Hi everyone and welcome back once again. Aether Revolt is just around the corner and everyone is counting down the top cards to be excited for. Well, I’m no different except that I’m not looking at Limited cards or Constructed cards. No, what I want is some fun new toys to splash around with in some Casual decks and to really spice things up when I get to sling cards with my buddies around a kitchen table. So, with Casual decks in mind, let’s look at the top 10 Casual cards that I’m eyeing from Aether Revolt.
1.Planar Bridge: This is a very potent card for EDH decks. As a repeatable creature tutor that activates for 8 mana, this is an amazing way to go and find that big bomb you have lurking in your deck and dump it straight on the battlefield. However, the other thing this does is it allows your deck to go and play more like a “Tool Box” deck that is so acclaimed in other formats. Now, R & D has assured that at 8 mana to activate this that it is not a Constructed card, but in EDH, if you need an answer to eliminate that terrifying artifact, creature, or enchantment, you now have a tool to allow you to go and find it at Instant speed. It may not be the most efficient way to answer something, but if the alternative is you dying then I would rather take my chances with the expensive creature tutor. The one thing I am glad of is that Planar Bridge puts them on the battlefield rather than “casting” them and thus avoiding all the nasty “When Cast” triggers like on Emrakul, the Promised End. This is going to make EDH very interesting. Also, the Masterpiece version of the art of this card is stunning and one of the few times I might be prepared to shell out for the premium version rather than a simple non-foil version. A very fun and beautiful card and in my estimation the top pick for Casual Players from this new set.
Well, there you have my top 10 Casual Cards. As always, these lists are highly debatable and there is no doubt that I could have added another 5 cards easily. However, I have to draw the line somewhere and 10 feels about right. What has caught your attention from Aether Revolt? If you’ve got something that has captured your attention or something that you are really looking forward to playing let me know in the comments down below or find me on Twitter. As always, thanks for stopping by and be sure to stop in next time for another Casual Encounter.
What motivates you to Brew? Is it a card? Is it a mechanic? Is it a colour? Brewing up a deck takes as much creativity as any other creative output, whether it is writing the next piece of great literature, or composing the next symphony, or even painting a masterpiece to be displayed. No, regardless of what you do in your life, if you brew up decks at Magic, you need some sort of inspiration. Let’s explore some of those sources of inspiration and where you go looking for creative ideas to make a deck.
There are lots of different types of decks out there and lots of different people out there brewing things up. Not every one brews up first rate competitive decks…and that’s fine. Let’s be honest, the very creative and best are rare and hard to find. If it was easy to be creative there would have been more Mozart’s, Rembrandt’s, or Shakespeare’s. The same theory applies to creating a deck…the top deck builders are the top deck builders for a reason. They “see” things that the average player misses, and that’s what makes them special. However, we can learn a process, we can all improve, and the fact that we aren’t that special talent does not invalidate our own efforts to build decks. In fact, there is a great deal of satisfaction in building your own deck even if it is never going to be used at more than a game at your kitchen table. Building decks is a creative activity that brings with it its own level of enjoyment and joy regardless of how talented you are.
So, when you sit down to brew, where do you start? For me there are a couple of ways that often kick start the process. The first and most obvious jumping off point is you open up an automatic “build around me” card that it is just too tempting to turn up. These are usually super powerful mythics or rares and come in a variety of colours and shapes, but these present an opportunity to exploit something very explosive and powerful. However, sometimes these are commons or uncommons that can yield a more consistent result because you likely have a playset to fill out in your deck. One such example would be the card Aqueous Form from Theros. “Huh?” you ask, but let me run down how this could be such a card. We have seen that unblockable creatures are super hard to contain and interact with…and the only thing harder is an unblockable creature that is also hexproof. Basically, I took one look at Aqueous Form and said “ well…let’s make my own Hexproof/Unblockable creature and make the game totally degenerate”. So, I next needed to find hexproof creatures…and I was off and running to build a deck all on the back of 4 common Aqueous Form cards.
Another approach for inspiration is looking at the decklists of others for ideas. This does NOT mean straight out copying the deck list. As much as that is a very popular form of building decks, it is not really inspiration because there is very little of your own creative thought that goes into the deck. No, the idea spawned by the decklist is a decent place to start but you need to take that idea and then build around it by substituting and replacing pieces of your own. This may be done on account of you not having the same pieces as the decklist that was posted, but sometimes it is to reflect your own interests. Perhaps you want to push the linear mechanic in the deck further. Perhaps it is to reflect your playgroup and you make changes to deal with particular decks. Whatever your reason, you move away from the standard decklist that you found somewhere on the internet and take it in a different direction. On occasion I have done this as well mostly to get a sense of some core pieces that can fit nicely together that interest me, but I then go around and fill out the shell with the cards that I want.
A third way to find some inspiration is looking at decks from previous formats and then modifying them with the use of cards that are currently in the Standard format. The nice thing with Magic is that often similar cards get printed that have the same or similar effects. This isn’t always the case, but you can find most effects you want printed in one form or another. As a result, the same style of decks and archetypes can exists, but with slightly different cards and with some slight differences. One such archetype that I have been enjoying is the Hexproof/Auras decks…particularly the Bant Auras deck that was played while Geist of Saint Traft and Invisible Stalker were in Standard. Both of these cards are effectively broken and to arm them up with Auras makes for a potent deck. My immediate thought when they rotated out was that Theros could NOT support such a strategy again because the deck was pretty degenerate. Honestly, who wants to play a deck that allows for almost 0 interaction and races you with devastating effectiveness? Not me…unless I’m the one running the deck! Then I saw a deck tech on the coverage for the Theros Pro-Tour that was a W/G Hexproof auras deck and my hopes were renewed as I took inspiration from source #2 (someone else’s deck). This is where my interest in Aqueous Form, an idea for a current deck in the Meta, and a previous archetype coalesced to form one common deck idea.
Now, once you have a deck idea the actual brewing process can be very quick or it can take a long time to assemble the cards you want/need. I’ve sat down and in 25 minutes put together a perfectly reasonable deck with a variety of synergistic pieces. That’s fine so long as you are prepared to play with a bunch of common and lower price tag cards. However, I have also been building a deck for the better part of the last 8 months in an attempt to assemble all the cards I want. Now, the prime reason it has taken me so long to build the deck is that I have been looking to pick up the premium rare cards and lands to make the deck go. When you play Magic on a relatively tight budget it takes time to trade, acquire, scrimp and save enough to acquire the pieces you want for you deck. That is exactly the situation in which I find myself and have had to piece together the cards for my latest deck.
2015 Core set Standard
So, that’s the deck I’ve been building since September. It is a combination of all three forms of Inspiration that I usually use. The common playset of Aqueous Form, the W/G Hexproof shell from Pro-our Theros, and some of the main tenets of Bant Auras as it existed while Geist and Stalker roamed the battlefield. I’m actually proud of this deck because I have yet to actually see a deck that looks like this in Standard anywhere. Now, that likely means it is likely no good, but it is nice to think that is entirely my own brew and not copying or emulating any other deck running around Standard currently. It is also a long way from being a budget deck. That’s part of the reason it has taken me so long to build this deck and to take it out for a test drive. Inspiration is great to give you direction…but sometimes the old bank account can hold you back from some of those goals. It has taken me 8 months to put together the pieces for this deck and will likely continue to evolve.
I haven’t included much in the way of discussion around tribal decks because they are almost self evident. You open up a bunch of Goblins…you make a Goblin deck. Horsemen (Centaurs), make a Horsemen deck. That’s easy enough, but just because it is easy doesn’t mean that it can’t be fun. Sometimes the simplest source of inspiration is the best sort.
I built a rather wonky casual deck around this one common and the interaction with Spark Trooper. What could be more fun than a recurring Ball Lightning with Lifelink! Sometimes finding cards that extend across sets separated by a number of years can yield some fun and unexpected interactions and fun inspiration for a deck.
Sometimes I wake up and want to build a deck that will totally cause nothing but grief for my opponents. It is not normally my style, but there is a sort of sick satisfaction from just hosing your opponent and locking him out and then crushing him. Mill. Counter decks. Land Destruction. This can be immensely enjoyable…but only in small doses.
I have to say that a Monte Cristo sandwich is really quite delicious. If you’ve never tried one, if you see it on the menu of a restaurant near you, give it a whirl. Think Grilled cheese sandwich meets French Toast…and 100% delicious. That’s some solid food to Brew on!!
Thanks for reading…if you have any other ideas on what motivates you brew I’d love to hear about it. Everyone is different and maybe you have a trick that you could share with the other readers. Shoot me a tweet and let me know.
Until next time keep it fun, keep it safe…keep it casual.
Bruce Gray @bgray8791
Another weekend of SCG Standard has passed and sitting at the top of the heap we find a successful jumble of acceleration into monstrous beasts and powerful planeswalkers. What we find there is essentially the GR Monsters shell that’s been prevalent in Standard for quite a while, but dipping into White for additional planeswalkers and some removal options. And judging by the popularity of this archetype in the Theros Block format it looks like it has quite a future ahead.
It is no stranger that the most prevelant duo of Green mana dorks both in Standard and Block is Sylvan Caryatid into Courser of Kruphix. This not only fixes your mana and even effectively draws you additional cards but also gains you vital life points which are so crucial in this aggressive metagame. The downside is that Courser provides your opponent with nearly perfect information which can foil you bluff when playing off the top of your deck. As an additional accelerent there is also Voyaging Satyr which won’t help if you are missing a color but will still allow you to gain extra mana. All of that goes towards powering out some monstrous fatties quickly so you can activate their Monstrosity abilities and close out games quickly. The two we find in the deck are Polukranos, World Eater which also acts as much needed removal in this deck and also the hasty flier Stormbreath Dragon which peeled off the top is often the recipie for certain doom. If those monsters are the meat of the deck we then find the fine wine pairing in the foursome of planeswalker to accompany them. The main player is party animal himself Xenagos, the Reveler who not only brings his satyr buddies with him but also helps acheive Monstrosity fast with his ramping ability. Next to join the party is Ajani, Mentor of Heroes who has a dual purpose between pumping up your creatures and digging into your deck to find more threats, but also when protected can threaten its ultimate to bolster a diminishing life total. There is also a major contribution from Elspeth, Sun’s Champion with her legion of soldiers following her, but be wary of her second ability as your bombs tend to be destroyed as well as the opponents. And why not a misers Chandra, Pyromaster as well to add a little card advantage to the deck and her first ability helps slip your big boys past their chump blockers handily. The rest of the deck is rounded out by some varied pieces of removal. There is Keening Apparition which is able to destroy any enchantment the opponent presents to the board such as Chained to the Rocks or even Underworld Connections. As a great sweeper Mizzium Mortars is able to be overloaded to deal four damage to all the opponents creatures and cast aside any would be blockers for your giant monsters. Then the last piece of the puzzle comes with the flexible Selesnya Charm that can either pump and grant Trample to a creature to rampage for a win, exile a creature that has power greater then five, or even add another threat to the board with a vigilant knight token.
So here we find that the GR Monsters deck which has already been a force in Standard continues to have room to grow and adapt as it proves it is a major player in Standard. What really interests me with this list is that the core of the deck is all from Theros Block and will undoubtedly continue to be a force into the next rotation of Standard. If you are looking for a deck to invest in as a long term prospect then this is undoubtedly the one.
One of the shining pillars of the Theros Block Constructed format is the awesome White planeswalker Elspeth, Sun’s Champion though that doesn’t necessarily lend itself easily to just White deck choices. This deck was one which realized how to harness that incredible power while finding support for it in other colors. What emerged was a Gruul based Naya deck that went down a very Aggro beatdown route. There are strong ramp elements to power out monstrous creatures and incredible planeswalkers working hard to seal the deal as fast as possible. And although there are different combinations to build this deck there are key elements which emerge from all of them.
It all starts with the trio of ‘mana’ dorks with Voyaging Satyr and Sylvan Caryatid into Courser of Kruphix. These three are crucial to the plan of deploying huge Midrange threats well ahead of the curve, and those threats come in the form of some truely monstrous beasts. The first of which we find Polis Crusher which is a fine beatstick as a 4/4 for four but also has a relevant ability in this format with Protection from Enchantments, and when you activate his Monstrosity becomes a 7/7 that destroys enchantments the damaged player controls which with its Trample should connect often. The next step on the Monstrosity curve comes with Stormbreath Dragon which with Flying and Haste will often be a surprise to skirt around sorcery speed removal, and against control style decks blasts to the dome of your opponents equal to their cards in hand when he becomes monstrous. There is also a one of Polukranos, World Eater as a value five power four drop that can go monstrous to act as additional instant speed removal for the deck. Yuuki chose to run with a trio of planeswalkers but it all centers around a full set of the decks namesake Elspeth, Sun’s Champion which unchecked by the opponent will easily start to dominate the board with its soldiers, remove large threats en masse or even beef up and raise your entire army to the air with her emblem. He also went with a pair of Ajani, Mentor of Heroes to strengthen your soldiers, it can gain some advantage by finding any of the decks 28 creatures or planeswalkers, and given enough time even gain you 100 points of life. The other planeswalker we find in the deck is Xenagos, the Reveler who’s ramping ability in conjunction with the decks dorks will help power out the big monsters quickly unless you need him to bring some of his satyr friends to the party, or if you do get to ultimate with him with 45 creatures and lands in the deck the top seven is bound to share a bounty of wealth. The deck is wrapped up simply with White based removal using the catchall enchantment answer Banishing Light to remove a plethora of permanent threats and also Chained to the Rocks which is the reason why we find the deck with a substantially larger amount of Mountains then in similar decks of this style.
There was also another RG Elspeth list by Andrea Mengucci which finished in sixth place. While it did follow the same line of attack there are some fundamental differences starting with the manabase where Andrea not using Chained to the Rocks opted for much less Mountains and went for Temple of Triumph instead of Mana Confluence and a singleton Plains. In order to add in a varied array of spells he cut a Voyaging Satyr and the singleton Polukranos from the creatures but was able to pack a more robust removal package. He decided upon only two Banishing Light and then went with direct damage with a set of Lightning Strike, a trio of Destructive Revelry and a singleton Magma Jet. He also opted to forgo Ajani to go up to three Xenagos instead. While neither list is necessarily better then the other they do play along a slightly different line and you should run with the one you feel compliments your style of play better.
I have very little doubt that we will see this as one of the top decks at the Grand Prix in Manchester. We have already seen in Standard that this combination of Green and Red monsters is a winning style. And with the addition of Elspeth to that equation there is little to prevent the raw power of this deck from shining. I expect that we will see this not only as a superstar in the Block format but also continuing into the next Standard season as well. I would definitely stock up on the cards for this deck if you enjoy this style of Midrange monster beatdown.
Ajani, Mentor of Heroes- I always love checking out the new planeswalkers that each set reveals, and this one looks super sweet. The art is sweet, so right there we have a plus. The 5 mana is steep, but with the improved abilities on this guy over some of the other incarnations of Ajani, I think it is very playable. What I like most is that he comes in at 4 loyalty and starts ticking up right away…and you can’t minus him until he ultimates. The 2nd ability, of being able to filter through your deck for an Aura, a creature or a planeswalker gives this guy a huge card draw advantage and will be super powerful. The 1st ability of handing out 3 +1/+1 counters is also amazing and steep upgrade from Ajani, Caller of the Pride. The ultimate is kind of silly, because by the point he reaches 8 loyalty you should probably have things under control, but just in case you didn’t the 100 life will pretty well put things out of reach. The only drawback that I can see, and it is a relatively small one, is that he can’t protect himself. Sure, he can make basically your entire team much tougher to deal with, but there is almost no way you really want to cast this guy into a board state where you are behind and empty because he just can’t do enough to save you or stay alive. However, this Ajani is very cool and I see big things for him. I’ll give him an A+ because I think this guy is going to be a beast for a long time to come.
Crystalline Nautilus- This will join the realm of the Phantasmal Bear as fun cards with hilarious abilities. The relative overpowered nature of this card is totally balanced by the fact that when it is targeted you need to sacrifice it. On the whole, a fun and flavourful card that will have a home in a limited game. It gets a B- from me.
Mogis’s Warhound- A super aggressively costed 2/2 for 2 mana, but even more so is the Bestow cost of a mere 3. Sure, it attacks every turn, but if you are playing this Red deck that’s pretty much all you want to do anyway. It is a good solid card and a matching good solid B from me.
Sage of Hours- This is another Mythic Rare released last night and he’s very solid. A 2 mana 1/1 with Heroic that gives him +1/+1 whenever he is targeted with one of your spells. The casting cost makes him very competitive and will slide nicely into W/U Heroic decks without a second glance. However, it is his second ability that is pretty wild. If you remove all the +1/+1 counters from Sage of Hours and for each 5 counters you remove you get to take an extra turn. Taking extra turns is always very powerful, although by the time the guy is a 6/6 you should either have the game all sown up…or something terrible has happened to you. However, I love the card and think that it could be broken by a Johnny out there. I’m giving this guy an A for being a solid Heroic creature and having a super powerful additional ability to be exploited.
Sightless Brawler- a 3/2 for 2 mana is pretty awesome as we have seen in limited. Swordwise Centaur has done good work for draft players and this guy will too. The drawback on this guy is that he can’t attack alone, but he is probably fitting in nicely in a White based Heroic deck and will have plenty of friends to follow into battle. Also, he is still able to block, so he comes down early to play a little D, and then when he lands a friend can roll into attack mode. The Bestow ability is just extra value in the late game and gives a pretty sizeable boost for 5 mana. I like this guy and give him a B for being just a very useful body despite his drawback.
Spirespine- A 4/1 for 3?! Ok…and he can Bestow too?! Wow! Ok, so he needs to block, if able, but let’s be realistic, he’s very aggressively costed and powered up so blocking isn’t really a big deal for this guy…he wants to go on the attack. We have seen that Nyxborn wolf has been very good at limited and he Bestows for the same 5 mana, so it would reason that a 4/1 for the same Bestow cost would be pretty sweet too. I like him and is another really sweet Bestow creature and gets a B from me.
Note: The more Bestow creatures I see, the more I like the ability! Nothing quite like getting extra value!
Temple of Epiphany and Temple of Malady- Ah yes, the corresponding Temples for this set. We have seen that these are super useful cards and the free Scry ability is very relevant. I can’t wait to get my hands on these guys. Further to that, I really like the art work. In particular the Temple of Malady looks very cool and foreboding.