Tag: born-of-the-gods

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Bruce Gray - July 10, 2014

Crack a pack MTG Born of the Gods with Bruce

Crack a pack MTG -BNG Boosters

 

Crack a pack MTG Born of the Gods with Bruce

by Bruce Gray -Casual Encounters

 

This week I will be opening a pack of Born of the Gods  and go through the top five cards and the first pick from the pack if you were drafting.  This is a follow up to last week’s Theros pack and acts as a bit of bridge towards the full block Theros draft.  Let’s have a look and see what we’ve got.

 

 

Rare:

 

 

Uncommons:

 

 

 

Commons:

 

 

 

Foil

 

 

 

Once again we have a fairly mediocre pack just like last week. A good starting point is always the rare but in this pack we have an awful card to draft first.  Plea for Guidance is a lovely way to tutor up enchantments, but it is terrible as a first pick.  You have no idea what direction your deck will be headed, it costs 6 mana for a sorcery that simply tutors up enchantments, and has no impact on the board.  No, this is a terrible choice for first pick, so we need to go deeper into this pack for some other things.

 

Once I’ve discounted the rare  (because it’s AWFUL) there are a few things that grab my attention. The first one is Siren of the Fanged Coast.  I always like playing blue and this gives you a very solid creature to start with.  It can either be a 4/4 flier (aka Air Elemental) or if your opponent is feeling particularly dense lets you take control of their creature.  In either case, this card is good and something that will a good long look to be first pick.

 

Everflame Eidolon is another good card because of the ridiculously aggressive cost of its Bestow ability.  Sure, it is 2 mana for a 1/1 with Firebreathing, but it Bestows for a very reasonable 3 mana.  If nothing else, using it as an aura is its intended purpose.  Don’t believe me?  Remember the Bestow costs in Theros?  Spearpoint Oread is a 2/2 for 3 mana and Bestows for 6. 6 mana! That’s huge! By comparison the Everflame Eidolon is HALF of that, gives your creature +1/+1 AND firebreathing. In draft, aggressive red decks love this guy and abuse him all day long.

 

Swordwise Centaur is another reasonable choice for first pick.  A 3/2 for 2 mana is solid and this just does work.  He’s gets down early, applies early pressure, and if you end up playing the devotion game is a solid devotion engine too.  The lack of other relevant abilities probably means that this guy isn’t picked first, but if you have your heart set on green you’ll give him a long hard look.

 

Pheres Band Tromper is another solid green card giving this pack two very good green cards.  3/3 for 4 mana is a good sized body and isn’t over priced, but the Inspired trigger to make it bigger is super relevant and makes this a very strong card.  Let’s be real…if you’re the type of player who likes to play green you love to turn creatures sideways and smash.  The Tromper rewards you handsomely for doing that and in the process makes you and even BIGGER beat stick.

 

The last card of real interest in this pack is Loyal Pegasus.  A 2/1 for 1 and has flying is always of interest, even with the drawback.  I would be less likely to get super excited for the Pegasus, but there are always people who want to force the aggro train and will jump on this as the entry point to an aggressive White based deck.

 

The other cards in this pack are very lacklustre. Stormcaller of Keranos is interesting for the repeatable scry effect, but a 2/2 for 3 with haste doesn’t really excite me.  Griffin dreamfinder is another reasonable card, but a 5 drop that is a 1/4 hardly scares anyone.  I’ve said as much before but Felhide brawler is a pretty poor “Grizzly Bear”.  A 2/2 for with a drawback makes this quite undesirable unless you are the B/R Minotaur deck. Crypsis, I suppose, could be a fun little combat trick, I would hardly take this early in the draft because I’m sure I’ll see several copies in the later rounds. Eye Gouge could be a perfectly reasonable choice because it kills a number of important creatures from Vaporkin, to Soldier of the Pantheon, to Sigiled Skink and Sedge Scorpion.  If you can nab a Cyclops with it, all the better. Grisly Transformation and Evanescent Intellect are both lacklustre auras that should be avoided in most cases.  Finally, Culling Mark is just a bad card and not worth wasting a selection…it will be the card forced at the end of the round.

 

So, top five cards we have in this pack:

 

  1. Everflame Eidolon
  2. Siren of the Fanged Coast
  3. Pheres Band Tromper
  4. Swordwise Centaur
  5. Loyal Pegasus

 

First pick:

 

Really, there are only 2 cards worth considering as a FIRST pick.  The others on this list are nice cards and can play big roles in a number of decks, but really only Siren of the Fanged Coast and Everflame Eidolon would be serious contenders to be first picked.  The Siren is unfortunately a Tribute card, meaning you could find yourself taking control of your opponent’s Nyxborn Rollicker or other innocuous creature instead of getting a 4/4 flier, but in most cases you’ll be getting a 4/4 flier which is pretty strong.  The Eidolon isn’t as powerful by itself, but the pretty inexpensive Bestow makes something else pretty frightening…particularly because if you can slap it on a Heroic creature, well, you’re off to the races.  At the end, the fact that the Siren is most consistently a 4/4 flier, and you aren’t looking to attach it to something like the Eidolon, makes the Siren a better choice and my pick for 1st pick in this pack.

 

Well, there we have it…our Crack a Pack for Born of the Gods all primed up for you.  I hope you enjoyed reading.  Next week we’ll crack a Journey into Nyx pack just before we start looking at M15 pack.  Until next week, take care and may you open many Mythic Bombs.

 

Bruce Gray -Casual Encounters
@bgray8791
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Bruce Gray - June 13, 2014

Casual Encounters – Deep Thoughts on…Drafting JBT

Drafting JBT

So, I got my first up close and personal look at full Theros Block Draft and I have to say I enjoyed the experience.  The format has good flexibility and variance making for a wide variety of decks and lots of interesting choices.  Today I’ll share some of my thoughts on the format and recap my draft…hopefully some of you don’t make the same mistakes that I made.

First off, I ended up playing Junk (G/W/B) which is pretty unusual for a draft deck.  Most players would opt to play 2 colours and perhaps splash a third colour, but I ended up playing a full suite of all three colours.  In the Journey into Nyx pack I was looking through and had a rare of Revel of the Fallen God…which is a funny card but it is ambitious to cast and tough to get in to because it is 2 colours to cast.  However, in the same pack there was a Banishing LightBanishing Light is premium removal in White in both Standard and Limited, so this was an easy pick and set me up to go into white.

My second pick had a variety of interesting cards but the Golden Hind looked like an easy second pick and had me going into White and Green.  Normally this is a colour combination that I’m very comfortable with and really felt at ease with being set up in those 2 colours.  With a pick 3 Ravenous Leucrocota I was well on my way to W/G beat down deck I would be expecting myself to play.  However pick four is where things got off the rails.

Pick 4 had me looking at a pack that had no green cards of any sort and poor white cards, so it would appear as if I was being cut off from my colours (or is was a lousy pack) but I was looking at a Brain Maggot.  Now, I thought to myself, Brain Maggot is a pretty solid card…and with both of my other colours seemingly closed off, Black might be an option.  So, Brain Maggot was the pick, opening the door a crack to play Black.

Pick 5 was another Ravenous Leucrocota and I was back on W/G.  However, again, pick 6 I was out of luck in either of my colours, but looking at a pack with a Spiteful Blow.  Normally I don’t get excited for 6 mana removal spells, but in a draft where removal is a tad tough to come by, the fact that this destroys a creature AND a land made it easily the best pick…and at pick 6 was a pretty good sign Black was open.  So, Spiteful Blow and my thought process was very seriously to play either W/B or G/B and abandon the W/G deck idea.

Well, Born of the Gods opened up and my first pack had Tromokratis which was far from ideal as I hadn’t picked a single Blue Card yet.  However, Bile Blight was looking at me and I made sure to grab it.  Passed my pack…and picked up the next one…which also had a Bile Blight! Ok, so now I was very seriously playing Black…I had perhaps two of the best removal spells back to back and to not play them would be foolhardy.  With the next couple of picks I grabbed a couple of green creatures like Nyxborn Wolf, Phere-Band Tromper, and Swordwise Centaur and was really and truly looking to play G/B.

Well the plan totally changed again with Theros when I got passed a pack early in the round and was looking at Scholar of Athreos and a bunch of White, Blue, and Red cards…and nothing in my other two colours.  I wondered if I was being cut off again because someone down the table had decided to jump colours too! I was unimpressed.  Scholar is an awesome card in a B/W deck…but I committed to playing G/B…unless I was prepared to play all three colours or basically toss this pick.  I grabbed the Scholar. I was rewarded with a second one in the next pack too.  Oh boy. Now I was in a pickle. So, more or less I spent the rest of the Theros round grabbing utility creatures in White like Leonin Snarecaster, Hopeful Eidolon and an Ordeal of Heliod.  I also lucked in to a Sip of Hemlock but most of the rest was just filler and not very good.

So, here’s my Draft deck

Junk (G/W/B)

Now, my first thoughts when I finished building this deck from my picks was ” wow…am I GREEDY! ”  Almost every draft deck I have ever seen built, that is any good, is two colours and MAYBE splashes a third.  I was full on running three colours…and had virtually no mana fixing.  On top of that, I pushed the envelope and played 24 spells and 16 land instead of the more traditional 23 and 17.  I was clearly pushing my luck.  I kept telling myself I had plenty of removal…all I had to do was hold down the board long enough to get to 4 land (and have all three colours) and I was golden because my highest casting cost on a creature was 4.

Well, I went 2-1…which is normally a pretty decent record…but that one loss left me somewhat frustrated because I played my way to that loss more than I got beat by my opponent.  We went the full three games and he won game 1, I won game 2, and then he took game 3…but it was the loss in game 1 that left me bummed.  The exchange that left turned the game in his favour was one where I attacked with a Ravenous Leucrocota into his 2 creatures that combined had enough power to kill Ravenous Leucrocota.  I didn’t expect him to team block, but he did.  But all was not lost…I had Bile Blight in my hand and 2 open black mana.  However, I got greedy…again.  I opted not to pull the trigger on the Bile Blight on one of his creatures (voyaging Satyr I think) in favour of trying to get a better target with it later. So, my leucrocota died, so did his Satyr…and that left him with a creature and me with an open board.  Next turn he Bestowed Nylea’s Emissary on his dude and the beat down was on. That HUGE misplay cost me the game and a chance to go 3-0.  I’m not going to say I would have won for sure, but my odds would have been at least even if not better…but instead I had to swallow a loss due to some poor play.  All in all, it was a pretty successful draft and had a blast and can hardly wait for my next one to try and rectify those playing mistakes.

Other Ramdom Thoughts:

Ravenous Leucrocota- In my review of Journey Into Nyx  I reviewed Ravenous Leucrocota favourably and compared it to Nessian Asp, a bomb in triple Theros draft. Well, Ravenous Leucrocota might be better than the Asp.  The difference is the Vigilance.  Once this thing goes Monstrous and is 5/7 it is house!  It can attack and defend, and if you can Bestow it with anything it is HUGE and really hard to manage.

Brain Maggot grossly over performed for me.  The ability to strip your opponent of a key card early in the game is extremely valuable and if that allows you to get out in front and force them to expend resources on other things, well, you are in luck. I have to admit, I also under rated this card in my review.

Leonin Snarecaster and Deathbringer Lampads both played similar roles in the deck, namely provide a form of evasion for some of my bigger creatures to exploit.  The snarecaster would tap down pesky blockers and the Lampads just let something sneak in for extra damage and allow me to get into the red zone.  These were both surprisingly useful.  Especially the Lampads. I was skeptical at first but I have changed my tune.

Consign to dust vs. Fade into Antiquity.  I had the option of running either one of these and opted for the Consign to Dust.  I liked the option of the Strive mechanic despite the fact that I feel that it, in most situations isn’t all that relevant.  Fade can be excellent with the exile ability instead of Destroy, but unless you are facing down a god, the ability to hit multiple targets is key.

Normally I really like Blue, but I really got the sense from the packs going around the table that Blue is pretty weak in this format.  Unless no one else is drafting Blue you are usually scrambling to find playable cards.  Most of the players who were drafting Blue in my pod really struggled and couldn’t dig up enough answers to stay in the game for long.  The one exception was the guy in G/U because he was able to back his blue up with the Green muscle he needed.

A good friend of mine in the military, Major Observation, told me that Bile Blight and Banishing Light are REALLY good removal…and of course he was right.

As much as I hate 6 mana removal, I had never been so happy to see that 6th land show up and then be able to cast Sip of Hemlock.  That Hemlock never tasted so good and putting the final nail in the coffin of your opponent.

Fellhide Brawler largely stinks.  He’s a bad Grizzly BearMogis Marauder isn’t far behind.

White Cheddar popcorn is outstandingly tasty.  Every time I have it I am surprised at how good it is. Why don’t I ever pick any of this stuff up on my own?

Well, that’s all I’ve got for today.  If you have thoughts or experiences you want to share about your Drafting JBT, go ahead, let me know.  I’d love to hear about them.  Fire me a Tweet and tell me your tale or share your wisdom.

Thanks for reading and until next time Keep it fun, Keep it safe…Keep it casual.

 

Bruce Gray

@bgray8791

 

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Bruce Gray - April 6, 2014

Casual Encounters – About the Gods from Journey into Nyx

Journey into Nyx Header

This is one of the most amazing times of the year.  We’ve watched how Theros has unfolded, and then how Born of the Gods fits in with the broader scheme of things.  Now, we get to see what the final piece of the puzzle, Journey into Nyx, is going to look like to start to round out the full block. We recently saw the art work get released and felt I needed to take a moment and chronicle my own reaction to what we have seen.

First off, let me start by saying some of the art work is breathtaking.  I mean, those are some sweet looking Gods! I’ve seen some reaction on the internet where people are discouraged, but I wanted to take a glass half full approach to things.

Athreos God of Passage

The first God is Atheros, God of the Passage.  Ok, if this is going to be the art used on his card then I may find myself a new colour combination as my favorite.  He looks SOOOOOOO bad ass!! I actually really like the fact that you can’t see his face, leaving the imagination to figure out what is actually hidden behind the veil.  And the colours! If there was a God of the Passage in actual Greek or Roman history, we didn’t do him enough justice because this guy looks amazing! I’m in…this guy  looks sweet and I can’t wait to see what his abilities will be.

Iroas God of Victory

Iroas, God of Victory is standing there and baiting everyone to come get a big ol’ piece of his spear and shield…and I love it. The background of a peaceful hillside is a little underwhelming, but I like to think that they have positioned this guy over top of a giant battlefield down below where Planeswalkers are waging a ferocious battle and he’s just checking out the whole thing.  Bring on the full spoiler because I want to take this shiny Red and White Ferrari out for a spin!

Keranos God of Storms

Keranos, God of Storms looks pissed! Now, when I envisioned the Red God, I hadn’t really figured he would look like Purphorous.  Yeah, I get the whole God of the forge angle, but I was really hoping Red would get a god of lightning, storms, and full on craziness! Well, we got it! This guy looks pissed that he was based up and supplanted by Purphorous in Theros and is going to lay a mad beat down and all those who get in his way.  Oh, and the art is sick too…just in case you hadn’t noticed.

Kruphix God of Horizons

Kruphix, God of Horizons.  I don’t even know what a God of Horizons is, but let me tell you, his multi-armed silhouette looks AWESOME.  The nice part with this one is that we are also left guessing at what this guy looks like and so our imagination takes over.  The possibilities are endless and I really hope that this is the art used on the card and not some alternative piece to be used on a playmat or something.  He looks amazing and leaves me wanting more.

Pharika God of Affliction

Pharika, God of Affliction. Ah yes, the Giant Gorgon God.  Well, she’s exactly what I had in mind as she looks like many of her minions ranging from Pharika’s Mender to any of the other Gorgons running around the set.  I hope this block gets a good dose of G/B type cards to really make her and her minions something formidable because she has some cool art and I can only imagine what the corresponding abilities will be.

Elspeth

Elspeth.  Are we seriously going to get a second Elspeth planeswalker in the Block?  I doubt it, but what you might see is her ridiculously sweet looking staff making an appearance.  The art work doesn’t reveal much , but it does highlight her weapon and by the way it’s glowing, I would suspect that it’s getting ready to do something absolutely BONKERS! I can’t wait!

A Hero's Trial

Hero’s Trial.  This one is a bit of a mystery.  To date we’ve really had a pretty good idea about what the art work is showing us, but this seems a little less clear.  It is also in a much different style compared to the other pieces shown.  I like the style as I feel it is very flavourful and in keeping with the Theros Plane, but I want to know more.  My only hope is that this is some sweet Rare spell and not some completely underwhelming uncommon.  I can’t express how disappointed I was when all the promotional art for Theros started getting spilled and Arena Athlete was a playable, but underwhelming, uncommon.  Let’s hope this one is cool.

Ajani Goldmane and Elspeth

Ajani Goldmane and Elspeth. So, I have 2 words. SHUT UP! These are two of my favorite planeswalkers and they get to TEAM UP! Please make it so! Wizards, please, please, please listen here…this would be MIND BLOWING! We know that Theros has Leonin and so to see Ajani make an appearance isn’t totally unheard of, but to pair Elspeth  and Ajani, even if it is only a spell would be crazy cool.  If this also means that there is another White Planeswalker going to get dropped, well, there goes the neighbourhood.  Elspeth is an absolute powerhouse in the set and have her get a running buddy, in the same colour, would be like having your ice cream and your cake…and wash it down with your favorite beverage…and then have the restaurant hand you back all your money and tell you that it was on the house…that good.

So, I hope that you are as excited as I am for what looks to be an awesome spoiler season for Journey into Nyx.  Lots of new things to come our way shortly, I’m sure, and I can hardly wait. Let me know what you think about the new spoilers and art from Journey into Nyx.  Did you Dig it? Did you hate it?  What do you hope to see?

So, until next time, keep it fun, keep it safe…keep it casual.

Bruce Gray

@bgray8791

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Bruce Gray - April 1, 2014

Casual Encounters – Lessons learned at GP Montreal [Limited]

Montreal Skyline

Montreal is a fantastic city.  There are lots of interesting things to see, do, and experience around every corner.  It’s extremely diverse meaning you can find almost any language on the planet , and almost as many delectable foods to try and smells to discover.  The city is crazy for their favorite hockey team, the beloved Canadiens de Montréal, and the shopping is first rate.  The city is a first rate city right up there on the world stage and when the latest GP descended on Montreal I knew I had to attend.

I had never been to a GP before and when I was taking stock of where all the GP’s were being held, the dates in Montreal all but jumped of the page.  Here was an opportunity to experience something new, something unique, something truly special in a special city and I was going to be darned if I missed it.

So, I rallied a few of my friends and left my house at 5:30 am looking to make the 2 ½ hour drive to arrive at the GP in time for the morning events.  I really had no intention of playing in the main event (the side events appealed just as much) but I wanted to witness the mass of humanity gathering to play Magic .  So, after 3 stops to collect my friends, and another stop for breakfast/coffee at the local Timmies, and then another stop for a bathroom, we finally pulled into Montreal at 9am ready and raring to go.

My first impression of the location was full out awe.  I’ve seen big crowds before, that wasn’t a concern, but to imagine all these people gathering to play Magic was something I’m not sure I could fully comprehend.  The room seemed to be wall to wall people paired off and ready to play Magic.  There were pros and Magic personalities that I recognized from a range of spots and they were rubbing elbows with regular players just there for the day. The organization of this many people must have been astronomical.  I give kudos to everyone for the monumental task and I was very glad to see the event kick off because I was anxious to play on some of the side events.

Once I got my fill of the spectacle I turned my attention to the side events.  My friends and I opted for the 10am sealed side event, which seemed like a solid idea.  I like to play sealed as it forces you to think creatively and to play some cards you wouldn’t normally play.  So, we signed up and then we waited.  This was one of the hardest waiting games I’ve ever played but I suppose the process of organizing a venue as large as a GP has logistical issues.  Our 10am event didn’t start until almost 12:30pm and our first game wasn’t until well after 1pm by which point I was hungry, a little annoyed, and eager to get my games in.

My sealed pool seemed solid to me with some really top notch cards like Anger of the Gods, Courser of Kruphix, Soldier of the Pantheon and Temple of Plenty.  All the signs pointed to a solid G/W deck with some fun Heroic creatures, nifty enablers and some reasonable removal.  So, I set about building my deck and sleeved up my cards. I was ready to rock and roll!

From this point on my games went terrible. At every turn I got smashed, by every manner of deck of almost every description. Sure, my deck would get the pieces together to win a game here and there, but never enough to win a match.  I spent my afternoon getting drubbed over and over again and wondering what went wrong.  I kept flipping through my extra cards wondering what I could side in…and saw no obvious answer.  So, what was I missing?

It took 3 days after the GP for me to sit down and really reflect on what transpired during the sealed event we played.  First off, there were a few errors during game play that I committed that I will need to correct, but I think those are manageable.  What really sat with me were the errors I made in deck construction. Some of these lessons are things that I already knew and forgot about and others are newer issues that will need to be corrected for the next time.

1-      Keep an open mind! The first issue was that I limited my card pool too quickly.  I evaluated my cards and identified that Green and White were by far my best colours and immediately set about building a two colour deck.  In some situations, if your sealed pool is deep enough, this can work just fine, but in my case after the first couple of cards the pool in both Green and White dried up significantly, meaning I was playing some suspect cards.  The problem was that I was overly committed, in my own mind, to playing only two colours that I blinded myself to other options, and so instead of playing strong cards, regardless of colour, I forced myself to play substandard cards of only 2 colours.  The lesson learned is to slow down and to be flexible when building your deck because three (or maybe 4 colours) is not the end of the world if they have the cards and abilities you need.

2-      You can never have too many creatures! The second lesson I re-learned was that in limited format it is all about creatures.  Rarely do you have enough strong combat tricks that you can full on trade your creatures for tricks in your 23 card slots.  I routinely got stuck looking for creatures to cast my tricks on, but my creatures were too few and far between.  Even if I was able to cast a couple of creatures they usually got targeted with the removal straight away meaning I was still looking for creatures. In some sets I would have been stuck running creatures OR spells. However, with Theros/Born of the Gods sealed I didn’t HAVE to choose because I could have opted for Bestow creatures that would have offered me benefits while enchanting my creatures and left with a body once the enchanted creature died. However, I was limited in terms of the number of Bestow creatures in Green or White, but had several in other colours.  Once again, I should have opted to add a third colour, but this time for the benefit of the Bestow abilities.

3-      Run as much removal as you can find…of any variety! The third lesson I re-learned is that removal, even if it doesn’t look like removal, is vital.  Case in point is Griptide.  This was one of my extras in Blue and I opted not to run it.  It wasn’t really removal because the creature didn’t die, right? Wrong.  What Griptide does do is it does remove a creature from the battlefield, even if only temporarily giving me a chance to find a better answer to deal with the threat or to change the board state suitably that my opponent no longer wanted to cast the spell.  So, I needed to take off my blinders and allow myself to see that there were spells available to be used as removal, even if they weren’t the most conventional methods.

4-      Play spells that will improve your board state in all situations! The final piece I learned is that cutesy spells like Warrior’s Lesson really have no place in a sealed deck.  It neither provides damage or protection to my board state and at no point did I lack for cards so the card draw it afforded would be of minimum value.  Quite the opposite, my hand was routinely well stocked with cards and filling my hand with more cards was not needed.  It did make for a nifty Heroic trigger, but it was too infrequently used and would have been better off with another body instead. The question I should have asked myself is this: “In what situations do I want to top deck this spell?”.  If the answer isn’t “in almost every situation” then I should be looking for something different.  So, while the ability would have been neat, the fact remains that I was not well served by spells of this nature and would have been better off with spells that offered more.

Needless to say, it was a very humbling experience for me as I’m not accustomed to losing that frequently and it was a tad embarrassing. The long car drive home with my friends was hard to stomach as they chatted away merrily about the games they played and the wins they scrounged together. I ended up just having to bite my tongue and take their ridicule.  The only real saving grace of the experience was that the other players I met were all very nice guys just looking to have some fun.   Up and down the table there was not a single guy who acted like a jerk and many of them actually helped out their opponent by pointing out triggers that may have been missed.  All in all, while the experience of playing with a bunch of decent guys was refreshing and lots of fun to meet the new guys, it was tough to accept being beaten as soundly as I was all day long.

So, in the end, I have to say I did enjoy the experience of attending my first ever GP and it was even better in Montreal.  I didn’t get the results I was looking for from my matches, but I did enjoy the first hand experience and taking in the ambiance of the event.  It was something I’ve never seen before and something to behold. I have absolutely no regrets about going and in fact will happily go again when there is a GP close to home again to get just a little taste of the event again.  However, until then, I will need to content myself with some smaller events and to take the lessons learned in Montreal moving forward to the next I sit down to play in a limited format.

So, until next time, keep it fun, keep it safe…keep it casual.

Bruce Gray

@bgray8791

Keep Calm and Carrey On

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Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - February 24, 2014

Champion’s Deck – GR Monsters by Jonathon Habel (1st at SC...

Xenagos The Reveler

G/R Monsters

Jonathon Habel

1st Place at StarCityGames Standard Open on 2/22/2014

No groundbreaking shake-up to be found here just a solid and consistent Midrange deck which aims to throw huge beaters at you whirled up with powerful planeswalkers to gain advantage.
Start it up with a ramp package consisting of Elvish Mystic and Sylvan Caryatid which is an integral cog in the machine to power your monster out ahead of the curve. The deck runs Scavenging Ooze as its two drop which can come down early but is best once there is already food in the graveyard for him to grow fatter upon. The main threats in the deck come in the form of the ‘Monstrous’  Polukranos, World Eater and Stormbreath Dragon ready to rip chunks of life from your opponent. Then you have the buffs in Ghor-Clan Rampager and Boon Satyr both of which can either make your monsters into ridiculously large game-enders or can turn your little guys into formidable threats in a pinch. The creatures are backed up primarily by the powerful dynamic duo of planeswalkers in Domri Rade and Xenagos, the Reveler with a little additional assistance from Garruk, Caller of Beasts. We have very few spells in this extremely creaturecentric deck finding a trio of the powerful onesided sweeper Mizzium Mortars and also a copy of Flesh // Blood which is used almost solely for the Blood half as removal or burn but the other half could be used with black mana from a Caryatid if necessary.

This deck is nothing new as this big monster strategy has been very successful for the past few months but what strikes me as odd was that the new players from Born of the Gods Xenagos, God of Revels and Courser of Kruphix are inexplicably absent from this list. Seeing as he did win the event I’m not so much questioning the decision but more wondering the reasoning, was it some sort of meta choice or more of a card selection issue.

Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter
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Gerald Knight Gerald Knight - February 23, 2014

Knight’s Booty: The League, Day #2

Born-of-the-Gods-League-Slawomir-Maniak

Off to battle I went with my red white deck of unsurmountable speed.  I know, that’s a big word for me, but I figured why not try and make my deck sound better than I anticipated it would be.  To be honest, I didn’t really like my cardpool, not when I compare it to what I had at the pre-release.  But that is my first problem.  I’m comparing it to my previous sealed pool and I can’t do that. I have to look at this with fresh eyes, and so with a bit more analysis I went into my first match.

I had ten cards I could cast on turn one, six cards on turn two, one on turn three, and so forth.  Sounds like I have a good curve.  I have nine humans to abuse with the pegasus, I have five heroic creatures with XX spells (bestow and otherwise) to be able to trigger them, including some pretty cool combat tricks (coordinated assault is cute).  And I have a removal suite that can range from the little guys to gods.  Maybe I didn’t have such a bad pool afterall.  But there was only one way to find out.  And that was to take it into the field.

So my first opponent for the week was Robert who was playing a Blue/Green deck.  His seeded pack was Green and so he had the Nessian Wilds Ravager in his pool and he was boasting a bunch of fliers.  And he also had the Legendary Kraken.  I had a feeling that my little army was in for a big fight.

Nessian Wilds Ravager

Match one started with me on the play, dropping a Priest of Iroas, into his island.  Then I swung for one damage before dropping a Priest of Iroas.  He presented a second land, played  an Kiora’s Follower – Game Day Promo passed.  I swung in with both my guys and he blocked the priest.  Unfortunately for him they planned a Coordinated Assault and the follower fell.  He played a third land and passed, to which I responded by hitting him again uncontested and then played out an Akroan Phalanx.  His next turn saw another land and another pass.  I swung in again and he flashed a Horizon Chimera in, which would explain his lack of tapping, but unfortunately for him I held my mana open and had a Lightning Strike to answer that threat.  He sucked up the damage before I played a Cavalry Pegasus and he scooped.  Game one down.

Game two started with him having to mulligan down to six on the play and starting with an island.  I played a plains and put down a Nyxborn Shieldmate, by far one of my favourite commons of this set.  He played down a forest and like deja-vu he played down Kiora’s Follower again.  My second turn met with a mountain and a bestowed Nyxborn Rollicker to make my shieldmate ⅔ and swung past the Follower unblocked.  His next turn played down an Ordeal of Thassa on his Follower and swung in for three.  This is when I almost started to panic, until I drew into a Lightning Strike.  I swung simply and did my damage, leaving all my mana open.  He took the bait and declared attackers, which forced the Lightning Strike out of my hand to a combat trick I wasn’t expecting.  He played Retraction Helix on his own creature and responded by bouncing it back to his hand, ending combat and playing it back out.  But at least the bounty was gone.  By my next turn I was ready to swing again but this time he blocked.  Then I played another Akroan Phalanx to end my turn.  He played a land and passed.  I drew, played a land, attacked and the Phalanx met a Voyages End, only to be played out again.  This same thing happened the next turn, except after I played the Phalanx again I played a Pegasus that was met with an Annul, all the while whittling down his life.  Unfortunately this was where things started to look bad.  He finally had enough mana out to throw down his Nessian Wilds Ravager.  I knew I couldn’t let him destroy one of my guys so I let him have the counters and stared down a 12/12 hydra.  Not the most pleasant thing in the world to say the least.  I went to my turn, and played an Akroan Crusader and passed, knowing that nothing I would be able to do would get past the Nessian.  I needed him to attack with it and I could crack back to hopefully finish him off.  Which is how it played out with a little bit of a twist.  After he attacked with the hydra and dropped my life total down he played a Thassa’s Emmisary, nearly foiling my plans until I drew into one of my two Revoke Existence’s.  I cleared the way and swung in to bring him to within an inch of his life before playing down a Favored Hoplite just to make sure that I had more than one chump blocker back in case he had any tricks.  He drew up but couldn’t find an answer and said “good game”.

Revoke Existence

First match of the league in the books and I felt good.  Not entirely confident in the deck just yet.  Always found I had more mana than I needed and I am thinking about dropping one mana for another combat trick.  But I can still be happy being off to a good start.

I also took the time to look over Roberts pool and noticed that he went the wrong way.  Even with all of his blue control he had more in black with Hero’s Downfall and Asphyxiate, along with Pain Seer, and a Reaper of the Wilds.  I convinced him to maybe try out Green/Black for next week, might be a better challenge.

~ Gerald Knight

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Gerald Knight Gerald Knight - February 21, 2014

Knight’s Booty – Broken Heart

Spellheart Chimera

Valentine’s Day has come and gone, and gifts of love have been exchanged.

But not all creatures are loved equally, and if there is any card that has been so utterly left unloved from the Theros set I would have to say that it is Spellheart Chimera.  If you ever see your opponent play this card in draft you are pretty much guaranteed to win.  If you see it in constructed you will probably be asking yourself what your opponent was thinking?  Let’s take a closer look at it, shall we?

Spellheart Chimera

It has Flying and Trample and a static three toughness.  It’s power fluctuates depending upon the number of sorcery and instant cards in your graveyard.  It’s also aggressively costed at only three mana, a colourless, a red, and a blue.

Now in Limited this card is near unplayable because creatures are the name of the game, not spells.  Your typical draft, or sealed, deck is going to be made up of at most five to seven non-creature spells.  Which means that this flying roadblock’s Trample ability will be almost irrelevant as it’s power will be too low for it to matter.

In constructed however I may have found a home for it, in Block.  If you read my “That’s Bull!” article then you already know what Block Constructed is, if not here is a brief description.  It’s like any constructed format with a minimum of sixty cards in the deck, but you are limited to only a Block of cards.  In this case we are using Theros Block, for obvious reasons.

Now the Block Constructed deck I started out with was based on the Scry mechanic.  Every card in the deck had some interaction with Scry or had the Scry ability.  This was the core of the design concept for the deck.  Being able to rig your draws to be able to keep on curve or be able to ‘dig’ for the answers you needed to stop your opponent.  If you look up all the cards that have Scry in red and blue from Theros alone you total seventeen, Born of the Gods adds an additional 8, bringing our grand total to twenty five different cards that have or use Scry.

Flamespeaker Adept

Before the Chimera came to mind I was playtesting the deck online with the Flamespeaker Adept as it’s champion creature, and for good reason.  With combat tricks like Titan’s Strength to make boost it’s power from the simple two to nine, and Aqueous Form to make him unblockable, he can be quite the little beatstick.  On top of that if you can get the Prognostic Sphinx joining him in the air it makes for a near game ending combo.

That combo was what fueled this concept in the first place after I went undefeated in a Theros Draft after getting the Sphinx with two Adept’s a a couple of Magma Jet’s and Voyage’s End.  It made me wonder if it was viable as a deck concept and that is when I decided to try it in Block Constructed.  Let’s take a look at the deck

It’s initial testing was against blue green Prophet of Kruphix deck and was favorable as the creatures were weak enough to succumb to the first striking adept and it didn’t have enough to stop it in the air with the Sphinx.  Next up was blue white heroic, which was too easily defeated with Voyage’s End and Sea God’s Revenge.  The biggest test was going to be against naya monsters, which featured ramping with Voyaging Satyr and Sylvan Caryatid into Polakranos, World Eater and Stormbreath Dragon and Elspeth, Sun’s Champion and you get the point.  Naya Monsters, at the time of this writing, makes up seventy-five percent of the online meta, which shows just how dominant it is.

Now the secret to beating naya monsters was to be patient and wait for them to cast their big creatures that they were relying on.  They usually want to curve out and get their big threats in play as they expend all their mana, so cards like Dissolve and Stymied Hopes are great ways to combat them.  Voyage’s End will buy you a turn, and the new Sudden Storm will buy you two turns, all while using Scry to set up your next big road block, or curve out, or threat.

Dissolve

And so after doing some testing with the original list I realized that Prescient Chimera wasn’t very beneficial and was way too expensive, but the deck couldn’t afford to lose anymore creatures.  The deck was creature light already.  And that’s where the Spellheart Chimera comes into play.  The deck is using a lot of “counter/burn” to keep our opponent’s board in check, so why not have a cheap creature that can take advantage of all that.  Spellheart Chimera is cheaper than the other chimera and grows larger as we cast more spells.  What it doesn’t do is scry every time we play a spell, but that’s not bad because a lot of our spells already do that.

So let’s take a look at the new list.

It’s different, that is for sure and I can almost guarantee that nobody at your FNM is going to expect it and might even think you are crazy when you play out the Spellheart Chimera, but when you beat them with it you will make some people rethink what I though.  Because, I never thought that the Spellheart Chimera would find a home, I thought it was absolute garbage.  But, this redheaded bastard stepchild of the Theros set just might have found some love.

~ Gerald Knight

Extra Booty: Before you jump on me for that red-headed bastard comment, I was born a bastard, proud of it too, and I fathered a red-headed child who is now a step-child to my fiance.  Don’t say that writers never talk about themselves!

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Gerald Knight Gerald Knight - February 17, 2014

Knight’s Booty – The League, Day #1

Born-of-the-Gods-League-Slawomir-Maniak

So a few months ago a new brick and mortar gaming shop opened up in the heart of my beloved city’s downtown core.  I was there the day it opened and couldn’t thank the owner enough for doing something that was so risky.  See, shops in our city’s downtown region don’t usually last long unless they serve coffee or cigarettes, so this guy was taking a huge risk.  But it was a necessary one because if you wanted to game and you lived downtown there was nowhere to do so without hopping on a bus for a 20 minute ride or so.

So you can imagine my excitement when this shop opened up, and how excited I was to hear that they were going to be starting a Born of the Gods league if they got enough DCI numbers before the release.  Well they managed to accomplish this and I’m now entered into this league.

But what is a league you ask?  Well this league is a WotC sanctioned series of events.  You start with a seeded sealed pool.  Meaning that they are using Born of the Gods pre-release overstock packs to start our limited decks off.  So, I chose white again seeing as I had such great luck with it last time, but I will get to that in a bit.  From this sealed pool of three Born of the Gods boosters and three Theros boosters you make your deck of 40 cards (minimum) and then you play at least 3 matches against others in the league within a weeks time.

After the first week you get to choose either a Born of the Gods booster or Theros booster and add those cards to your pool, and keep going.  This goes on for 5-6 weeks and then prizes are handed out depending upon how you did.  The store keeps the decks in their shop to ensure that nobody cheats by modifying the contents in between matches, but after the first week you can opt out of the league and take home everything you pulled.  Though I don’t know why someone would do this.

So, like I said I picked the white seeded sealed pack and went to town opening up my product to see what I could manage to pull off.

First I will get to my rares:

Plea for Guidance

Plea for Guidance – This was in my seeded pack, and I couldn’t have groaned any louder upon pulling it.  I am not a fan of this card, though it might not be that bad if I could pull something else to compliment it, such as a god, but overall at sorcery speed I can’t be happy with this.

Mindreaver

Mindreaver – I didn’t really look twice at this card.  It’s not that bad as a mill engine with it’s heroic ability, but it’s second ability holds almost no relevance to the limited format because you don’t generally see multiples of cards in within your top 23.

Chained to the Rocks

Chained to the Rocks – This card I was happy to see.  One of the best white removal spells in the format.  Though it is not as good with Born of the Gods bringing in Revoke Existence, but it is straight up cheap removal.

Xenagos the Reveler

Xenagos, the Reveler – The planeswalker, not the god.  I was quick happy to see him show up in my pool.  If things went my way I could easily pull off an awesome deck if I got cards to compliment him.  Either way I had found my money card.

Arbor Colossus

Arbor Colossus – Another great card, cheap beats with a monstrous ability that can take out every pre-release promo except green.  Awesome!

Fellhide Spiritbinder

Felhide Spiritbinder – This guy is a beast for abusing enter the battlefield abilities.  Not to mention a ¾ body for four mana isn’t bad at all.

Overall I wasn’t too pleased with my pulls, I mean I certainly wasn’t pulling off the Blue/White heroic deck like I did at the pre-release, but from the rares I pulled it looked like I might have been able to pull off a monster Red/Green deck.  So let’s take a look at what I did pull that didn’t make it into the deck.

White

Red

Blue

Green

Black

Multi-coloured/Land

And then I had the deck.  I resorted to playing Red/White with the use of Chain to the Rocks and the Felhide as the champion rares.  The deck looked to be as fast as I could possibly make it with a quarter of the deck being only a single converted mana cost, the next stage up had another six, after that there was one three CMC card with only a handful beyond.

Creatures (17)

Spells (6)

Land (17)

Come back for Day 2 and beyond as I take the deck through the league.  If you have any suggestions or see something I missed please leave a comment and I will look into it.  Thanks.

~ Gerald Knight

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