Welcome back looters! After a week of being all pensive I wanted to write about something a little lighter. I just wanted to crack a pack, see what we found, and then see if we can make a fun little brew that might get a few of you excited. Once again, my guidelines for the deck are that I need to use as many cards from the pack as I can, that it needs to be standard legal, and it needs to be pretty budget conscious. Seems simple right? We’ll let’s see what we have found here today and what we can brew up.
What struck me about this pack is a pretty interesting uncommon. Ulvenwald Mysteries is a powerful card advantage engine that has served me very well in limited. The thought has occurred that it might be a decent addition to a constructed deck, so I immediately was intrigued by the possibilities of this card. This pack also had a pair of powerful werewolves in the Geier Reach Bandit and the Breakneck Rider that wants to push me into red. With a few other little role players in the pack playing some sort of R/G werewolves deck seems very playable and pretty interesting.
Ok, so I need to use the Sanguinary Mage, the Magmatic Chasm and the Stoic Builder, which are a little disappointing. The Magmatic Chasm is a useful way to push through some damage with a pile of aggressive werewolves. The mage is just filler but could be a relevant early play. I like the idea of the Stoic Builder because I could play a little fixing and see if I can’t get access to a third colour. If I slam a bunch of Warped Landscape or Evolving Wilds in the deck I could use them early to get the land drops I need, but in the latter stages I could get them back with the Builder and reuse them to splash a third colour for something like a Fevered Visions. That seems like a reach, but might be worth it. There really isn’t anything else in this pack that is on colour, but some of the white cards seem like useful combat tricks.
The rest of this deck is going to be mostly red and green werewolves like Duskwatch Recruiter and Hinterland Logger. My plan is to be pretty creature heavy as a way to trigger Ulvenwald Mysteries as often as possible for extra cards and for human tokens to help plug up the board the short term. Here’s the list.
I’m not going to lie, playing Fevered Visions is just pure greed in a deck like this, but I can’t help myself . The combination of a fixed Howling Mine and a Black Vise is too good to turn up and if I can create access to the mana then I see no reason why not. Also, with the sheer number of creature spells in this deck I am really interested in the Duskwatch Recruiter as a form of card advantage to be activated on my opponent’s turn. I’m not quite sure what the math works out to on hit hitting, but I feel like the odds are very high when over ⅓ of your deck is creature cards.
The deck feels unbelievably janky…and is totally something I am keen to build and run. However, there is a slight twist that I thought about that would be just hilarious. Has anyone else noticed that Ghirapur Aether Grid is still legal in Standard? So, how’s this for a little twist to this deck. You drop the two Howlpack Resurgence and the two Cult of the Waxing Moon and sub in four Ghirapur Aether Grid with an eye towards having your creatures die in combat and then using the Clue tokens to power up the Aether Grid as an alternative way to get the win? Honestly, how many creatures need to die before you’re leveraging those Clue tokens pretty handily? I would wager 4 to 6 creatures need to die, but let’s be real, many of these creatures are there to die in combat so I would be happy to see them perish in exchange for Clue Tokens that can be weaponized. Those tokens represent cards in the mid part of the game if I need to draw answers, but make for a hilarious win condition if you need to go that route. Here is version 2.0 of this list!
Now, neither of these lists are very competitive and would not be something I would trundle out to play with anything real on the line, but as a kitchen table deck this looks and feels like it is just hilarious. I’ve already started assembling the parts to piece together version 2.0 because I want the Aether Grid kill. I figure if you can get someone that way, even at a kitchen table, that you have unlocked some sort of achievement. The rest of the deck is essentially a massive pile of creatures that I want to turn sideways.
The one piece that is truly missing from this deck is access to a Moonmist effect that would allow me to flip my werewolves on command. However, the Moonmist werewolf deck is coming for an upcoming deck list as I update my Modern-legal werewolves deck from our first visit to Innistrad. It is shaping up to be a pretty fun update with some very fun new additions to help spice up the list.
Well that’s it for today. I’m pretty excited to try the Ghirapur aether grid version of this deck out in a couple of weeks when I sit down to play a few games with a friend of mine. I’m under no illusion that it is actually good, but I would love to get someone with clue tokens. If nothing else I hope these lists get you excited to build something for yourself. I suppose that is the reason I love to crack a pack one in a while…to see what new options can exist and what new and strange decks I can cobble together.
Thanks for stopping by and having a read. Be sure to stop by next time for another Casual Encounter.
@bgray8791 on Twitter
OK folks, I’m back and all excited for Shadows over Innistrad. There is a just tons of sweet new additions in this set and new possibilities that are getting me all excited. In the past I have started a new set with a number of Crack a Packs and approached them from a Limited perspective as if I was going to draft. That is fun, but today I wanted to try something different. I’m going to open up a pack and use as many of the cards in the pack to brew up something kind of fun and silly that might inspire you and get your brewers hat on and take a stab at brewing. I won’t use every single card, and I will keep the deck Standard legal. It is invariably going to be a kind of a silly little deck that might have some play, but is more likely than not just going to falter. However, I enjoy brewing decks like this and maybe something I do will inspire you to do the same. Let’s see what I opened!
This is a pretty sweet pack. Sage of Ancient Lore is a very strong draft card, but the card that got me really excited in this pack is Ever After. The first time through Innistrad we got to see the power of Reanimator spells with things like Unburial Rites, and Ever After harkens back to some of that reanimator-type love. So, what does a Reanimator-style deck want to do? Why, it wants to mill itself, dump a ridiculous bomb (or several ) into the graveyard and then reanimate them at a considerable mana discount. Now, Ever After is not a cheap Reanimator spell because it does cost 6 mana, but for that six mana you are getting TWO potential bombs, not just one. So, let’s see what we can brew up with some of the cards in this deck.
The game plan is fairly simple. You want to burn through your deck as quickly as you possibly can with things like Vessel of Nascency, Corpse Churn, and Crow of Dark Tidings as you dig for either your Inverter of Truths or the Bane of Bala Ged. Now, Bane of Bala Ged is really a placeholder for just about any huge Eldrazi you want to cast and the bigger the better really. If you can unearth an Ulamog, a Kozilek or any of the truly scary Eldrazi you are obviously going to target them with your Ever After or your Necromantic Summons, but Bane is a nice tidy budget option that can be run reasonably easily. The real treat is the Inverter of Truth that is a very discounted 6/6 for 4 mana that I’ve been fooling around with since Oath of the Gatewatch dropped. It could now be time for this ridiculous flying Eldrazi to shine now that we can mill our decks with surprising speed so we don’t deck ourselves.
Some of the more interesting cards from Shadows Over Innistrad that are found in this pack are the Moldgraf Scavenger and the Pale Rider of Trostad. The Scavenger is a surprisingly solid little creature that is an effective early blocker. It blocks things with Skulk, survives Fiery Impulse and Fiery Temper, and when you hit Delirium can go on the offensive as an undercosted 3/4 . Those are all very reasonable stats and make the Scavenger almost a reasonable addition to a Constructed deck that could play a similar, but different, role to Jaddi Offshoot. Pale Rider of Trostad is a 3/3 for 2 mana which is a fine set of stats, but also gives the deck a way to discard something big if you don’t want to cast it yet. I toyed with the idea of dropping something like an Angel of Deliverance in this list to be discarded, but that felt very risky if I couldn’t actually cast the Angel. In the end I figured sticking to Eldrazi that could actually be cast seemed less risky.
Sage of Ancient Lore is another really interesting card in this deck because it is an expensive rare card at 5 mana that has a ton of potential. The fact that it says “draw a card” is the first dead give away that this is very powerful. I have run much worse creatures that include that line of text and would happily do so again. The real deal is when it transforms into a huge monster that can wreck the game. This makes for another solid reanimation target, but is a little more volatile and riskier because it could flip back to being a human on any turn. That said, it is a very strong card and would be another good target for reanimation.
The other cards in this list are just creatures that might allow me to hurry up and rush out some of my spells by ramping me, but also provide some measure of value if I need another valid target in my graveyard to make Ever After work. Just about any value creature would work, but I opted for 3 Brood Monitors because 6/6 worth of stats across 4 bodies is very strong, but I could totally envision not playing this in favor of another value creature. This slot is very much up for discussion and I would welcome some ideas if you had something I could have run Gloomwidow as a form of aerial defense, and that might be a better option to give me enough time to hit enough land drops and be able to play an Ever After.
I weighed playing Vessel of Malignity and decided against it because exiling the cards from my opponent is not really what I wanted to do. If I could have used it to target myself and discard something then I would have been more interested. It would have been another discard outlet to allow me to pitch some other big scary creature, but alas, it exiles and can only be used on my opponents. I can see Vessel of Malignity having a place in some decks because I feel like the hand destruction in this Standard format is very strong, but this is not that deck.
The rest of the pack is not on colour or theme for what I want to do with this sort of deck, but there is a little interest in some of those white creatures, notably the Apothecary Geist, and the Ghostly Wings because I think those might see a little fringe play if the right conditions are met.
That’s all for tonight folks. I hope you all enjoyed the different approach to a Crack a Pack. If you didn’t enjoy the weird deck and would rather I just crack a pack and focus on limited please let me know. Personally, I enjoyed brewing something kind of fun and off the wall. I know I might be stretching the self mill angle in the format with some of my selections, but if you are truly intent on milling yourself you do have some options. Would you have used Ever After or would you have left it alone and opted to do something completely different? Share your brewing ideas down below in the comments or find me on Twitter.
Thanks very much and as always be sure to stop by next time for another Casual Encounter.
@bgray8791 on Twitter
The anticipation is mounting! In just a few short days we will be getting our first chance to play Battle for Zendikar and I’m pretty excited. There are some amazing new cards in this set, and some terrific reprints that got some slick new art. It looks like there are going to be some bonkers new additions to just about every format, including Casual Kitchen Table Magic. Today I’m going to go through my Top Ten cards to bring to your next Casual Kitchen Table Magic game night and spice things up. Let’s get down to business.
10. Common Land Cycle ( Sandstone Bridge, Skyline Cascade, Mortuary Mire, Looming Spires, Fertile Thicket ). This common land cycle doesn’t look super spicy, but let’s be real, any time you can play a land card and have an effect that is normally created by a spell you have something that is deceptively powerful. There will be loads of decks looking to pick these up to replace just a regular basic land card, and the extra ability is always a solid trick. Now, let’s talk about how to abuse these (i.e. get more than one activation). In a Kitchen Table world you are constrained only by your card pool and the rules you and your friends have established, so finding fun ways to take advantage of these should be easy. Let’s start with the “Karoo” lands or “Bounce” lands from Ravnica. These were reprinted in Modern Masters 2015 making them pretty readily available and an easy way to get more than one activation of these. Emancipation Angel or Kor Skyfisher, or even Pearl Lake Ancient are also some of my favorites and could easily get you additional activations. Going a little more in the the history of Magic, Soramaro, First to Dream would be hilarious.
As if just getting the value off these lands wasn’t enough, don’t forget this set is packing Landfall meaning that you are very likely to net all sorts of value off of just playing these lands. That makes these things even more appealing. The nice part is that you will usually be pleased to see these guys, regardless of what stage of the game you’re in. Keep your eyes peeled for these small, but significant, additions.
9. Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper: What isn’t to like about this guy? He’s a 4/4 for 5 mana which is a pretty reasonable rate to start and you will not feel ashamed to run him out. His size also makes him surprisingly robust and able to tussle if the need arises. However, what is truly gross is his ability. You get free +1/+1 counters on your lands every time you cast an instant or sorcery…and in Blue and White isn’t that what you want to do anyways? I can well imagine EDH decks premised on this guy or just jammed in there for value. However, what I think might be truly busted is playing Jeskai and slamming this guy and Zada. Cast your instant on Zada, copy the spell a bunch of times, make a pile of Elementals, attack for the win…or something like that. Yes, that is magical Christmas land, but it’s fun to dream. I’m kind of excited to see this guy and try him out.
8. Omnath, Locus of Rage: I don’t know what to do with this guy…but I like the fact that Omnath is getting a reprinting, and this time he’s pissed. I haven’t got a clue how good he will be, or any deck built around him using elementals as a centerpiece, but this guy sure looks unhappy and ready to kick some butt. All he really asks of you is to play your land and benefit from an army of 5/5 tokens, but that feels a little too simple. Omnath makes the list because of his unbridled anger…and big scary tokens. For those of you out there with RTR block cards still kicking around, time to dust off those Populate enablers..
7. Catacomb Sifter: This guy is among my favorite cards in the set and the art is insane. That is spectacular art! The colours and contrast really stand out and makes this thing look super frightening. But enough about the art. This 3 mana creature packs 3/4 worth of power and toughness across 2 bodies which is a very good rate. I know I play casually, but I also really like efficient creatures…they help me get to the much less efficient but fun part of my deck! This is exactly the sort of thing I want to do. However, there is still more. This packs the Scry 1 ability that Reaper of the Wilds packs just because…umm…value? This is a very strong card and I can’t wait to get my hands on some of these guys and ride the Value Train.
6. Halimar Tidecaller: How is this NOT a rare? Can you just imagine pairing this with Noyan Dar and making FLYING land creatures? Wow. And you even get to bring another relevant spell out of your graveyard to replay and get yet ANOTHER land creature. Sure, it is a bit of a build around, but if you can successfully build around it this looks amazing! For a paltry 3 mana this feels as if it has been pushed to try and push an elemental theme…and I’m taking the bait! I can almost taste the Elemental Deck…Brews to come!
5. Defiant Bloodlord: Ok folks, this makes the list because you now have Sanguine Bond attached to a 4/5 flying body. This gives those janky “life gain” decks you see around the Kitchen table yet another win condition and NOW it gets to attack too! I’m just dreaming of casting this and Feed the Clan to maximum effect. The interaction between this and Gray Merchant of Asphodel seems like it could be potent too. All in all, there will be lots of ways to abuse this around the Kitchen Table so you had better buckle down.
4. Felidar Sovereign: Felidar Sovereign is yet another example of the power of alternate win conditions. This guy is a reprint from the original Zendikar block and became a staple in EDH decks all over the place as an alternative win condition. The issue WAS that Felidar was a $10-12 card that essentially exclusively saw play in Casual formats. By getting a reprint players will be getting a shot to grab this guy at a much more affordable $2 price point. Enjoy the savings Casual players, this one is for you.
3. Kiora, Master of Depths: Kiora made this list because her ultimate is nutty. Three 8/8 octopus tokens PLUS they get to fight your opponent’s creatures? Whatever…you win the game if you get this Emblem online. If you can look me in the eye and honestly tell me that you aren’t interested in doing that then you’re lying to yourself.
2. Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger: If the Eldrazi somehow didn’t make this list then I wouldn’t be doing my job. What’s NOT to like? It’s big, splashy, hard to kill, wrecks the game instantly, can be played in virtually every deck and looks to be about the best thing you can do with 10 mana. Also, because this version of Ulamog doesn’t come with the “feel bad” Annihilator mechanic your buddies around the kitchen table are more apt to agree to let you play it. Yeah, Ulamog is a thing and makes our list.
1. Zada, Hedron Grinder: Zada is getting lots of buzz and with good cause because her ability is just outright insane. Any time you can copy spells you have a strong effect. Zada will let you copy them multiple times for FREE! Magic players love the word FREE and so Johnnies around the world are setting up to break this. I’ve heard lots of players talk about casting Titan’s Strength or Become Immense on Zada and then pumping your team to significant effect, but I was going somewhere completely different. I was going to aim for Feat of Resistance and essentially allow your team to get protection from…oh…everything…and crash in for the win. But things at the Kitchen table can get better! Ranger’s Guile protects ALL your stuff. Rootborn Defenses fights off Board wipes. Retraction Helix allows you to turn all your creatures into Unsummon spells! Really, the possibilities are endless and this is why so many people are excited about Zada. There really isn’t much doubt, Zada is the real winner for the Casual Magic crowd.
Well, there we have our top ten cards for Casual Magic. I’m sure there are a few spicy things that I left off the list, but I have to draw the line somewhere. If you have something you think should be added to the list, send me a tweet and let me know. I’d love to hear what has got other people excited!
Thanks for taking the time to stop in and have a visit and have yourself a great MTG day!
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter
Hi folks. We had a huge weekend at PAX. I watched a good deal of the coverage and am firmly convinced that at some point I will need to attend one of these events because it looked super cool. Did you see the GIANT Eldrazi sculpture erected in front of the exhibit hall?! Wow! That was amazing and looked super cool. The most impressive part was the detail on the sculpture…but I won’t go too far into that.
In addition to the World Championship and PAX, we got a massive amount of previews from the set that will be hitting the shelves this fall. That’s right, Battle for Zendikar is just about here and I’m excited. I’m really looking forward to getting a chance to play with all these giant Eldrazi monsters stomping around because it feels amazing to see so many massive creatures. And they all seem to pack some sort of nasty ability! Talk about spoiling us!
The last time we visited Zendikar, during Rise of the Eldrazi, I wasn’t playing and was totally oblivious to these creatures. I have since come to know many of them through things like watching and paying attention to deck lists, reading up on the lore of the plane, and generally paying attention to the happenings in the Magic community. However, I have seen these guys in isolation. I have watched Emrakul get cheated into play with a variety of tricks. I have seen Ulamog in a Modern Masters 2015 draft pack. I have heard about Kozilek and the destruction he can wreak on a board and the massive card advantage you can draw. But I have never seen these three beasts in their own element. I have never faced down the wrath of a horde of voracious Eldrazi and I can hardly wait to get my first real Eldrazi experience now that we are heading back to Zendikar.
While the prospect of facing down the Eldrazi is very appealing, there are a few other things that were spoiled that are bound to be of interest to people. Personally, the most important thing spoiled was the new cycle of dual lands. Initially I read that there were a lot of people who were disappointed that the Enemy Coloured Fetchlands weren’t going to be reprinted, but it seems unusual for WoTC to have all 10 Fetchlands in standard at the same time. So, Fetchlands were out but word got out that a new set of Dual Lands was being released and the speculation exploded. What was revealed Saturday night was a very interesting set of lands.
The lands are allied coloured dual lands. That’s a fair place to start and not the least bit unusual. I hope we see the remaining five enemy coloured lands in the second set, but for the time being we have 5 lands. They also have a drawback of coming into play tapped unless you control 2 basic lands. That is a very reasonable drawback, but I will come back to that. The most interesting feature is that they have 2 land types meaning you can fetch them with a Fetchland. That is exciting because the last time that non-basic lands had two land types was the Ravnica Shocklands, but once again we’ll come back to any comparison with the Shocklands. On the whole, this is pretty exciting cycle of lands and an interesting variant on dual lands in general.
The reaction has been mixed to say the least. The initial place that most people started with was that these lands are inferior versions of the Shocklands. Yes, they share the characteristic of having 2 basic land types on them, but the Shocklands can enter play untapped based on YOUR decision and aren’t conditional to you controling 2 basic lands. So, we can agree that the Shocklands are a notch better, but there is something to be said for NOT having your land hit you for 2 points of life (or 3 if used in conjunction with a Fetchland) that might make these more appealing. That extra 2 or 3 points of damage per land is a very real cost and now having the chance to avoid it is appealing and will give players in Modern reason to pause at least to consider their mana base before sleeving up their deck.
As far as Standard is concerned, these will be nice replacements for the Temples and could be seen in many ways as an upgrade because you can actually fetch them. As nice as the Temples were, you could never fetch them up and that was not optimal. The tradeoff of a Scry in favour of being able to fetch the land is very real, but something that many players will be prepared to make. The new Mulligan rules may prove to be a saving grace to many players because they might be able to get that first turn Scry that they have become accustomed to thanks to the Scry lands. We’ll need to keep an eye on that trend for sure once all the changes come into effect.
The other piece here is that the clause that allows you to have them come into play untapped is conditional and not a choice. This feels like a very balanced option and a way to mitigate the relative power that you can harness by having access to two colours of mana in the same card. In my mind this harkens back to the balancing act that WoTC was trying to get with the “Buddy” lands but with a new twist. In either case, players who are looking to play their lands untapped will find themselves putting more basic lands in their decks and limit the number of colours that they play, while decks that are prepared to pay the price of playing your land tapped may continue to run three or more and play these happily.
I think that these lands are being unfairly criticized by some members of the community. I think people are looking for a direct and obvious upgrade to the Shocklands that can migrate over to Modern. Looking at these, I don’t feel like that was ever the intent, but I will not be surprised to see some people opt to play some number of copies of these in their Modern decks. No, these lands have been designed to be played in Standard and they fit in nicely. Just as we lose the Temples we get a balanced, interesting, and fun land mechanic that will undoubtedly shake up the sequencing of your land. If they happen to move to Modern, all the better, but for the time being Standard is a good starting point.
The other major preview was for a new Planeswalker. In the upcoming set we will be seeing Gideon, Ally of Zendikar as the newest incarnation of our friend Gideon and he’s pretty sweet. I like that they have retained his ability to become a powerful creature that is difficult to kill, but his other two abilities are extremely relevant and a significant departure for Gideon. His 0 ability has him make a 2/2 Knight token, which is pretty significant. This is a new ability for Gideon, and making a 2/2 Knight is pretty awesome. However, the most interesting thing is the ultimate ability that allows you to IMMEDIATELY remove all the counters from him and for him to become an Anthem effect. In many aggressive decks Anthem effects are extremely powerful and I’m fairly certain that this will not change. The Zendikar Allies are going to love it. Plus, this version of Gideon looks to play quite well with the Kytheon/Gideon transform card from Magic Origins further adding to the appeal. There is no doubt that this card will be one to watch and might be a defining card once Battle for Zendikar arrives. I’m a big fan and can’t wait to see what happens with this new addition to the Planeswalker club.
One of the things that I am always on the look for are some hidden gems that you can use around the kitchen table to really spice up your casual games and to perhaps get a leg up on your friends. Sure, you could play all the hottest cards from the newest Standard legal set, but right now, as we approach rotation, you could find yourself some very budget friendly gems that could really add some appeal to your games.
Planeswalkers are a fun way to add a new dimension to your game and there are a couple out there that right now that are good value and can pack a pretty good punch. Jace, Architect of Thought and Kiora, the Crashing Wave represent strong cards that you can add to your decks and are extremely affordable right now. Both of these are hovering around $4 a card right here on Three Kings Loot and would be great value. Sure, these may not be the best cards ever printed, but they pack strong abilities, can win you a game if left unchecked, and can certainly be a big distraction if your opponents are intent on taking care of them. If you don’t believe me that they are good value, take a look at some other Planeswalkers that have recently been printed but rarely see eternal play. Tamiyo is about $19 a card. Domri and Ral Zarek are around $7. Garruk, Apex Predator weighs in at $8. Clearly, these two look to be a little on the inexpensive side right now and with Kiora rotating out shortly you could likely scoop her up quite cheaply.
A creature that has been supplanted by the mighty Siege Rhino has been the Reaper of the Wilds and at a mere $0.30 a card this solid 4/5 for 4 mana would be an addition to many a deck. Besides being a very sizeable body, Reaper packs 3 abilities! This one has clearly been forgotten about, but your kitchen table would be an ideal location for some revitalization.
After a brief foray into a Pro-Tour Chromanticore has largely vanished despite the fact that it is a super fun card that packs way too many abilities…and at less than $1.50 would be steal.
Herald of Torment has never really received much love, but I for one think that this little beauty is well worth the pick up. The casting cost is about right, the Bestow is very powerful, Black devotion LOVES this guy and he costs a mere $0.30. C’mon. If you rock Black around the kitchen table this guy needs to be one of your dudes.
We had been missing a genuine wrath effect for Black until we hit Khans block and got Crux of Fate and followed up with Languish in Magic Origins. However, for your Casual game, don’t forget Extinguish All Hope. In most environments this is good as any wrath you will ever need and while it does cost a little more Mana it’s also $0.25 meaning you could pick up some of these and still have pocket money left over to buy yourself a coffee . What’s even better, if you build your deck right to abuse this, this could become a beautiful one-sided wrath and really make your opponents curse you and your janky (but hilarious) 6 mana wrath spell.
That’s all for tonight folks, but thanks for stopping in. I’m super excited to see more of the Battle for Zendikar spoilers and glimpse the landscape of Magic for the upcoming autumn. Thanks, and have a great MTG day.