We’re at the tail end of another spoiler season and it’s high time we started talking about Magic‘s newest offering: Eldritch Moon. Part two of the Shadows Over Innistrad block attempts to up the ante with terrifying cosmic – in lieu of gothic – horror and some thrilling new cards.
The story of Eldritch Moon is unravelling at a frantic pace with Jace reuniting with his League of Superfriends to protect Innistrad from succumbing to the cosmic frenzy of the incomprehensible Eldrazi.
Wait. Hold on a minute… Didn’t we just finish this exact same story in Battle for Zendikar? Short answer: Yes. Long answer: While Wizards is certainly adept at making one of the greatest cards games on Earth, their creativity in storytelling is sometimes a little lacking. Predictably, the Big Bad of Eldritch Moon was the only Eldrazi Titan noticeably absent at the conclusion of BFZ. Emrakul’s presence on the plane is the reason people, places and things on Innistrad are being warped and deformed into grotesque versions of themselves and while the threat of the Eldrazi might not be as menacing as it used to be since we discovered how easily they can be defeated in Battle for Zendikar, there’s still plenty of other things to get excited for in Eldritch Moon.
What they may lack in plot and originality, Wizards certainly makes up for it with strong flavour and exciting new mechanics. They’ve gone all-in with their concept of cosmic horror and it shines through not only in the art and flavour text of almost every card, but also in one of their more interesting new mechanics: Meld. Meld allows you to physically combine two different cards to form one massive new card in a mechanic often seen in other card games but never before in black bordered Magic.
Meld is certainly one of Magic‘s flashier mechanics but I tend to be more excited by simpler, idea prompting cards than I am by classic value creatures or clear cut powerful spells. I’m often inspired by and gravitate towards cards that allow me to build interesting and creative decks. Traditionally, Wizards tends to lead spoiler seasons with their marquee creatures and Planeswalkers – as they did with their Day One reveal of Emrakul, the Promised End – but I found myself being much more excited toward the end of this season when they unveiled a handful of incredibly interesting “Build Around Me” cards and/or cards playing in fresh new design space. Let’s take a look at some of the more recently revealed cards I believe are particularly noteworthy.
I absolutely love cards like Sigarda’s Aid.
It plays in design space that many of the pros abhor but I’m absolutely enamoured with: Enchantments and Equipment. Some of my favourite decks have been Enchantment/Enchantress decks and giving Auras Flash seems like a fantastic addition to those decks. The reason pro players dislike Enchantments and Auras is two-fold: 1) They’re usually slow (since they’re most often played on your turn) and 2) Auras in particular open you up to 2-for-1s (i.e. when you lose two cards to your opponent’s one card). Auras typically lack some sort of resiliency to them, meaning if your opponent can remove the creature enchanted with an Aura, you’ve lost two cards – the creature and the Aura – to your opponent’s one removal spell.
Sigarda’s Aid addresses a lot of these tribulations. By giving Auras Flash, they become no different from traditional Instant speed combat tricks. Did they block your 2/2 with their 3/3? Not a problem: Flash in Wolfkin Bond and your 2/2 is now a 4/4. You’ve now gained value that you might have lost if you played the Aura on your turn and had the creature removed during your end step. Another cute trick to Flash in could be a card like Defang on your opponent’s attacking creature. Giving cards that people usually play at Sorcery speed the ability to be cast at Instant speed can lead to a lot of very fun and challenging interactions.
As if giving your Auras the ability to cast them at Instant speed wasn’t enough, you can do the same with your Equipment spells as well as attach Equipment right onto a creature without even paying Equip costs. That seems amazing. Argentum Armor goes from a 6 mana to cast, 6 mana to equip, 12 mana total investment to a 6 mana Instant speed combat trick. That’s just dirty. In Modern, all the Swords of X & Y become that much better because they bypass not only the need for them to be cast during your turn but the requirement to be equipped during your turn as well.
I honestly feel this is a fantastic card and I’m really looking forward to seeing what types of decks are built around it. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see players trying to break this card because of the incredible power it represents. I feel like this is the card that Enchantment and Equipment decks have been waiting for. Wizards, if we can someday get this card’s abilities onto a creature, preferably a Cat, I’d be ecstatic.
Multiplayer formats aren’t my forte, but I’d like to talk about this little gem here.
I think it’s hilarious.
Granted, this card doesn’t seem like the optimal pick in a 1v1 game by any means. It comes down on turn 7 and does a whole lot of nothing when it finally does. You’ll get some fun shenanigans maybe, assuming your opponent casts at least one spell per turn and assuming they don’t reveal a land off the trigger. Not great at all.
In multiplayer games, this card seems insane. In a 4v4 game, you’ve got three times the amount of opponents to potentially trigger its ability. Not only that, but players can trigger it multiple times by playing spells on their opponents turns. I can’t even image what the game would look like with two to four of these in play. I have a feeling this card will create some rather silly board states rather quickly. The chaotic randomness to it makes me feel like Mind’s Dilation should have been a Blue and Red spell. It certainly feels like it has Izzet potential.
I’m quite sure this won’t find a home in Standard barring the most janky of FNM decks – which is fine; more power to you my Brewmaster Brethren – but I would definitely hang on to a few copies of this card to at least trade with your Commander or multiplayer Cube playing friends. This is exactly the type of effect those players love to dabble with.
There’s definitely something strange in this last card.
This is an effect that we’ve never seen before in Magic and I really hope it plays well, because on the surface, it looks hysterical. Green has had the ability to make copies of its own creatures before with cards like Essence of the Wild, Giant Adephage, Spawnwrithe and Sprouting Phytohydra. This, however, is the first time you can turn your opponent’s creatures into copies of one of your creatures. Turn all of your dangerous creatures into relatively harmless 1/3s? Yes, please.
Getting First Strike onto this creature seems essential; that way, he can turn bigger creatures into versions of himself without dying post combat damage. Be mindful that when he deals damage to your opponent’s creatures, they’ll become 1/3s with 1 damage marked on them. If you have a 2 damage burn spell or an effect that lowers their toughness by 2, you’ll be able to kill their creature.
I’ll be honest and say that I’m slightly disappointed that Permeating Mass doesn’t work with Fight effects. Building a deck based around this guy and cards like Rabid Bite to slime all of my opponent’s creatures is something I would have absolutely tried to do. Perhaps if this card plays well, we’ll have an updated version in the future.
That’s all we have time for with this edition of Spoiler Weeks. Did you enjoy the article? Let us know in the Comments section below! We’ll be looking at Eldritch Moon a lot more in the coming weeks including a Cracking Moon article where we’ll crack some packs of EMN. If you’re in the area, Three Kings Loot will be hosting three Eldritch Moon Prerelease events on 16th and 17th July! You can preregister for them online now!
JP Vazquez – Optimum Jank
Welcome back folks! I’m back and I’m back on the brew train this week tackling something that I love to do (but rarely get a chance to play) and that’s Standard…PAUPER. With Standard costing about a Bajillion dollars with Jace, Fetchlands, and Hangarback Walkers in virtually every deck it is very difficult to get into a deck and have any sort of success with dumping your wallet on the counter of your LGS. Who can really afford a $700 deck for Standard? Not me. But I can still have tons of fun and do some pretty fun things with all those commons that I open in my drafts. So, today I’m going to dust off my boxes of commons and brew myself up a Standard Pauper deck or two.
There are lots of themes or deck ideas that I could use as the foundation for a deck, but one thing that struck me is the relative depth of Green in most of the previous sets. Yes, Battle for Zendikar has a bit of a bad wrap, but up until this set Green was quite deep at common and had lots of strong cards to use. On top of Green being a deep colour, White was also pretty deep with a number of very strong choices, particularly in Origins. So, while there are lots of viable options my starting point was to look at my Green and White cards first.
As I was flipping through the cards I made a point of ensuring that I had plenty of strong plays early on, much like I would in a draft. Many players make the mistake of assuming that pauper isn’t fast and aggressive because many commons are slow and clunky. However, when you remove those slow and clunky cards you are left with a very powerful and fast format and having an early answer to play is very important. Timberpack Wolf in multiples can be very powerful, and Cleric of the Forward Order can come down and really and change the landscape of the game by erasing early attacks with the very relevant life gain. I love Sandsteppe Outcast and getting a chance to jam that guy again is well worth the time. There are lots of early plays here and it can give me lots of options as I try to get into the game.
Next I made a point of selecting removal that I can use reliably very early or that can offer flexibility. Pacifism, Savage Punch, and Gideon’s Reproach fit the cheap requirement, but Sheer Drop can be good on turn three, but is very good when you can cast it for its Awaken cost.
My final consideration was a finisher or two and Elk Herd, Rhox Maulers, and the Beastmaster seem like strong options. They can all ensure that the deck has a way to bust up a board stall but punching through thanks to Trample, or pumping my team. There might be something to removing the Beastmasters and putting in another pump type spell like Inspired Charge, but I like the pump and a 5/5 body in a format where big bodies can really help settle things down.
This is a list I have put together and will be looking to jam the next time my friends and I get together next. That may not be for a while, but this list feels pretty powerful and a step in the right direction. I’ll report back to you guys when I get a chance to test this one a little.
The other list I’m playing a round with is a kind of like a G/R landfall deck but in Standard there is a bit of a lack of really scary Landfall creatures apart from Snapping Gnarlid, Makindi Sliderunner and Valakut Predator. That said, there are plenty of other good options. Let’s have a little look.
Atarka Beastbreaker is a very solid mana sink once you become Formidable…and with a Gnarlid and a Valakut Predator and one land trigger you are most of the way there. Invoker is the same sort of huge mana sink to let you really blow things up if you can’t seem to stick a bigger body to finish off your opponent. Gearcrafter is just good value. Heelcutter is a bit of sleeper, but repeatedly making it difficult for your opponent to block is a very powerful option.
The spells are pretty simple. Fiery Impulse is a way to clear the path for your dudes to get in, and the rest pump your team. I was honestly really relishing the idea of playing Gnarlid on turn 2, playing Predator on turn 3, and then playing my land on turn 4, attacking, and then Titanic Growth and Temur Battle Rage and crunching in for a huge pile of damage. However, that is probably somewhat optimistic but fun to imagine. Honestly, the deck is pretty self explanatory and feels like it could really lay down a wicked beating if unchecked.
Once again, this one will need a little testing to see if plays as well as it looks. It could be that I need to adjust some of the numbers but I’m very concerned about not hitting enough land drops to make the Landfall actually work out for me. I also considered more Temur Battle Rages, but the fact is that they could very often be dead cards and not really useful if I don’t have a strong target on board. I could also see taking out the Efreets and just running Hooting Mandrills, but I like the surprise of flipping up the Efreet and then getting your opponent for a bunch. The sideboard is also a work in progress and will need to be fleshed out as I go. Facing down decks with bounce effects is the biggest concern because having creatures get pumped and then bounced really sucks. Man I wish Pyroblast was legal in Standard! However, I will need to see what options are available and see what I can manage.
Well, there we have it for this week. Sure it is a little shorter this week than most, but we’ve got two new brews that you can take out for a spin if you are in to Pauper. I think the format is pretty sweet and even limiting ourselves to just Standard legal cards can still make for some very fun play experiences.
So, until next time have yourselves a great MTG day and be sure to stop by next time for another Casual Encounter.
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter
Welcome back folks! It’s been a while since I sat down and provided you guys with some fun new decks for your next casual card night, so I thought I would sit down and share with you what I’ve been brewing. The good news for you guys is that I’ve actually got TWO decks here for you and who doesn’t love a 2 for 1 special? Even with all the talk of Battle for Zendikar being less than thrilling from many perspectives, there are still loads of fun and interesting things you can do. Let’s take a look at a couple of things that I’ve brewed up and see what you think.
Budget U/B control
One of the biggest things about the current standard environment that makes it so prohibitive to get into a top tier competitive deck is the sheer value of Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. Any deck playing Blue wants a playset of Jace! Let’s face it, the card is extremely powerful and likely worth every penny you pay for it if you grind out lots of matches. Sadly, I can’t afford the $320 for a set of four. However, there was another Blue mythic from Magic:Origins that no one even talks about and I can afford. I’m thinking of none other than Disciple of the Ring. I had the chance to draft this guy in back to back drafts and this guy was amazing. He has almost every relevant ability you would ever need on a creature stapled to him and if you fill your yard with Instants and Sorceries you can dictate the terms of the game fairly easily with an active Disciple of the Ring. So, the question is, can this be a big deal in some other environment than just draft? I suspect the answer is yes. Here is the list I put together.
The game plan seems simple enough. You want to push into the late stages of the game by answering their threats through bouncing them, countering them, or just outright killing them. Using your spells to handle their threats should allow you to pile up a bunch of fuel that you can then use with Disciple of the Ring to either further deal with their threats or to take the fight to them. It wouldn’t take much to pump the Disciple into being a very real threat and a quick clock.
Let’s suppose that your opponent can deal with your #1 threat like the Disciple. Did you notice any other backdoor wins? How about Demonic Pact and Disperse as being a potentially deadly way to really cinch down on your opponent? Get max value off the Pact and then bounce it, recast it and then repeat…seems pretty good to me. Also, don’t forget Damnable Pact and the Mage-Ring Network. If you get into a situation where you have available land at the end of their turn, charge up the Network and wait to be able to fire off a massive Damnable Pact at them, make them draw a whole pile of cards and die as a result of the damage. Nothing quite like a Black “Fireball”! The last trick is Learn from the Past which acts as a way to deck your opponent if you need to get that far.
The only cards that are expensive in this deck are the 2 Languish, 2 Crux of Fate, and the Demonic Pact. Even those are fairly modestly priced in most respects and available right here at Three Kings Loot. Otherwise, the Disciple is about $1/ card, Damnable Pact is about fifty cents, and everything else is super inexpensive, even the lands.
Now, there are lots of good upgrades to run that can still be budget friendly. Ultimate Price is a strong removal spell that is much cheaper to cast, but it doesn’t handle multicolored creatures like Siege Rhino, Anafenza, Mantis Rider or Atarka. Yes, Reach of Shadows is bad 5 mana removal, but at least it can handle those big time threats instead of being a dead card. Murderous Cut might be upgrade on both counts, but exiling your yard isn’t ideal when you want to fuel the Disciple. Of course, you could full on upgrade to Ruinous Path, but that is one more sorcery speed spell and that just might be too slow, or too expensive for the old pocket book. Cancel is eligible for an upgrade with a Scatter to the Winds, but as a rare that may not economical. Spell Shrivel would work almost as well in most situations but I would rather have the hard counter as opposed to the conditional element as part of Spell Shrivel. Reave Soul could stand to be upgraded to Complete Disregard and the only reason I’m running Reave and not Disregard is that I don’t have any more in my box…they are already all in decks! Reave Soul is fine, but the same issue surrounding casting it at Sorcery speed crops up again.
My early version of a sideboard would include 2 copies each of Encase in Ice and Self-Inflicted Wound as very solid sideboard options. I think I would also opt to run 2 copies of Mire’s Malice as a way to force discard and clear out their hand. Malice can also work to give you a late game threat with an Elemental should you need it. There is no doubt 2 copies of Dispel would make the grade as well simply for a little insurance. There would need to be some other serious considerations, but these would almost assuredly make my first 75 for this deck.
You could rock this with your buddies on a Saturday night and feel fairly assured that it could be a real pain in the derriere, but I don’t think you would be ashamed to sling this at FNM either…and the impact on your pocket book would be very manageable.
My second deck runs a couple of the same cards, but whereas the Control deck played these cards as an alternative win con, this time it would be a major key to victory. Let’s take a look at what I’ve got this time around.
The game plan this time is a little different. This acts very much like a token swarm deck. Cast a bunch of dudes, make some Scions, and then pump the team for the win with a Joraga Invocation or a Tajuru War Caller. Now, if that doesn’t work or you can’t find the Overrun style effect, Zulaport Cutthroat could be a win con if you just sac all your dudes to drain out your opponent. However, the really greasy way to get it done is to sac all your tokens (hopefully with the Cutthroat in play) to cast yet another massive Damnable Pact to close out the match. If you don’t have enough Scions feel free to power up the Mage-Ring Network and then just go mana crazy when it’s time to finish off your opponent.
The issue with this sort of deck is that it is extremely creature reliant meaning that a board wipe pretty much shuts this one down. Oh, and by the way, there are LOADS of wraths in this Standard format. However, decks looking to trade 1 for 1 with a token deck won’t be too happy to play you because their exchanges will invariably be much worse. If this deck can get online, go wide, and maintain pressure then this deck could be a real pain in the neck for some decks out there.
Now, I need to confess, I haven’t had a chance to put these through much of the way of testing. My wife and I had a new baby boy about 6 weeks ago, so testing has been somewhat limited, but I am 100% prepared to take both of these to battle at my next casual night and see if I can’t grab a few wins by casting Damnable Pact AT THEM. It just sounds glorious! And the best part is both decks are cheap so I won’t feel bad if they need to be scraped or adjusted.
Well, thanks for stopping by and having a read. If nothing else I hope my brews have given you a little inspiration to sit down and do a little brewing on your own. I get the sense from people out there in the MTG community that the relative let down of Battle for Zendikar is suppressing some brewers because they aren’t super enthused with the quality of the cards. However, as you can see, there are still lots of other fun things you can be doing with Battle and still enjoy the experience.
So, until next time, have yourselves a great MTG day and be sure to stop by next time for another Casual Encounter.
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter
Magic has a storied history all the way back to the Alpha release of counter magic coming from Blue mages. Clash of Wills follows in the same vein as the classic Power Sink, much like Broken Ambitions or Condescend have also filled that role previously. More recently we’ve seen Syncopate used as that necessary turn two counter, which scales up later in the game unlike other ‘unless its controller pays’ counters like Mana Leak. It’s almost as if Wizards is trying to push some of the more controlling styles with recent Blue FNM Promo Anticipate just finishing up its reign as the current FNM offering.
The art is truly stunning with that pose of Jace in a skirmish with an Eldrazi by relative newcomer Anna Steinbauer. This scene really is miles beyond the original art of Jace locked in the battle of will against Alhammarret. I can only imagine that the honor of showcasing her talents on a promo card means we can look forward to more of her working in the upcoming Oath of the Gatewatch release. And the piece de resistance is that chilling quote from Jace about the true mental nature of the Eldrazi.
I hope you all get your shot at nabbing one of these babies at an FNM near you in February, and if you happen to be in Montreal be sure to take in one of our FNMs at the Butin des Trois Rois. We hope to see you there, and good luck !!!
@ejseltzer on Twitter
This is going to be the third and final crack a pack that I will be doing for Battle for Zendikar…at least for right now. Having taken a shot at a draft I really got a taste for the format. However, watching better players sink their teeth into the format has helped me solidify some of my thinking around many of the cards. There are so many things going on out there that I would like to try and touch on, so I’m going to do this pack and then take a little break from cracking packs and talk about a few of the other things going on in the Magic community in the weeks to come. So, let’s not waste any more time!
Let’s see what we’ve got this week.
Murk Strider is a pretty reasonable card if you want to play the Ingest/Processor deck or the R/U Devoid deck. However, a 3/2 for four mana is not an outstanding rate and the ability of bouncing a creature is just decent because the set-up cost is quite high. If this was a mana cheaper or a bit bigger this would be a much stronger critter, but it trades with most two drops and is largely replaceable. This would not be anywhere near the first pick and I would expect I can find this pretty easily very late in the pack.
Sludge Crawler is a more relevant threat. 1/1 for 1 is not usually that relevant because unless you land it on turn one they often get blanked by a 2/2 or better. However, this one can scale in the late game to trade more profitably by pumping. The Ingest is also relevant. It is still not a first pick, but I would look at it ahead of the Murk Strider.
Kor Castigator is a pretty relevant ally. A 3/1 for 2 mana is very aggressive and can pay you off handsomely if you are in the ally deck by coming down early and threatening plenty of damage if unchecked. Also, since it is an Ally it also is not a dud in the late game to trigger a pile of Rally triggers. The last piece of text is that it can’t be blocked by Scion tokens which is very relevant in many matchups. I’m still not taking this early because I would expect to find this quite readily later if I am in the Ally deck.
Reckless Cohort is not a first pick by any stretch. It is a reasonable 2 drop and can play a role in the R/W allies deck. However, a 2/2 for 2 and a questionable drawback hardly makes this guy exciting.
Cloud Manta is just a solid reliable flier. Nothing fancy here but it is usually a useful card and you won’t be sad to run it. This and Shadow Glider are just two relevant fliers, sort of like Wind Drake, that decks running Blue or White will gobble up and love to run. Not a first pick mind you, but something that is likely to get snapped up fairly quickly.
Sandstone Bridge is another of the utility lands this set packs and it’s pretty decent. This not a first pick because the land just isn’t good enough but it will often be the pick over many of the other playables because it just offers a little more flexibility. Nice card…but still no.
Tajuru Beastmaster is the first real card we’ve seen in this pack and even at that it likely isn’t a first pick. It’s a big curve topper in an ally deck or a deck looking to leverage the anthem-esque effect of this thing. It is clearly the best card we’ve seen to date in this pack but I would be very displeased if this ended up being first pick.
Demon’s Grasp is bad sorcery speed removal. You don’t really want spells like this if you can help it, but sometimes you need stuff like this. I wouldn’t seriously look at this for a first pick and in this pack many of the other just “playable”cards would win out over this. Sure, you might take it late, and you might even run it, but you don’t really want to if you can help it.
Eldrazi Skyspawner is the business. This is just a value creature and there is no other way around it. A 2/1 Flier and a 1/1 scion for three mana is very solid and stacks up with Sandsteppe Outcast or Ghirapur Gearcrafter from some of the other formats we have recently seen. This also goes in just about any deck playing blue and is pure value. Whether I select this over the Beastmaster is debatable, but I think I would be leaning towards this because this is quite a bit cheaper and easier to play, but I would need to really think about it.
Scythe Leopard is a 1 drop that I’d probably rather avoid. It is very good in a Constructed Landfall deck where it can consistently be cast on turn 1, but in Limited this doesn’t match up well in any other situation other than being cast on turn 1. Even with Landfall this gets outclassed by so many other creatures that it is hardly worth the pick. I like the leopard, but just not if I intend to win.
Grovetender Druids puts me in two colours and with a creature that is good, but not insane. I don’t think the payoff is big enough for me to jump into two colours right away, so I think I’ll pass on this and opt for one of the other cards in the pack.
Cryptic Cruiser is another payoff for ingesting. However, as a first pick I don’t think it makes sense. If you want to go into the Ingest/Processor decks you really ought to start with the Ingest cards and then try to find your payoff instead of grabbing the payoff and then finding the Ingest cards. Not all Ingest creatures are equal and you want to be sure you have some good ones before you start looking for the payoff.
Drowner of Hope looks like it should be the slam dunk pick. Six mana for a 5/5 are solid stats and it makes two 1/1 scions so in essence you are getting 7 power and toughness for your 6 mana. The ability to sacrifice a scion to tap down an opposing creature is also an important ability. However, if you take this you need to ask yourself what sort of deck lends itself to maximizing this sort of creature. At first glance this looks it should fit in a B/U sacrifice sort of deck where this and Zulaport Cutthroat are your big time payoffs. However, how many 1/1 scions are you getting to maximize the ability to tap down your opponent’s team? Blue makes a few and Black has a couple, but you aren’t really getting a ton of them so the idea of sacrificing a bunch of scions and then reaping the benefits as you drain your opponent out is fairly limited. On top of that, B/U usually wants to play the Ingest/Processor game and not token production. Green is the colour that makes a pile of tokens and is the situation where this could be really explosive. Can you imagine sacrificing a pile of tokens, tapping down their whole team and then crashing in for a ton of damage? Sounds appealing to me. But is U/G really a powerful thing? Maybe with the Converge deck, but that can be tricky. Drowner might also want to go in the U/R Devoid deck because that is also a relevant choice. With so many deck options it is hard to pick one solid deck that this goes in, but Drowner plays reasonably well in all of them and it leaves you very open to a number of strategies. Drowner of Hope seems to be big time game and looks like the front runner in this pack.
First pick is very handily the Drowner. It is strong all on its own and fits in a wide variety of decks meaning that our options going forward are pretty good. The real question becomes where do we go from there? There is almost no chance we’ll see the Sky Spawner come back around or the Sludge Crawler but you never know about a few of the other things in this pack. Even things on my top 5 list might make it back around depending on what other decks start to take shape around the table. As a result, it is very difficult to predict what might come back on the wheel and so our next couple of picks will be very important to help get us into a “lane” here and steer our future selections. The nice thing is that Drowner leaves us open and gives us lots of options and very sizeable top end to our curve that can help get us there.
Thanks very much for taking the time to stop in and read. BFZ is proving to be a very complex and difficult draft format. My own limited playing experience is proving to be a bit of an issue, but thank goodness that lots of other, more skilled, players are posting Draft vids all the time so I can see first hand what is getting picked and where.
Next time I’ll be back to brewing and I have a couple of budget decks that I’ve been working on that I’m ready to share with all of you. So, until next time take care of yourselves and have a great MTG day!
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter
Welcome back folks! Today we are back on the old Crack a Pack plan with an eye towards evaluating a pack of Battle for Zendikar for a draft. Let’s open up the pack and see if there is something interesting in here or if we are going to have a tricky time sorting out our first pick.
Mind Raker is a serviceable Hill Giant with upside. It passes the vanilla test just barely but I’m not convinced that the ability to discard a card is overly relevant. I get the sense that if you want to play Processors and Ingestors in your deck that you are looking for something better than making them discard a card. Now, if you don’t happen to have a lot of Processor payoffs and you just sort of jam this guy for the body to get the occasional upside of making your opponent discard then you are probably pretty happy with it. I’m not picking this early and I would expect that if I want it late it’ll likely still be there.
Territorial Baloth just does good work. He is a beefy creature, gets bigger with Landfall and can just make a mess of the battlefield quite quickly. This guy plays super well with things like Evolving Wilds, Blighted Woodland and any spell that allows for more than 1 land per turn at Instant speed. As much as I like this guy (and I had him as a 10/10 for a turn at the pre-release) I would expect that we can do better with our first pick and wait and see if we can find one of these later on in the draft.
Roilmage’s Trick looks like a bad card, but I think it actually plays better than it seems. I’m not thrilled about this being a 4 mana instant, but let’s face it most decks in this format will be at least 2 colours making the Converge ability fairly reasonable. Besides they can’t make this effect be too cheap when Hydrolash from Origins (which is very similar) is 3 mana. Many decks I’ve seen can handle a splash for a third and maybe a fourth if you are in Green. That means you are likely shrinking down your opponent’s creatures by at least -2/0. That means that those 3/2’s are only dealing 1 point. Those Grizzly bears ain’t got no teef! Imagine getting -3/0 or even -4/0? Think about the profitable blocks you could set up knowing that damage will be a minimum. I’m not saying go out and mortgage the farm for this one, but I do think that there is something here and it could be a suitable combat trick. If I find myself in Blue and need a mid-round pick I would look at this seriously.
Outnumber is a very solid Instant speed removal spell. My personal inclination is to say that this is perfect in a R/G or R/W strategy. That’s where you can get lots of inexpensive creatures then follow up by casting this to take our their bomb and then stampede through the hole for the win. I don’t have much to quibble with here and I would absolutely be looking at this early and often in this pack.
Snapping Gnarlid is the baby brother to the Baloth, but is much more playable as a two drop. Not a first pick, but most certainly something I’m going to be keeping my eyes open for if I find myself in Green or Green is showing as being open. I like this guy and likely over value him at this point in the format, but good two drops are always important in a draft deck.
Spell Shrivel is still a no. I’m not big on Counters and that hasn’t changed since last week.
Scour from Existence is still m’eh. I’m not picking this early even if it is good catch all removal. Let’s be honest, how many times will I want to get to 7 and then Exile their thing? If I really need this I’m likely already dead. I would take this once my options start to dwindle or I need a sideboard card, otherwise I’m likely to move on.
Tajuru Beastmaster is the curve topper for a Rally/Ally deck. I’m pretty ok with a big body like this and the quasi Anthem effect could be very potent. This wouldn’t be a first pick, but it is a very solid selection.
Turn Against takes Act of Treason to a whole new level. Instant speed makes this potentially back breaking as you steal their creature, block their other creature (presumably killing them both) and you get to reap the benefits. How frequently that this will be that good remains to be seen, but it is appealing. I’m not sure I like the 5 mana needed to cast this, but at least it is only single Red meaning I could splash it or cast it with minimal strain on my mana. I would expect this to be a fairly early pickup around the draft table because the potential ceiling is very high with this one.
Bloodbond Vampire sort of feels like a payoff for the lifegain deck. Sadly she lacks evasion to truly make her devastating. The bigger perk might be that this is an Ally meaning you can trigger Rally yet again. While this could be pretty strong in the right build, it feels like it could be a bit underwhelming unless you can find it some sweet synergies to tag along.
Tide Drifter is the reverse of Ruination Guide in that it pumps your colourless team +0/+1. That could be relevant and make you more adept at blocking, but that feels like it is a bad tradeoff because now you are inviting a couple of combat tricks to blow you right out. I would be far more inclined to take a Ruination Guide, but in the absence of the Guide this is a decent plan B.
Ruinous Path is a ridiculous bomb here. Sure it is Sorcery speed removal, but it really reads “3 mana make that bad thing go away”. The upside on the Awaken is also not trivial because in the late game this can make a very relevant creature that can shore up the ground game or join in on the beat down. This is very clearly the strongest card in this pack and is an automatic windmill slam.
Rising Miasma seems like it could be a strong card to wipe away an aggressive deck. However, I’m not taking it when I see the Ruinous Path in this pack. It isn’t even the second best Black card in this pack! No, there is little to no chance that I would be keen to pick this up.
Ok folks, this is a pretty easy choice. Ruinous Path is the pick and highly incentivizes us to look at Black in order to make the most of this sort of highly efficient, extremely powerful removal spell. When this pack wheels there is almost no chance of seeing the Complete Disregard so we’ll need to look at other things. Bloodbond Vampire or the Mind Raker might be a choice as a reasonable body in Black, or I might have to look at another colour. B/G might be a fair colour combination and we might get either the Beastmaster, the Gnarlid, or the Baloth. That has some promise. The Blue in the pack looks a little underwhelming but B/U is a very strong colour combination if you can find the right pieces. So, I would be prioritizing Black at this point to try and cut off other players from jumping into Black but I would also have an eye towards keeping an open mind and spotting a strong second colour to pair with Black. However, if my next pack has some ridiculous strong card that I can’t ignore then I might need to re-evaluate my plan and try something a little different.
Well, there we have it. A pretty easy first pick Ruinous Path, but lots of options to weigh as we move forward as we try to maximize our deck. I can’t wait to get my next taste of the draft format because it seems to be so wide open and synergy based that it is fun, refreshing, and always challenging.
Thanks for taking the time to stop in and have a read and as always, have yourself a great MTG day!
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter
Hi folks! Today is pretty exciting because this will be my first Crack a Pack for Battle for Zendikar. With a new Limited format taking shape this is the perfect time to open up a pack and go through card by card to establish what you might take in a draft, if this was your first pack.
I have to say, on the whole, Battle for Zendikar feels very nuanced compared to some of the previous sets. Origins had very clear “good” cards and “bad”cards and even Dragons of Tarkir was fairly obvious. Battle for Zendikar feels much more subtle and it has a lot more conditions for the cards to be good, but once they are good your deck becomes pretty solid. The real danger comes if you aren’t able to grab enough of or the right synergy pieces then your idea starts to fall apart. Your first couple of picks become so crucial to provide you with strong playables, but be certain keep your eyes open to the synergy pieces that are passed to you. With all that in mind, let’s open up the pack and see what we find today!
Giant Mantis is just a solid playable card. It is just a Giant Spider and is nothing fancy. There is no way this is an early pick and will only make your deck for curve consideration reasons. That said, it is a useful card and when you need it you are always thankful it’s in your deck.
Anticipate is one of those cards that always sounds really good, but in a draft deck is often a card that under performs. It just doesn’t impact the board and eats up a valuable card slot. Yes, it is an instant and can help smooth out your draw, but the cost of playing this over something else is real. I’m not a big buyer of this in Limited.
Kozilek’s Sentinel is a more interesting card because as a 1/4 for two mana this is an excellent blocker. The fact that this could gain an extra point of power (or two) is just extra gravy because it costs you nothing extra. This may not be an early pick, but don’t overlook this if you are in red because if you wait too long it’ll be gone.
Inspired Charge is not an early pick. This gets picked up if, you are in a token strategy and can use it something akin to an Overrun effect. I’ll pass on this early because it’ll probably be there late if I am the deck that wants this.
Scour from Existence is a fine card to deal with just about anything and fits in every deck. The exile is nice because a processor card could use the card exiled as fuel for a bit of a bonus too. Sadly, it’s 7 mana. I’m not in on this early, but if I see one later on I might be inclined to pick one of these.
Grave Birthing is something I’m interested in. Not first pick, but interested in. I feel like it starts to help enable you to to play the Eldrazi processor cards as a payoff without skewing your deck to ingest cards. The surprise blocker could also be real. Don’t get the wrong idea, this is a card that has marginal upside and some modest synergy, but I am interested and if I start to see myself taking some processor type cards then I might be more inclined to grab this sort of reasonable enabler.
Broodhunter Wurm is Green’s Summit Prowler-esque card. He’s a very playable 4/3 vanilla creature and will make your deck regularly enough if you want it. I’m not crazy about it, but I recognize this sort of card has definite value. I would be passing this and hoping to see if I can find one later on to fill out my curve.
Spell Shrivel is a counter spell. I’m not really big on counter magic in Limited decks and this is no exception. I’m going to say initially that this is a no but perhaps in a few weeks, after we’ve seen how the format shakes out a little more, I might be inclined to take this a little more highly. We shall see.
Here is the first REAL card I would look at. Complete Disregard is a very good spell. It is reasonably costed, Instant speed removal that even synergizes with Eldrazi processors. This is EXACTLY the sort of card I would consider taking first. The only downside is that it is a little on the conditional side of things with getting things with power 3 or less, but I think that is a reasonable drawback and something that I can work around. This parallels with Reave Soul from Magic Origins very nicely which was a very good common to pick up and I expect Complete Disregard to be similar.
Roil’s Retribution is a very powerful card. Yes, it is 5 mana, but this is similar in many ways to Pyrotechnics that we just got to play with in Fate Reforged. It is Instant speed and almost ensures that you can get a 2 or a 3 for one out of this spell. It is somewhat less flexible because you can’t target your opponent directly to burn them out and you can get punished pretty heavily if your opponent can play around it and make you leave up 5 mana on your turn to avoid getting blown out by it. I feel like those are manageable risks and not a reason to avoid this card. This one would be pulled to the front along with the Complete Disregard.
Ruination Guide looks pretty spicy. If you can get the Eldrazi Scion token swarm deck online this could be just a horrific beating. However, there is a pretty high set up cost to make this really good. I would rather to make sure I had a few other Devoid/Eldrazi cards in my pile first before I go for this guy. This would still be a fairly early pick, but not a first pick until I saw where I was with my deck.
Slab Hammer is a very solid artifact for an aggressive Landfall deck because you get to replay your lands for yet MORE Landfall triggers AND you get the bonus from this. I’m still not picking it highly. This might make my deck as a 22nd or 23rd card, but I can’t see myself prioritizing this too frequently.
Sunken Hollow is a pricey high-end rare that really only pulls its weight in Constructed. The real question is this: do you pass the expensive rare land and take a better playable or do you just rare draft the value? If this is in paper, I’m totally taking the land. If this is on MTGO, I’ll take the playable instead because this will most likely only be worth about half a ticket and not impactful for the deck most of the time.
Fertile Thicket as a foil sure looks pretty. Definitely not a first pick, but it sure is very pretty.
Can you believe the Swamp might be a consideration in this set? With full art basics being a real thing you might actually give this some consideration. I might question your sanity…but hey…maybe you’re a collector? I’m not really. This would be left for near the end of the pack.
First Pick: If this is a draft in paper and I get a shot at a Sunken Hollow then I’m totally grabbing it. I love non-basic lands and go to great lengths to pick up as many as I can. Furthermore, the raw monetary value from this one card makes this very appealing and not something to be passed. Now, if this is an online draft the relative value of Sunken Hollow is minute compared to the paper version. I am also incentivized to win more with more/better prizes, so I would pass on the land and look to be picking up a playable card for my deck. I’ve made the mistake of taking the fancy land online and have no intention of repeating it. No, online I would most certainly be looking at the removal spells first. I think in this pack I would be starting off with the Roil’s Retribution even if it is a little on the expensive side.
This was a very interesting pack because of the presence of the rare land in the pack. The value represented in real life vs the online desire to win is very interesting and a key feature to keep in mind. However, I feel like the Roil’s Retribution is likely the BEST card choice if you are intent on trying to win and not value draft.
Thanks for taking to time to stop in and have read. Next week I’ll have another pack of Battle for Zendikar and we’ll see how things continue to change following the Pro-Tour & Grand Prix, SCGs and more heavy online exposure. But until then, have a great MTG day!
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter
Hi again everyone and welcome back to another Casual Encounter! With Battle for Zendikar being out and now legal in Standard, there has been an explosion of decks being built. Brewers of all stripes have sat down and put their thoughts together to make a pile of sweet new decks. I have been in the process of building some of my own new decks, but instead of eyeing playing tier 1 Standard decks I’m looking to build decks to play casually. I’ve always had some unspoken guidelines that I’ve kept in mind when building these decks, but I’ve never actually sat down and laid them all out in front of me. Today I have compiled my personal top ten commandments for building my casual decks and will share them with you. At the end, if you have any others that you feel should be added or things that don’t work for you, leave a message or send me a tweet and let me know!
Let’s clear up a few things before we get started. When I say “casual” I’m talking about any time you just sit down with a buddy or two on a Saturday night and just jam a few games. You are playing Magic, but not with an express interest in winning (although winning is fun). You are looking to enjoy the company of your friends and have games of Magic where something interesting, surprising, or intriguing happens. So, if your deck is too powerful, or too weak, your experience is just not going to be as good because you will either dominate or get run over and your games will run out of steam. Neither experience lends itself to fun game play. So, when trying to build a deck I try to follow as many of these rules as I can. Without further ado let’s check out The Ten Commandments of Casual Deck Construction.
10) Thou shalt build a deck that is good…but not too good. Playing the oppressive tournament winning deck is no fun for your friends. It’s ok to have this built and to play it once in a while, but if this is your go-to deck you will quickly find that your friends lose interest or don’t like to play against that deck. Pull it out and play a game or two with your scary good tournament deck, but then put it back in your deck box and grab something else.
9) Thou shalt look for synergy over raw power. Synergistic decks are always more fun and can be deceivingly powerful. Once you get the momentum going you are hard to derail and can be capable of some pretty explosive things. One such example of a synergistic deck that is perfect for Casual play are Simic decks featuring the Evolve mechanic and lots of +1/+1 counters. The Simic deck can be slow to get going, but once you get that Zegana or Master Biomancer up to speed your deck gets hard to handle. Decks featuring somewhat obscure or tricky combos like Sanguine Bond/Exquisite Blood are other great examples of where synergy can totally take over a game, but the deck doesn’t need to ruin the experience for everyone..
8) Thou shalt play those janky bulk rares. Those terrible, unplayable cards can give you much joy and give everyone a good laugh because no one thought they would see play…ever. I’m looking at you Felhide Spiritbinder and Blessed Reincarnation. These sorts of cards can do powerful things if you are prepared to actually play them…sometimes with unintended consequences…and that always makes for great stories. Don’t be gun shy, just run’em. You’ll see.
7) Thou shalt remember that commons and uncommons are your friends. Most Casual players have boxes of commons and uncommons that just sort of sit around and don’t do very much. However, these very playable cards can be leveraged into good value during a game if you are committed to running them. A couple of recent examples are the uncommons from Fate Reforged like Elite Scaleguard, Temur Sabretooth, and Mistfire Adept that can be very powerful but often get overlooked in constructed in favor of just more raw power. Kitchen Table Magic is the perfect place for these to flourish.
6) Thou shalt play an imperfect mana base and that is okay. Really, it’s O-K. No one expects you to have all the most current dual lands / fetch lands / creature lands / make rainbows & skittles fly out of their back side lands. Plus it is way cheaper. WAY cheaper !!!
5) Thou shalt play seven mana (or bigger) spells and not even blink twice. I think this is self explanatory.
4) Thou shalt play expensive, but useful creature destruction. We all know how removal has changed over time. Long gone are Terror, Dark Banishing, Swords to Plowshares and Path to Exile. Instead we get much more conditional removal that is either slower (at sorcery speed), more narrow (like Ultimate Price) or just plain expensive like Spiteful Blow & Pinion Feast that tack on an extra effect. There is actually an incentive to play these less mana efficient cards outside of Limited when you head on to the Casual game. The extra ability (that usually makes the spell so expensive to cast) actually can help your deck do what it wants to do. I always use the example of Spiteful Blow in a deck with a fair amount of land destruction because now you get a 2 for 1 out of this spell that plays into the theme of your deck. Pinion Feast is fine removal in a deck looking to leverage lots of +1/+1 counters. Would I be clambering to play a full playset of these things? No. But there is a place for 1 or 2 of the more unusual spells. Besides to play a million copies of Hero’s Downfall is expensive and not fun.
3) Thou shalt play unusual artifacts. Hello Pixis of Pandemonium.
2) Thou shalt play answers to a little of everything. Since you really don’t get a chance to sideboard you need to play an answer to most sorts of things. Creature destruction obviously, but artifact and enchantment removal are key too. You can slide in some counter spells. No opponent wants to be locked out of the game on account of counter magic, but they do have their place. This takes up more card slots and increases your variance, but variance can make for fun game states with someone having the surprise answer in hand that can swing the whole game around.
1) Thou shalt remember that it is just a game and that you are paying for fun.
Notice I don’t say you can’t play this, that, or the other thing. Anything goes. Provided that your deck is mindful of things like your opponents and having a fun and interactive game, you can play that Ugin or Karn. You can go all aggro if you want, but maybe not quite as aggro as the winning deck at the last big tournament. You can do anything you like, but remember that you are playing for fun. Giving some consideration to the other players will help make your experience far more enjoyable for everyone.
Here’s an example of a deck I have built that fits many of these rules and would be an excellent example of a good casual deck:
So, let’s look at the number of commandments I’ve hit on with this list. It’s not just rares (#10), relies mostly on synergy (#9), plays a couple of janky rares (Foul Renewal for sure)(#8), has lots of commons and uncommons (#7), the mana base is a long way from being flashy or perfect (#6), and answers to a range of things (#2). That’s quite the number of goals that I’ve met and I have no doubt that the deck would fare just fine in a match with some friends. I’ve been toying around with this in the play rooms on MTGO and have seen some reasonable success by giving as good as it gets. More importantly, no one is going to look at this deck and just balk. It’s respectable, has a chance to win every time, and is looking to interact and make the game fun for everyone. It’s not a fancy deck, but it showcases many of the ideas I have been trying to illustrate.
Have I missed anything? Is there anything on my list you don’t agree with? Let me know. There are loads of people out there who play casually and I would love to hear what other people do as they sit down to make up their decks. So, leave me a message or fire me a tweet and let know.
Thanks very much for stopping by for a read. Until next time have yourself a great MTG day and I’ll talk to you guys next time!
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter