would love to try some other recipes!

Please keep in mind that when alcohol is warmed it is absorbed into the body considerably faster than normal. Enjoy and drink responsibly. Please please don’t drink and drive this holiday season.

Merry Christmas and as always thanks for hangin’.

Andrew

Andrew Colman – The Puzzle Box: The Elegance of Gruul

Welcome back to The Puzzle Box!

This week we’re going to be digging into the red and green sections of our cube. Referring to the Gruul clan as elegant is certainly counter-intuitive, if not counter-cultural. But when you break it apart into red and green, and then break those two colors down into what they do at their core, we see they are both elegant. Red takes the shortest path to victory20-0 ASAP, and all the cards serve a similar purpose. The main one is to attack: the red deck want to deal 20 as fast as possible, not play a defensive game. Simple and elegant. Green is not known for its cleverly elegant cards like blue’s [card]Vendilion Clique[/card], but collectively, green comes together. Green’s main focus is to get mana resources out faster and play bigger guysthat’s it: simple and elegant. When you put red and green together, that is when they get confused: one wants [card]Goblin Guide[/card]s, the other wants [card]Terastadon[/card], and apparently only they know how to fight it out. Silly Gruul.

 

There are, however, two cards in this list that do not do that which I stated red’s mission to be, and I think one of them deserves some attention: [card]Wildfire[/card]. It is the lone card in this section that does not go along with the plan of 20-0 ASAP. However, it’s worth its lonely existence because it is a deck in itself. Basically how it goes is, first you pick a [card]Wildfire[/card] and then take green ramp cards, mana rocks, and land destruction spells. When you are able to add in its P3K version, [card]Burning of Xyne[/card], it greatly increases the consistency of the deckit just gets out of hand.  Being able to destroy a board full of creatures and eight lands is just incredible value for six mana.  You’ll also want to keep an eye out for [card]Armageddon[/card] if you end up finding enough mana rocks. The creatures you are looking for in this deck are mana makers and any castable creatures with toughness five or morethis way they don’t get burned up in the fire. The game plan goes as follows: get up to six mana, play your titan or whatever you have that survives the [card]Wildfire[/card], then cast it, hopefully when your opponent has only four lands out. You should ideally be casting [card]Wildfire[/card] on turn four. Then proceed to apply the beats with your [card]Wildfire[/card]-proof creature.

 

Red is one of the best colors to splash because its removal is so cheap and efficient. This is one of the biggest reasons the mono-red deck does not come together for someone who is trying to draft it. I think it’s worth mentioning that this section only cost $15, because many of the best mono-red cards are common and therefore not expensive. This is very good news for the rest of the cube because we’ll have a little wiggle room in the colorless section. Not only does the colorless section have more cards than the WUBRG section, but its cards are on average more expensive because they can go in every deck.

 

[deck title= The List According to Type]
[1CC Creatures]
Firedrinker Satyr
Grim Lavamancer
Jackal Pup
Mogg Fanatic
Reckless Waif
Stromkirk Noble
[/1CC Creatures]
[2CC Creatures]
Gore-House Chainwalker
Keldon Marauders
Lightning Mauler
Stormblood Berserker
Torch Fiend
[/2CC Creatures]
[3CC Creatures]
Blistering Firecat
Fire Imp
Keldon Vandals
Manic Vandal
[/3CC Creatures]
[4CC Creatures]
Avalanche Riders
Flametongue Kavu
Hellrider
[/4CC Creatures]
[5CC Creatures]
Siege-Gang Commander
[/5CC Creatures]
[6+CC Creatures]
Inferno Titan
[/6+CC Creatures]
[Planeswalker]
Koth of the Hammer
[/Planeswalker]
[Instant]
Fireblast
Burst Lightning
Lightning Bolt
Incinerate
Magma Jet
Searing Spear
Char
Staggershock
[/Instant]
[Sorcery]
Firebolt
Pyroclasm
Arc Lightning
Pillage
Earthquake
Wildfire
[/Sorcery]
[Enchantment]
Sulfuric Vortex
[/Enchantment]
[/deck]

 

[deck title= List According to Cost]
[$2-$2.99]
Koth of the Hammer
[/$2-$2.99]
[$1-$1.99]
Blistering Firecat
Grim Lavamancer
[/$1-$1.99]
[$.50-$.99]
Inferno Titan
Siege-Gang Commander
Firedrinker Satyr
Lightning Bolt
Magma Jet
Hellrider
Stromkirk Noble
[/.50-$.99]
[$.25-$.49]
Fireblast
Earthquake
Sulfuric Vortex
Avalanche Riders
[/.25-$.49]
[$.01-$.24]
Incinerate
Jackal Pup
Keldon Vandals
Manic Vandals
Torch Fiend
Char
Reckless Waif
Fire Imp
Firebolt
Stormblood Berserker
Pillage
Lightning Mauler
Mogg Fanatic
Gore-House Chainwaker
Flametounge Kavu
Searing Spear
Burst Lightning
Pyroclasm
Wildfire
Keldon Marauders
Staggershock
Arc Lightning
[/.01-$.24]
[/deck]

 

Green has a few more options than red, but what it really wants to do is to play [card]Pelakka Wurm[/card] or [card]Terastadon[/card] on turn four or five. Cards like [card]River Boa[/card] are cards that don’t particularly fit inside the core of what this color does, but have a high enough power level on their own to warrant inclusion in smaller lists. Also, finding affordable/powerful green two drops can be a bit difficult. [card]River Boa[/card] ends up being a free win against black decks and provides infinite blockers for when you are setting up the turn when you play your big fatty.

 

Green is also probably the best midrange color in the cube. It has the beefy cards at three mana which you can normally play on turn two with the help of an elf on turn one. Landing a [card]Troll Ascetic[/card]  and being able to untap with it is one of red’s worst nightmares, because if you just keep your regeneration mana up, the red player is going to have a hard time coming up with profitable attacks for the rest of the game. A green midrange deck will almost always be paired with white, red, and/or black to make up for its lack of removal.

 

Again, one of the cards to which I would like to bring attention is a new one from the Commander 2013 set: [card]Curse of Predation[/card]. In the late game, one of the best things to do with your irrelevant or top-decked mana elves is to feed them to a [card]Skullclamp[/card] and rip through your deck finding exactly what you need. I cannot tell you how many times I have top-decked an elf with the clamp on the table and proceeded to draw six cards because I just kept pulling all of my elves and clamping them away. The look you get from your opponent across the table is one of pure disgust! If you aren’t so lucky to pick up the clamp, [card]Curse of Predation[/card] does a great job of getting those mana elves back in business. If I have CoP in my deck I am more than happy to play four elves, because I know I’ll usually have one on turn one, and they wont be the worst top-decks later in the game.

 

Another pet card that I think does not get nearly enough attention in cubes is [card]Kessig Cage Breakers[/card]. When you have this card in your deck, especially if you have a way to go dig it out,  it really changes the way you interact with combat and the game in general. You become more than happy to recklessly push your guys into the combat when it seems like trading is in you opponent’s favor. Or you can feel better about chump blocking with your mana guys because they will create serious value for you later. Combining [card]Skullclamp[/card] with [card]Kessig Cage Breakers[/card] can be absolutely game breaking. I have found that this card is actually better at digging you out of a tough spot than many of the other five-drops we find in the green section.

 

[deck title= The List According to Type]
[1CC Creatures]
Arbor Elf
Fyndhorn Elves
Joraga Treespeaker
Llanowar Elves
[/1CC Creatures]
[2CC Creatures]
Fauna Shaman
River Boa
Sakura-Tribe Elder
Strangleroot Geist
Wall of Blossoms
Wall of Roots
Wild Mongrel
[/2CC Creatures]
[3CC Creatures]
Eternal Witness
Troll Ascetic
Viridian Shaman
Yavimaya Elder
[/3CC Creatures]
[4CC Creatures]
Blastoderm
Phantom Centaur
Wickerbough Elder
[/4CC Creatures]
[5CC Creatures]
Acidic Slime
Kessig Cagebreakers
Thragtusk
Wolfir Silverheart
[/5CC Creatures]
[6+CC Creatures]
Pelakka Wurm
Terastodon
[/6+CC Creatures]
[Instant]
Worldly Tutor
Naturalize
Beast Within
[/Instant]
[Sorcery]
Firebolt
Farseek
Regrowth
Cultivate
*Kodama’s Reach
*Plow Under
*Green Sun’s Zenith
[/Sorcery]
[Enchantment]
Rancor
Awakening Zone
Curse of Predation
[/Enchantment]
[/deck]

[deck title= List According to Cost]
[$3+]
Green Sun’s Zenith
Fauna Shaman
Worldly Tutor
[/$3+]
[$1-$1.99]
Beast Within
Awakening Zone
Thragtusk
Plow Under
[/$1-$1.99]
[$.50-$.99]
Regrowth
Wall of Blossoms
Joraga Treespeaker
Terastadon
Wolfir Silverheart
Rancor
[/.50-$.99]
[$.25-$.49]
Kodama’s Reach
Troll Ascetic
Cultivate
Yavimaya Elder
[/.25-$.49]
[$.01-$.24]
Strangleroot Geist
Llanowar Elves
Phantom Centaur
Blastoderm
Wild Mongrel
Kessig Cage Breakers
Acidic Slime
Farseek
Viridian Shaman
Arbor Elf
River Boa
Naturalize
Pelakka Wurm
Fyndhorn Elves
Wickerbough Elder
Walls of Roots
[/.01-$.24]
[/deck]

 

I have had a request for the spreadsheet that I showed in the article on the white section.  Don’t worry, I will get it all together as a string of images in one of my future installments. What I plan to do is make a Google doc in which you can enter the size of the cube you’d like which will scale all of the numbers to that size. It is worth noting that this is not the formula on how to build a cube, it is just a very solid starting point. With this document you’ll be better able to tweak  you archetypes and make your cube just how you and your playgroup likes it. After all, that’s what this is really all about. So look for that spreadsheet soon.

 

As always, thanks for hangin’.

Andrew

Andrew Colman – Serum Visions: Pro Tour – Brews of the Gods

Welcome back to Serum Visions everyone!

It’s been a busy time in the craft beer/home brew world of my home town, Winnipeg. We recently had the inaugural Half Pints Pro-Am Brew Challenge  (both professional and amateur brewers can enter), hosted by our local home-brew club, the Winnipeg Brew Bombers (WBB), named after our CFL football team, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The competition was a monumental success! It had just over 400 entries, which is amazing for a first-time competition. The WBB brought in all the best judges from Western Canada and they had nothing but great things to say about the how the event was run. The winning brew was a spruce-tip-infused beer by a brewer from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. I would describe it as a rogue beer, bringing up images of John Loucks winning a PTQ with a rogue [card]Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker[/card] build, but there is a popular brewery called Rogue from Oregon and this brewer does not work for it.

I decided to write on this topic this week because I was encouraged to enter the competition by the Vice President of WBB (@Phillips_Global). I heard about the event when it was originally announced, but I wasn’t too concerned about entering. It seemed like every person I knew was asking me if I was going to enter, and I responded to all, “No, that’s not why I brew beer.” But eventually I was convinced, and after having gone through the process and the excitement of it all, let me tell you, I’ll be mailing my beer across the country to enter other brew contests. What’s so cool about it? Let me explain with an MTG metaphor.

Making your beer is like building a deck. The first time you build one, you’re probably going to end up with an 86-card pile that runs triple-red costed spells that you think are good because you’ve got three Mountains in the pile! This is similar to what my first beer was like, an absolute disaster. (Incidentally, my first deck was a precon, the M11 blue starter with a foil [card]Stormtide Leviathan[/card], and it’s still probably my favorite deck ever.)

Once you learn enough about brewing, you’ll start making beer that people will happily drink and enjoy. This is like FNM – it’s fun and enjoyable, but it doesn’t mean you’re good enough to compete at a GP. Before this competition, this is where I was at in the beer-making world.

Since I hadn’t really planned on entering a beer, I entered one already in the brewing process that had just started carbonating in the bottle. It was meant to be a Cascadian dark ale, or black IPA, but my friend and I were a bit tipsy by the time we were adding the final water to the carboy and we added two extra liters. So It went from being a CDA to a dark version of an APA. That’s not all bad though, because it meant we had two liters more beer! It was, however, detrimental for my grading in the competition. I’ll explain the mechanics of how a beer judging goes so you’ll understand why.

How Beer is Judged

The whole process starts out with an organization called the BJCP, Beer Judge Certification Program. This is basically the equivalent of Magic’s DCI. The BJCP trains judges and there are different levels of judges depending on experience. One neat thing is that a judge can enter a competition in which he or she is judging, meaning a judge can make his beer and drink it too! So what the BJCP has done is set out a document called the BJCP Style Guide that describes each type of beer that will be judged. There are are 23 main categories and most of those have subcategories. You can find a link to the style guide here.

Here’s an example of how one would classify a Guinness:

13A. Dry Stout (which incidentally is the style of the week. Read these notes and then go check out some local versions and see how they stand up to the BJCP)

Aroma: Coffee-like roasted barley and roasted malt aromas are prominent; may have slight chocolate, cocoa, and/or grainy secondary notes. Esters medium-low to none. No diacetyl. Hop aroma low to none.

Appearance: Jet black to deep brown with garnet highlights in color. Can be opaque (if not, it should be clear). A thick, creamy, long-lasting, tan- to brown-colored head is characteristic.

Flavor: Moderate roasted, grainy sharpness, optionally with light to moderate acidic sourness, and medium to high hop bitterness. Dry, coffee-like finish from roasted grains. May have a bittersweet or unsweetened chocolate character in the palate, lasting into the finish. Balancing factors may include some creaminess, medium-low to no fruitiness, and medium to no hop flavour. No diacetyl.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light to medium-full body, with a creamy character. Low to moderate carbonation. For the high-hop bitterness and significant proportion of dark grains present, this beer is remarkably smooth. The perception of body can be affected by the overall gravity with smaller beers being lighter in body. May have a light astringency from the roasted grains, although harshness is undesirable.

Overall Impression: A very dark, roasty, bitter, creamy ale.

Vital Statistics:                         OG: 1.036 – 1.050 (original gravity/sugar content)

IBUs: 30 – 45  (bitterness)    FG: 1.007 – 1.011 (final sugar content)

SRM: 25 – 40  (colour)           ABV: 4 – 5% (alcohol by volume)

 

This is only half of the style guide, but for the sake of word count, it’s the “important half.”

Judges go through years of training to understand what each beer descriptor means so that they can objectively judge a beer on its merits rather than on how much they enjoy it. Each judge is assigned a style for a judging session, and each style is assigned to at least three judges. So, every beer will be tasted by three judges who will all score the beer individually. They get served the beer in a small, clear plastic cup with one to two ounces of beer per sample. If they were judging a Guinness, they would consider how it compares to the other entries with regards to aroma, appearance, flavor, and mouthfeel, finishing with an overall impression. Each of these categories is assigned a certain amount of points and you get a final score out of 50. The judges need to be within seven points of each other – if they are more than seven points apart, they discuss the beer and then adjust their scores. However, considering all three judges scored me at 19/50, I am pretty confident in their objectivity and accuracy!

Each category and subcategory has a first, second, and third place beer, and the winning brewers receive medals. The event culminates with the award for the first, second, and third place best-of-show beers.

So How Did It Go?

There was one gentleman there who is basically the Reid Duke of the Canadian home-brewing scene – there was actually one category where he won all three medals. I stopped counting how many medals he won somewhere after ten. A home brewer like this will end up entering 15+ beers and just shoot to win as many as he can. Last year he was named by the BJCP as the winningest brewer in the country!

So, if you’ll recall, I topped up my beer with two liters too much water. What does this do to a beer? It [card]goblin grenade[/card]s it so far out of its category it’s note even funny. In fact, it’s down right depressing. The beer is good – I have gotten lots of compliments on it from a couple of proper beer snobs – but it was just not to style. Therefore, it couldn’t possibly score very well. I have come to describing it like this: “I entered a good pink painting into red painting contest.” It just had no chance.

There is a light at the end of this tunnel though! This is beer, not Magic, and beer falls into the grocery line of my budget. If Magic did too, I’d be playing in GPs, but my wife and I wouldn’t be eating. I certainly plan on entering more competitions, but next time I’ll do it proper. And I’m gonna win!

Thanks for hangin’.

Andrew

Andrew Colman – The Puzzle Box: Black & Tan & Blue

Welcome back to The Puzzle Box everyone,

First of all, just in case you thought the title implies that I’m going to cover the blue, black, and artifact sections in this article, sorry to disappoint, I’m not. A Black & Tan is a mixed beer drink, and if you haven’t had one, I recommend it!

This week we’re going to dig into the blue and black sections of our cube as well as talk about the value of a card slot.  Blue is typically recognized as the strongest color and black the weakest color in Cube. Blue is strongest for obvious reasons: [card]Ancestral Recall[/card], [card]Force of Will[/card], [card]Jace the Mind Sculptor[/card], [card]Time Walk[/card], and as we are all very aware, the list goes on an on and on. As of very recently, we even got an affordable (CMC wise) [card]Progenitus[/card] in the blue corner. Rumblings are often heard that WOTC hates blue and continues to nerf it. It turns out with [card]True-Name Nemesis[/card] that they are still just as much in love with the color as ever.

As for black, the problem became apparent as I was trying to find the core things that the color does. Basically, it kills creatures, trades life for resources, and brings things back to life. This is where I think the small size of this cube is really going to shine! Black will be a worthy aggro color, because the concentration of one and two drops it has is comparable to red. It has a high enough concentration of reanimator spells versus discard outlets that reanimator is going to be very strong. Finally, black control might just be a thing if it splashes for some support from another color.

Before we look at the lists for these sections, I will note that this cube is going to be far more balanced than many other cubes, as the cards that really push blue over the top are so expensive. The cards that we do have access to are still strong, but more in line with the strength of the rest of the colors in the cube. This leads us into how it is that we choose specific cards and why we pick them.

The Value of a Card Slot

One thing that I like about this list is the minimal amount of [card]Control Magic[/card] effects. This actually reflects my personal cube list closer than most. In many lists you see [card]Bribery[/card], [card]Treachery[/card], and [card]Control Magic[/card]. I personally dislike this type of effect (not to mention the art of the original [card]Control Magic[/card]) so much that I’ve decided to run [card]Mind Control[/card] instead. In place of extra [card]Mind Control[/card]effects, I run [card]Sakashima’s Student[/card], which is a really fun [card]Clone[/card] variant.

As I have said many times, this list is just a starter list that will get you playing a very powerful Limited format consistently. Because we have such a small list it opens the doors for many more archetypes to be considered viable. For instance, if you would like your blue section to be more tempo oriented, it has a much better shot of being competitive in this size of a list over even a 360 because you’ll see more or the same types of cards more often. It’s all about concentration.

This format is meant to let you decide the archetypes and strategies you and your group want to play – if someone in your regular playgroup only ever wants to mill people out, here we have small enough cube that you can get in enough mill cards to make that consistently viable. However, there is a bit of a caveat for those of you who have not really spent a lot of time considering what a card slot in a cube is really worth. A question: how many mill cards do you need in a deck to reliably mill someone out? I don’t know if there’s a “correct” answer, but let’s say it’s eight. We then need to replace at least 12 cards in the list below with mill cards. So here’s your challenge: pick 12 cards you want to replace with mill and then look at them and ask whether having a mill archetype in your cube is really worth not playing with these 12 cards. If the answer is yes, sweet, do it to it! If the answer is no, then you know how I feel. I would love to get mill in here, but all of the mill cards we have access to are just not flexible enough to warrant a slot.

This brings us to the point that is at the nub of cube card selection: let’s talk about the flexibility of a card, or card elasticity, if you like. Each inclusion in your cube should be considered with this question in mind: how many roles does this card fill? If it’s only one, then it bloody well do something seriously powerful (think [card]Tinker[/card]). If it is something like [card]Mind Sculpt[/card], which fills its role powerfully but in any other context does absolutely nothing, then you have to ask, is the play experience of this card worth its reduced flexibility?

The Lists

Blue

If you take a close look, you’ll see we are firmly rooted in the realm of control. There isn’t much room for a blue tempo deck even though it’s been unlocked for us with [card]True-Name Nemesis[/card] and [card]Thassa, God of the Sea[/card]. Nor do we get the artifact deck, as its cards are too narrow when you don’t have inherent support like the Moxen.

For finishers, we are reaching a bit into cube past and pulling out [card]Frost Titan[/card] and [card]Sphinx of Jwar Isle[/card]. [card]Meloku the Clouded Mirror[/card] was never too expensive but with the recent MM printing, she is even more affordable and will have a happy home here as one of the best blue cards in the list.

As for counterspells and draw spells, the expensive ones were naturally scaled out with the decrease in size, so again, the concentration is bang on.  As a bit of a glance to future sections, it looks like Izzet is going to be pretty strong in this cube because the concentration of good cheap spells and the cards that interact favorably with them is going to be pretty high.

[deck title= The List According to Type]
[1CC Creatures]
Enclave Cryptologist
[/1CC Creatures]
[2CC Creatures]
Looter il-Kor
Phantasmal Image
[/2CC Creatures]
[3CC Creatures]
Man-o’-War
Pestermite
Sea Gate Oracle
Serendib Efreet
[/3CC Creatures]
[4CC Creatures]
Phyrexian Metamorph
[/4CC Creatures]
[5CC Creatures]
Meloku the Clouded Mirror
Mulldrifter
[/5CC Creatures]
[6+CC Creatures]
Frost Titan
Sphinx of Jwar Isle
[/6+CC Creatures]
[Planeswalker]
Jace Beleren
[/Planeswalker]
[Instant]
Brainstorm
Force Spike
Arcane Denial
Counterspell
Daze
Impulse
Into the Roil
Mana Leak
Memory Lapse
Miscalculation
Forbid
Thirst for Knowledge
Fact or Fiction
Condescend
[/Instant]
[Sorcery]
Ponder
Preordain
Tinker
Deep Analysis
Upheaval
[/Sorcery]
[Enchantment]
Control Magic
Mind Control
[/Enchantment]
[Artifact] Crystal Shard
[/Artifact]
[Land] Shelldock Isle
[/Land]
[/deck]

[deck title= List According to Cost]
[$3+]
Phantasmal Image
Jace Beleren
[/$3+]
[$2-$2.99]
Tinker
[/$2-$2.99]
[$1-$1.99]
Phyrexian Metamorph
Fact of Fiction
Upheaval
[/$1-$1.99]
[$.50-$.99]
Daze
Brainstorm
Serendib Efreet
[/.50-$.99]
[$.25-$.49]
Arcane Denial
Crystal Shard
Meloku the Clouded Mirror
Ponder
Frost Titan
Control Magic
Forbid
[/.25-$.49]
[$.01-$.24]
Pestermite
Thirst for Knowledge
Force Spike
Mana Leak
Preordain
Enclave Cryptologist
Sea Gate Oracle
Impulse
Sphinx of Jwar Isle
Condescend
Deep Analysis
Mulldrifter
Mind Control
Memory Lapse
Miscalculation
Man-o’-War
Into the Roil
Looter il-Kor
Counterspell
[/.01-$.24]
[/deck]

Black

The key archetypes in black we’re going to support are reanimator, control, and black aggro, the last of which is enabled by the smaller cube, giving us the ability to have a higher concentration of low-cost creatures.

As a little aside, I’d like to point out a brand new card, [card]Curse of Shallow Graves[/card]. Because we are missing cards like [card]Bitter Blossom[/card], the power level of our cube will inevitably be lower, so taking things that are close analogues to the high-powered missing cards will garner us some serious advantage. Curse goes well with creatures. The same could be said about the Mirrodin swords! Yes, I’ve just compared [card]Curse of Shallow Graves[/card]to [card]Bitter Blossom[/card] and the swords, which could get someone kicked out of the MTG community. But this card has been doing some work, so I say take it high and play it often.

With reanimator decks, we will often have to reach into other colors for our bombs because [card]Griselbrand[/card] is on his way up in price and would eat up half of our budget. However, [card]Massacre Wurm[/card] should shine in this list due to a high concentration of aggro creatures.

[deck title= The List According to Type]
[1CC Creatures]
Carnophage
Diregraf Ghoul
Gravecrawler
Tormented Hero
Vampire Lacerator
[/1CC Creatures]
[2CC Creatures]
Nezumi Graverobber
Oona’s Prowler
Pack Rat
Vampire Hexmage
[/2CC Creatures]
[3CC Creatures]
Bone Shredder
Geralf’s Messenger
Hypnotic Specter
Vampire Nighthawk
[/3CC Creatures]
[4CC Creatures]
Skinrender
[/4CC Creatures]
[5CC Creatures]
Bloodgift Demon
Shriekmaw
[/5CC Creatures]
[6+CC Creatures]
Massacre Wurm[/6+CC Creatures]

[Instant]
Dark Ritual
Doom Blade
Go for the Throat
Dismember
Makeshift Mannequin
Snuff Out
[/Instant]
[Sorcery]
Despise
Duress
Reanimate
Chainer’s Edict
Exhume
Hymn to Tourach
Sign in Blood
Consuming Vapors
Black Sun’s Zenith
Profane Command
[/Sorcery]
[Enchantment]
Animate Dead
Curse of Shallow Graves
Necromancy
[/Enchantment]
[/deck]

 

[deck title= List According to Cost]
[$3+]
Reanimate
[/$3+]
[$2-$2.99]
Massacre Wurn
Gravecrawler
Pack Rat
[/$2-$2.99]
[$1-$1.99]
Necromancy
Oona’s Prowler
Geralf’s Messanger
Black Sun’s Zenith
[/$1-$1.99]
[$.50-$.99]
Chainer’s Edict
Go for the Throat
Consuming Vapors
Animate dead
Hypnotic Specter
[/.50-$.99]
[$.25-$.49]
Dark Ritual
Profane Command
Shriekmaw
Dismember
Hymn to Tourach
Exhume
[/.25-$.49]
[$.01-$.24]
Vampire Nighthawk
Curse of the Shallow Graves
Bloodgift Demon
Nezumi Graverobber
Makeshift Mannequin
Skinrender
Carnophage
Diregraph Ghoul
Snuff Out
Despise
Doom Blade
Bone Shredder
Vampire Lacerator
Sign in Blood
Duress
Tormented Hero
Vampire Hexmage
[/.01-$.24]
[/deck]

Well, that’s that. I think there are some serious talking points regarding these two lists. If you think I am totally out to lunch on card selections or observations I’ve made please leave a comment! I think these will be the most debatable sections in this cube, so let’s get the debate started.

And as always, thanks for hangin’.

Andrew (@awcolman on Twitter)

Andrew Colman – Serum Visions: #MTGOpocalypse

Last week we started from the absolute basics, but this time we are going to jump to the furthest reaches of craft beer, the extreme eisbeer beer movement.

As I said previously, all of the posts from now on will be inspired by the MTG community, and I would be remiss to look past the #MTGOpocalypse! The end of Magic as we know it…looks like WotC has killed Magic again! Part of me wonders if there is a running joke in the pit where the personification of WotC is the card [card]Zombie Infestation[/card]. Because it seems like the repeated situation is that a negative action results in a huge benefit for WotC because the change is structured correctly. I don’t know, it’s just a hypothesis, and probably a bad one at that. But enough preamble, here we go!

Question: What do Snake Venom, The Bismarck, Penguins, and the Apocalypse have in common?

Answer:

They all either are, or have been, the strongest beer in the world at one point or another. The weakest of all the previously-named beers is Tactical Nuclear Penguin, by the brewery Brew Dog in Scotland, weighs in at a massive 32% ABV (alcohol by volume)! Before we get into the exciting rivalry between the Scots and the Germans over the last few years, we’ll talk about how you get beer up to such a ridiculous alcohol percentage.

You may remember from my previous article that there are two main types of beer yeast, the first being lager and the second being ale. The most robust of these yeasts will only be able to ferment up to around 10-11% alcohol – and this is really pushing it – until the alcohol content becomes too high and the yeast just stops working (read: gets pass-out drunk). After the ale yeast is done fermenting to its capacity, brewers will use champagne yeast. This will dry the beer right out and push the alcohol up to around 16% if there is enough sugar left for the yeast to munch on. This is still a far, far cry from 32%.

In order to increase the alcohol content even higher, brewers use a process called freeze distilling. This works because alcohol freezes at a lower temperature than water. So at just the right temperature, the water turns to ice but the alcohol stays liquid. Once this slushy state has been reached, they separate the two. For Tactical Nuclear Penguin, the brewery does this process a number of times until they get to their target alcohol percentage.

I’m not sure which came first, the chicken or the egg, nor am I sure who made the “strongest beer in the world” claim before this madness got started, but it was Schorschbrau who was the first to strike back.

Schorschbrau is a German brewery that only makes Eisbeer. They retaliated against the Tactical Nuclear Penguin with a beer called called Schorschbock35, at a whopping 35% ABV. Brew Dog would then make a beer called Sink the Bismarck! (sic) at an outrageous 41% ABV. We have now gone above the standard spirits (like vodka and rum) alcohol percentage of 40% ABV. Schorschbrau quickly bounced back with Schorschbock43, at 43% ABV, continuing what I’m dubbing The Battle of Ridiculosity. There is a bit of a note to be made here.

Tactical Nuclear Penguin was a stout that was barrel aged for 18 months before it was put though the freeze-distilling process. This ensured that it had a full and round enough flavor profile to stand up to the much higher alcohol content that was intended for it. In the later parts of this war of high-booze beers, the response beers from each brewery were coming out faster and faster. I haven’t tried any of these beers, so I can’t say for certain, but I think that the shorter time frame might be at a bit of a sacrifice to the beer’s integrity – more on this later.

The battle does not end with Schorschbock43, though. Brew Dog fought back, but this time they were set on putting an end to it all, and thus they named their beer The End of History. The end of History is a beer pushed into the range of what actual distilled alcohol is when it comes from the still: 55% ABV. That it is just absolutely insane! We are well above spirits level at this point. But wait, it’s not even over here…

Brewmeister, another brewer from Scotland, decided to play God and show us that there was life after life after death. So they threw their hat into the ring and produced a beer at an “insert upper-limit adjective here” 65% ABV. However, apparently this wasn’t good enough, Brewmeister has announced yet a stronger beer called Snake Venom… are you getting bored yet? This beer is marked at 67.5% ABV. This beer comes with a big warning label on the neck of the bottle saying its dangerous to consume more than 35ml per sitting.

You may be wondering if these are still yet considered beers, and the answer is indeed, yes. Further pondering might yield the thought…are they worth drinking? Well if you take a look at all of these beers on ratebeer.com, you’ll find that the higher the alcohol percentage goes, the lower the rating. So I’ll put it to you: is there a point to all of this? I probably don’t need to express my opinion directly because I think it is fairly well laid out between the lines.

There is a light at the end of this frozen and refrozen tunnel, and I think it is appropriate that the beer is called Utopiasby. The Boston Beer Company from the good ol’ U.S.A. is responsible for this one. This beer is at a paltry 27% ABV but is not an Eisbock. This means that yeast, not temperature, did all the work, but how? To be honest, I’m not sure, but that’s not actually my point. The beer is a barley wine and it has been around for quite a long time. Where all of these other beers were made for the purpose of beating each other, this one was made to be beautiful. Some of the beers used during blending have been aged in the brewery’s barrel room for up to 20 years.

And there we have it. From beer basics last time, to beer ballistics this time. Who knows what it will be next time…maybe beer gymnastics or scholastics?

As always, thanks for hangin’.

Andrew

Style of the Bi-Week – Double IPA

Last week was pilsner, which is arguably the most accessible of respectable craft beers. If you are interested in a little bit more extreme beer, but still accessible, hunt down a double IPA. It will have a robust 8-12% ABV (which seems pitiful given the above beers) and if it’s a good one, 80-100 IBU’s of hoppy goodness. Most local craft breweries will usually have an offering at least seasonally. As far as tasting notes go, these can be all over the place depending on the hops and malts used by the brewery. Competition tasting notes are as follows:

14C. Imperial IPA: A prominent to intense hop aroma that can be derived from American, English, and/or noble varieties (although a citrusy hop character is almost always present). Most versions are dry hopped and can have an additional resinous or grassy aroma, although this is not absolutely required. Some clean malty sweetness may be found in the background.

The (self-proclaimed) holy grail of these beers is Dogfish Head’s 120 Minute Double IPA. If you can ever get your hands on it, snap it up and enjoy!

Andrew Colman – The Puzzle Box: White Section

The opposite of a profound truth may very well be another profound truth. – Niels Bohr

I have to be honest, I voted for the $400 version of this cube. The vote came very close between $200 Money Workingand $400 and I was hoping that if I just gave it another day things might turn out my way. Alas, at $200 it stayed. Now I am not sure if building a cube for $200 being difficult is a profound truth, but after coming up with the white section it seems, first of all, that it is at least a real truth, but more so, that the opposite might be true as well. The accumulation of the cards, or building, of a $200 cube should be very easy. It also may ending up costing you, if you try really hard, less than $200 dollars.

One thing became clear to me as I was putting the first section of this list together: this was going to have to be a theoretical $200 build. It would be possible if every seller on TCGPlayer was a super shipper participant, but it is not so. First of all, there is absolutely no room for shipping fees with only $25 allocated per section, no way no how. Second, if you can’t handle white-bordered cards you better get out your sharpie because this cube is going to be full of them. Third, I avoided any cards that were in damaged condition and I only needed to get one that was heavily played, but lightly played and moderately played are the name of the game. Well, Magic is the name of this game, but there are a lot of non-NM cards in this cube.

The other side of truth: Even though I built this list using TCGPlayer low I think you can actually build it for less than $25. So many of these cards are worth so little that if you put out a call for the cards worth under 50 cents – which is 25 of 36 – you could get most of them for free from you friends. The rest of the cards should be really easy to pick up in trade as throw-ins or for really good value.

The Puzzle Box : White Section

[deck title= The List According to Type]

[1CC Creatures]

*Elite Vanguard

*Mother of Runes

*Savannah Lions

*Student of Warfare

[/1CC Creatures]

[2CC Creatures]

*Accorder Paladin

*Kor Skyfisher

*Lone Missionary

*Soltari Monk

*Soltari Trooper

*Wall of Omens

*Porcelain Legionnaire

[/2CC Creatures]

[3CC Creatures]

*Blade Splicer

*Fiend Hunter

*Flickerwisp

*Mirran Crusader

[/3CC Creatures]

[4CC Creatures]

*Calciderm

*Hero of Bladehold

*Kor Sanctifiers

[/4CC Creatures]

[5CC Creatures]

*Cloudgoat Ranger

*Serra Angel

[/5CC Creatures]

[6+CC Creatures]

*Sun Titan

*Vengeful Archon

[/6+CC Creatures]

[Planeswalker]

*Gideon Jura

[/Planeswalker]

[Instant]

*Condemn

*Mana Tithe

*Swords to Plowshares

*Disenchant

[/Instant]

[Sorcery]

*Balance

*Armageddon

*Day of Judgment

[/Sorcery]

[Enchantment]

*Journey to Nowhere

*Pacifism

*Arrest

*Oblivion Ring

*Faith’s Fetters

[/Enchantment]

[Artifact] *Shrine of Loyal Legions

[/Artifact]

[/deck]

 

[deck title= List According to Cost]

[$3+]

*Mother of Runes

*Hero of Bladehold

[/$3+]

[$2-$2.99]

*Gideon Jura

*Swords to Plowshares

*Student of Warfare

[/$2-$2.99]

[$1-$1.99]

*Armageddon *Mirran Crusader

[/$1-$1.99]

[$.50-$.99]

*Day of Judgement

*Wall of Omens

*Balance

[/.50-$.99]

[$.25-$.49]

*Soltari Monk

*Savannah Lions

*Blade Splicer

*Flickerwisp

[/.25-$.49]

[$.01-$.24]

*Pacifism

*Mana Tithe

*Condemn

*Fiend Hunter

*Vengeful Archon

*Oblivion Ring

*Accorder Paladin

*Porcelain Legionnaire

*Shrine of Loyal Legions

*Lone Missionary

*Cloudgoat Ranger

*Calciderm

*Elite Vanguard

*Journey to Nowhere

*Soltari Trooper

*Serra Angel

*Disenchant

*Arrest

*Kor Sanctifiers

*Faiths Fetters[/.01-$.24]

[/deck]

Final Price $24.83

 

Just a reminder, we are shooting for a powerful-feeling cube for little money – that’s the goal. Thus, we will need powerful cards. Luckily for us, at least some of them are cheap. Cards like [card]Balance[/card], [card]Armageddon[/card], [card]Swords to Plowshares[/card], [card]Gideon Jura[/card], [card]Hero of Bladehold[/card], [card]Mirran Crusader[/card], and [card]Day of Judgment[/card] are worth high picks in a non-budgeted cube. Unfortunately, there were some slots that needed filling that weren’t so cheap, [card]Banslayer Angel[/card] devolved to Serra Angel, and [card]Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite[/card] – who is a control finisher as well as a solid reanimator target – I replaced with the best white finisher/reanimator target I could find: [card]Vengeful Archon[card], a 7/7 flyer that, for a cost, kind of does what Elesh Norn does – decrease damage towards you and increases damage towards them simultaneously. If you have a white finisher/reanimator target you like better, feel free to switch it up. Also, [card]Isamaru, Hound of Konda[/card] was in the list for a long time until I realized that I was paying $1.56 for one point of toughness compared to a [card]Savannah Lions[/card] that I had cut early on. In the end, the lion ate the hound and that was that.

Another card that seems a bit odd in this list is [card]Shrine of Loyal Legions[/card]. You can fit it into you curve in an aggro deck and use it to help swarm, or you can drop it on turn two in a tap-out control deck. After you’ve drawn the game out long enough it kind of acts as an [card]Entreat the Angels[/card]-style finisher. And as soon as you can replace it with [card]Entreat the Angels[/card], do it! I love that card so much I play [card]Noxious Revival[/card] in my cube, and take it high, so I can Entreat twice for good measure!

One thing that was a bit of a problem is that the budget only allowed for one Wrath. If you can help me out with this issue that would be great. I made up for it by adding two one-for-one removal spells: [card]Arrest[/card] and [card]Pacifism[/card]. It’s not ideal, but I am open to suggestions.

I could be convinced to take out [card]Disenchant[/card] to add another aggressive one drop. This list comes from a powered cube with all of the swords and fast mana, so [card]Disenchant[/card] is probably not as needed here, but I’ll leave it in for now and will address it later.

Seeing as this is the first of the build the cube articles, there is still a little bit of housekeeping to do. After this week, I’m planning to cover two sections per article. The multicolored and land sections will each get their own article.

After the cube’s completion, I’ll discuss new cards as they come out, but as a rule, the final cost will be governed by the TCGPlayer low. This also means if one of the cards in the list finds a home in a Modern or Legacy deck and spikes, thus becoming too expensive, it will get cut from the list. I’d like this to be a continuing resource for future cube builders to come and have a place to find a powerful list for $200. This also means that we wait with bated breath for rotation and ban hammers!

But again, this is a starting point that’s meant to give you an awesome play experience quickly. If you have a Baneslayer lying around, boot that [card]Serra Angel[/card] and go to town!

Next time we’ll cover the blue and black section. Thanks for hangin’!

Andrew

Andrew Colman – Serum Visions: Grain to Glass

Welcome back to Serum Visions. I’ll waste as little time as possible getting into the meat of the topic of how beer is made, but first I need to talk a little bit about why it is important to know.

The more you know about something the more appreciation you can have for it. After you have gone through the struggle of doing what ever it is you’re learning, you realize how profound the simple result of any complex process is. For example, until you have won a Pro Tour you will NEVER understand what it takes to get there. But, you can gain a better appreciation for it by learning about the process, and thus whenever you partake in an action that could lead to a Pro Tour win, you can better understand what it is you are actually doing and how much deeper it goes.

Okay, enough of that, Grain to Glass in ~1600 words! Here we go!

 

From the Field6129856724_9d88b824bf_q

There are many types of grains that can go into beer, but the main one is barley. There are two main differentiations that a brewer needs to be concerned with at this point. There is brewing grade barley and feed grade for livestock. Brewer’s grade, as we’ll call it, has a larger kernel and has a lower protein content than feed grades. This aids in the conversion of the starch to sugar and also contributes to the clarity of the beer.

 

 

To the Malting Room518103005_e5fd2306a1_q

Once the barley has been harvested it goes through a malting process, this produces malted barley. You’ll have a good idea of what malted barley tastes like if you have ever had the candy called Maltzers. Anyways, essentially what happens here is the grain is hydrated and left to rest in a temperature/humidity controlled room where the kernel or seed starts to germinate. The germination is stopped just before the kernel sprouts by drying the grain to 2-4% humidity with a process called kilning: it is commonly referred to as a malt.

At this point once the grain is dried out it can now be used as a base malt, which means it can stand alone as the main source of sugar for a beer.

If however the kilning process is not stopped at 2% humidity the grain will dry out further and actually start to toast resulting in what is called specialty malts. As this happens the grain takes on an infinite number of characteristics depending on the level of toasting. The lighter toasts will add mild malty flavours and a little sweetness. The longest kilning will result in a malt called black patent malt which is black as night and will add ashy, coffee, burnt flavors to your beer. You would use this very sparingly! Again, the variations and characteristics are infinite!

 

Into the Mashtun We Go…2598465903_3003db1cfd_q

The next step is putting your grainbill or mixture of base and specialty malts together and then crushing the grains to just the right size. Once crushed, the now-called grist goes into the mashtun. For home brewers this is often an insulated cooler or an old keg that is being heated by a burner or element. During the mash the malted grains are soaked at a very precise temperature – anywhere from 148 to 158 degrees depending on the type of beer – for an hour give or take. What happens in the mash? The enzymes that were left behind from the malting convert the starch from the base malt into sugar. As for the specialty malts, the mash extracts the flavors and special compounds from them that help with things like head retention and body. After the starches are converted into a sugar called maltose and absorbed into the water, you then drain that water into your boil kettle. The water that contains the sugar from the malt is now called wort, pronounces wert.

 

Boil It Up and Add the Hops!

5939212993_fa894b4592_q

So now that the wort is in the boil kettle you turn up the heat and get it up to a strong rolling boil. There are a few reasons why we boil, the first and most important is it sterilizes the wort, and the second is to get from the hops the properties and characters we want from them. It only takes about fifteen minutes to sterilize the wort but a boil is normally an hour long: this is almost always due to the hops.

So what is it that the hops do? First, hops are a very strong preservative. Before they added hops to beer, it had a very short shelf life and spoiled quickly. They started adding hops to help with that, and thank God they did! Hops have generally three additional uses other than preserving the beer: they add bitterness, flavor, and aroma. The length of time that a brew gets boiled determines what part of its profile gets used. If it gets boiled for over 45 minutes, all of the volatile aromatic essential oils disappear and most of the flavor compounds get boiled away as well. Left are the bittering compounds from the hop called alpha acids that have been isomorized! Hops that are in the boil for half an hour or so leave their flavor compounds, and the ones that are only in the boil for 10 minutes or less are the ones that contribute to the aroma. All of the amounts and timings for adding the hops to the boil is called the hop schedule.

 

Cool It Down and Add the Yeast3586484389_8c7bea6e67_q

So here’s an interesting legal bit of kit. The second you add the yeast to your wort it is considered beer. Don’t ask why… it just is.

Yeast has to be the most wonderful ingredient of this whole process. It is what finally turns this bitter sweet mess into the glorious bubbly, boozy thing we call beer. What does that yeast actually do? Well, it is a living organism that loves to eat sugar and multiply! When you add or pitch the yeast into the wort it actually just starts eating the sugar. And what do living things do when they eat? They digest, produce, and remove waste. They produce and remove two different things, alcohol, which impairs your judgement, and carbon dioxide, that which carbonates the beer in bottle-conditioned beers. It does produce some other things but for our purposes this is good enough.

There are two main types of yeast, ale yeast and lager yeast. The largest difference between them is that ale yeast ferments at room temperatures or higher, and lagers ferments at just above freezing. They produce drastically different flavors and characteristics. Lagers are a very clean fermenting yeast and produce little in terms of yeast character, while ales can produce very robust flavors that most often lend themselves to the final character of the beer.

 

Bottle It, Baby!

The second to last step is getting the beer into a container that will eventually lead to your glass. The two most commons ways of this happening is via keg or bottle.

After the yeast is done eating up all the sugar it goes to sleep at the bottom of the fermenter and you are left with a non-carbonated or still beer. There are two ways of carbonating a beer, the most common way is by force carbonation, where they basically set up a giant soda stream and pump the right amount of carbon dioxide, sometimes nitrogen, into the beer. Once this is done, it can be put it in a keg or bottle and sent on its way. The second way is bottle carbonating. This is where a little extra sugar is added to the still beer before it goes into the bottle or keg and the yeast wakes, eats it up and the carbon dioxide it produces is enough to carbonate the beer.

 

The Final Destination: Your Glass7693256096_a5b6357d85_q

Glassware is a fantastic thing! It will most certainly get it’s own article one day. But as a brief starter, which all of this whole thing has been, glassware is a big deal. Different shapes will disperse the carbonation faster or slower, hold aroma differently, or allow the heat from your hand to warm the beer at different rates. Shakers, the most common bar beer glass, are only good for certain types of beers that want to get flat faster compared to others, and thus you should not drink a pilsner out of a shaker. Alas, I would never turn down a good beer offered in the lowly shaker.

Well there you have it: grain to glass! I skipped a lot a lot, but that will be a good base from which to start. Leave some comments and let me know what you think!

 

Style of the week: Pilsner

I am starting with the most accessible beer for our good friend Corbin. Budweiser is an American pilsner. We are going to seek out a Czech pilsner, the most common one being Pilsner Urquell or Czechvar. I do have a disclaimer, both of these are BMC (BudMillerCoors) beers but they are good versions of the style. If you can, find a local version of a pilsner. Chances are it will be a little different but still very accessible to a primarily-BMC drinker. When you try it, look for a slight hop character that is a little bit grassy and spicy, the flavour will be slightly grainy and a little bitterness, the mouthfeel will be creamy in the beginning and crisp on the end. If you have only had Bud, try them side by side and you will never go back.

Thanks for hangin’, more beer stuff coming in a couple weeks!

Andrew

Andrew Colman – The Puzzle Box: A New Take on Starting a Cube

Here we are again with an introduction to a new series. If you didn’t read my last article, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Andrew Colman, and I live in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, just a few hours north of the North Dakota border. If you did read it, you’ll know a bit more about who I am and a lot about my experience brewing beer.

I’d like to establish the goal of this column right off the bat: I want to build a more affordable cube for people who are just starting out in the format, but don’t want to play janky cards like [card]Quirion Dryad[/card] as a replacement for [card]Tarmogoyf[/card]’s two-drop slot in green. I plan on doing this a wee bit differently than your standard “budget cube” build. This is going to be an experiment, so feel free to let me know how it is going at any point during the process. The goal of this cube is to keep the same play experience whilst spending significantly less money.

Let me spoil the [card]Tarmogoyf[/card] replacement mystery for you right now: there isn’t one. If there was, then it wouldn’t be as bloody expensive as it is. So with that in mind, how is it, you ask, that we are going to get the same play experience of playing this cube, as a regular cube, for less money, without [card]Tarmogoyf[/card]?

Let me answer the question I just asked on your behalf with another question. Have you ever drafted a cube and had [card]Tarmogoyf[/card] not show up in any packs? That’s kind of the point of having a cube larger than the size of your regular playgroup, so you don’t see all the cards all the time. This is the key concept we’ll be working with here. We are just going to cut [card]Tarmogoyf[/card] from the cube. In fact, we are going to cut many cards, as we are going to be building a cube that is only large enough for a six-man team draft: 270 cards. And just to be clear, we are not going to be foiling at any point. There will be price restrictions on this project, so I will happily choose a card that is heavily played or gold bordered if it means the difference between inclusion and exclusion from the list. The focus of this list will be play experience at all costs. I do include some gold-bordered cards in my own cube, and also have a whooped-ass copy of a Beta [card]Earthquake[/card] that I got for $12. I say all this to point out that I will not be choosing cheaper cards for this project than I would for my own cube.

Let’s start with some cube basics and then move on to some number crunching. The first thing we need to establish is from which list we are going to work . Now, I would use my own list, but I favor more of a “modal” feel to my cube, meaning I like having more dials to turn during game play as well as having some unknowns. The list that we will be working from will be wtwlf’s list discussed at length on MTGSalvation.com, which you can draft at cubetutor.com.

A few words on why I chose this list: first of all, it is probably the most widely discussed list on the internet for better or for worse. If you want to know why a card is in this list you need only to go to its forum thread and search it and you will be sure to find out why. Another reason is because it is really tight. Meaning, each card has a purpose and outside of archetype supporters there are very few fringe playable cards. (As an aside, there are lots of fringe cards in mine, mostly because I love how [card]Mul Daya Channelers[/card] plays, even though I understand it is not a tier-one card.) Some archetypes won’t make it into our list because they barely have enough support in a 450-card cube, so in a 270-card cube there would be no way to bring it together.

Archetypes are one thing that we are going to need to address closely as per the aforementioned issues. The artifact theme will probably end up being cut, mostly because we won’t be playing Moxen. We also can’t have the Tezzerets taking up space in our blue sections if they are not grabbing free mana or making free 5/5’s. These are just a couple examples, but we will address all of this in more detail later. I think a smaller, more focused cube will make for a much cleaner playing experience.

Number Crunching:

In our model cube there are 60 cards per color which equals 13.3% of the total cards which gives us 36 cards per colored section to work with. To give you an idea of how I’ll keep the archetypes consistent and balanced, I’ve done up a little spread sheet setting out the number of cards per CMC and archetype. I am no mathematician so if there is something a little wonky about the numbers let me know.

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Theoretically, if we have the same density of one-drop white creatures we should be able to draft the same quality of white weenie deck.

The idea behind this type of build is that it is a starting point. My personal cube has [card]Tarmogoyf[/card], [card]Dark Confidant[/card], [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card], [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card], and other expensive cards. I think they are important to the overall experience of the cube format, but I don’t think they should be a barrier to entry. We’ll start by getting an initial list together, and from there it’s up to you to use the financial knowledge you’ve learned from the Brainstorm Brewery podcast to get those money cards without having to shell out.

Okay, let’s do a poll. How should we structure the limitations of the dollars being spent on the cube? Note that I have intentionally not determined the total cost of the model list because I don’t want to be biased towards a higher or lower number. Help me determine what to spend below, and we’ll start building next time!

What should The Puzzle Box cube's price ceiling be?

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Serum Visions – An Introduction

Hello everyone and thanks for being here with me today. I’d like to start by introducing myself, to let you know a little bit about who I am, where I come from, and why it is that the great guys at Brainstorm Brewery think I might have something worth saying to y’all.

My name is Andrew Colman, and I live in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, just a few hours north of the North Dakota border. My official schooling has nothing to do with beer or cube. I did an undergrad degree at the University of Manitoba in jazz trumpet performance. It took me seven years to complete and I figured out in my third year that I wasn’t going to be a musician in life, and yet I would not take a moment of it back. I learned mostly about learning which in my opinion is the most valuable thing one can learn. I have just begun my Masters of Divinity degree from Trinity College at the University of Toronto distance education in Winnipeg. I’ll be moving out there next September with my beautiful wife to fully engage in the program over a three-year period. So if you are from Winnipeg or Toronto hit me up and we can drink some beer and cube!

Well, that’s quite enough of a bio for now, I’ll be telling stories about making beer like there is no tomorrow because I came at this hobby via the school of hard knocks! I remember talking to my cousin about when he used to make beer in college, they would always make two batches: one an experiment and the other they tried their hardest to recreate every week. They eventually got close to consistency but never really nailed it. I’ll talk about this later in a post on the topic of why we as brewers and beer drinkers actually need to respect the makers of Budweiser even if the beer really sucks!

Anyways, after learning that making beer at home was a thing, it bubbled in my mind for about six months. One day at school I was just blabbing on about whatever, and the fact that I wanted to make beer came up. It just so happened that one of my friends knew how to make beer. Bam, that weekend we were brewing! My first beer deserves its own 1200 words so I wont go into detail here, but I will say, if there are 10 steps to making beer, we did 15 of them wrong. We also made a few people pretty ill along the way. But that’s for another time.

After that I took a little hiatus to recover and it wasn’t until I started working at Chapters, a Canadian version of Barnes and Noble, that I started noticing all of the literature on beer. I did a little research and figured out that the Complete Joy of Home Brewing by Charlie Papazian is arguably one of the greatest home brewing books ever written, rivaled only by John Palmer’s How to Brew. Again we have a topic for another post. I bought the Papazian book and read it cover to cover, and then cover to cover again, and then cover to cover again! It was at this point I had to give my then girlfriend, now wife, the book to hold on to because it consumed my life.

Lo and behold we have this thing called the internet! I had spent a little time on the forum www.homebrewtalk.com, which is analogous to MTG Salvation, except I find it to be a lot more helpful. I spent as much time crawling every topic I could find on this forum as I did doing anything else. During this time I was making a beer every two weeks – as soon as the fermentation of one beer was finished and the yeast had been cleaned, I was bottling and making a new batch. At one point I had two carboys, one bucket, one half carboy, and three one-gallon test batches going in my room while in university. During the winter I would seal off the little window cubby hole and make one gallon batches of lager in there. It was perfect, the temperature had to be just above freezing and I could adjust the amount of ambient room air to keep that little space at the perfect temp.

After a year or two of working at Chapters as just a lowly grunt I was promoted to a regular grunt (cashier). I was then transferred to the music department which is a sequestered area surrounded my tons of music and was rarely very busy. This was a turning point. I could read for eight hours per shift if I wasn’t bothered by any customers and that is exactly what I did! Not only did I read every book on beer in the store, but I was taking out books from the library to read when I had burned though the other ones. It was awesome!

Every mad obsession must come to and end. The summer after I graduated I took up landscaping which zapped all of my energy. It wasn’t until about a year and half later that I picked up brewing again. I had made the odd batch of beer here and there and it was always the best beer in the room, which eventually got people asking if I would teach them to make their own beer. And so it started again: I have taught three people to brew in the last year or so and I have a schedule of people I need to teach before I head out to Toronto.

This series actually got spurred on by the beer that is being made for the cast. They asked for some comments and I wrote an article on what kind of beer they should make, and after some discussion, here I am.

I have one main goal with this series: make sure that my readers are beer literate. If people read this column I’d like them to be able to talk about beer intelligently, be able to taste beer and know what they are tasting, and have a bit of a working knowledge on the history of beer. Forgive me if this seems a bit noble, but it’s the goal…and I am listening to some very noble sounding music.

My next article will be on how beer is made from field to glass. If you know this, everything else going forward will have a frame of reference. Think of it like learning how to build an Esper Control versus an RDW deck. If I say Sphinx’s Revelation is bad in RDW, you would have no idea what I was talking about if you didn’t have the fundamentals down first.

Going forward from there, each post will be inspired by the MTG community in one way or another. For instance, with the pro tour having been in Dublin recently, I would have written on the amazing history of Guinness and how in Ireland if you ask for a pint, they automatically hand you a Guinness whether it was what you wanted or not. Or the utter dominance of the mono-blue deck may have led me to write about Blue Moon “craft” beer which is actually owned by one of the BMC companies, and has attempted to squeeze real craft brewers out of the market. Or with the release of True-Name Nemesis, I might have written on the brewery named Dogfish Head in Delaware. They make absolutely insane beers there, like Chicha, which is a beer that is mashed (terms to be learned in next post) by humans chewing it rather than being soaked in 154 degree water for an hour. If there is something I am just burning to write on, I’ll pull some tricky linguistics and make it fit to a pertinent MTG topic of the week.

Well, if I have piqued your interest, let me know in the comments section. If you have any feedback or suggestions of topics I should keep in mind let me know.

Thanks for hangin’

Andrew