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Bruce Gray - June 2, 2014

The plight of the Underplayed Theros Block mechanics – Inspired,...

Inspired MTG deck - Tormented Hero

The plight of the Underplayed Theros block mechanics

by Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters

We all watched the Pro-tour with baited breath not all that long ago.  For starters, Congratulations must go out to Patrick Chapin.  I doubt he’ll ever read this article, but the truth is what he accomplished is tremendous.  To defeat the world’s best players and win a Pro-tour is the stuff dreams are made of (although he made it look frighteningly easy!).  However, in amidst all the talk of Block Constructed decks, did anyone notice that there were hardly ANY of the mechanics from Theros block on display?  A block committed to the Devotion mechanic by virtue of being tied to the Gods of Theros…and it was virtually totally ignored.  There were very few creatures carrying the Monstrous ability.  Constellation got some love…most in the form of Eidolon of Blossoms.  Inspired? Tribute? Bestow? These hardly even got a sniff.  In the end it was wars waged as Elspeth tokens crushed Elspeth tokens and Thoughtseize and Brain Maggot crippled the hands of countless players.  No…the mechanics of Theros were sadly underplayed and it felt…I don’t know…deflating.

Well, I’m here today to try and restore our faith in the little used mechanics of Theros and present a budget worthy Casual Brew that can grind down an opponent (or multiple opponents as the case may be) and find a way of getting you a win from seemingly out of nowhere. The mechanic I’m thinking about is the Inspired mechanic because it is so tempting…so poised with potential…that to not attempt to build a deck would just be wrong.

Now, we have seen that some of the mechanics in Theros are very powerful.  Devotion powered out crazy amounts of elemental tokens with Master of Waves, drained buckets of life with Gray Merchant, and pumped out dizzying amounts of mana with Nykthos.  No, Devotion is pretty safe.  Monstrous is the same way. With Stormbreath Dragon and Polukranos running around still Monstrous is a thing and they may be joined by Fleecemane lion as staples of this mechanic.  Bestow and Heroic have shown to be invaluable in Draft giving these decks new reach and greater power than ever before.  No, these three mechanics are just fine despite not being played much at the Pro-tour.  However, Inspired and Tribute, both Mechanics from Born of the Gods have hardly got off the ground.

It makes perfect sense for why Tribute has been largely ignored.  In almost every instance the cards carrying Tribute present an option for your opponent to dictate the terms of the creature.  This means that you are no longer in control and if you are looking for a desired effect, well, I can assure you that you won’t get it because your opponent is out to put the screws to you.  Snake of the Golden Grove is a perfect example because you either get 4 life…or a 7/7.  Let me assure you, 100% of the time you will give your opponent the life gain.  However, if you REALLY needed a 7/7 to help you block…well…tough, you are out of luck.

Inspired on the other hand actually holds some promise.  This is actually an ability that you could use because the only requirement is that the creature untaps.  Simply untap. It seems so simple…but yet getting your card to actually untap is pretty tricky.  The most common ways of tapping it is by virtue of attacking with it and then on your next turn untapping it.  The problem is that usually if you go into combat, something dies meaning you could very well lose your inspired creature.  Other options exist like Spring Leaf Drum, Retraction Helix, Epiphany Storm and Claim of Erebos which all allow the creature to tap without combat, but this is extra work for you and harder to set up.  So, how to maximize your chances of Inspired without as much set up cost to your deck?

I have long been a proponent of making combat as absolutely miserable for my opponent as I can manage. This means I pack decks full of combat tricks, death touch, first strike, double strike and haste, basically ensuring that my opponent really has to think twice before blocking ANYTHING.  Well, Inspired gives you even MORE incentive to pack your deck as full of nasty tricks as you can find so that no one is keen to actually block.  With this theory in mind let me share with you a little deck list that I’ve put together to exploit the Inspired mechanic.

 

B/W “Grindy” Theros block mechanics deck for Standard

The game plan behind this deck is actually pretty straight forward.  You are looking to do everything you can to drain off the life of your opponent without attacking , but the creature base in the deck is actually aggressive enough that you can start on the beat down path and not actually take your foot off.  All the while you are looking to exploit the Inspired Mechanic as much as you can wrangle.

For 1 drops we have Tormented Hero which is a solid 2/1 for 1 black.  Sure, it comes into play tapped, but play him turn 1 and attack turn 2 and you’re pretty golden.  Also, when he is targeted he does exactly what you want the deck to do and that is drain the life of your opponent.  At 2 we have a couple of bears, namely Sun Guide and Pain Seer.  These are both aggressive enough that they can come down early and swing in, hopefully triggering the Inspired trigger on either of them.  Baleful Eidolon and Spiteful Returned are technically 2 drops, but are really there for the Bestow ability to basically make something totally unpalatable for your opponent to block.  Spiteful returned is also triggered just by attacking, making him just extra value.  The last 2 drop is Cartel Aristocrat because when you are missing a way to sneak through, Sacrifice a creature and get in there.  At the 3 drop spot we have the bread and butter.  Scholar of Athreos is an awesome mana sink and a solid blocker to plug up the ground.  Servant of Tymaret is a wily little 2/1 with regenerate that I WANT to block with and need to regenerate in order to trigger the Inspired ability when it untaps after regenerating. The 4 drops are really there as Bestow creatures apart from King Macar,  but at 5 we have Gray Merchant and he is a sure fire way to drain out a bunch of life all at once.  The spells are pretty tame in a Gods Willing to protect something or more importantly to allow a creature the ability to sneak in for free.  Necrobite presents an awful combat trick for your opponent.  He will need to play around a situation where you have 3 mana up or risk trading something for a deathtouch creature…who now regenerates.  Whether this is Tormented Hero’s heroic trigger, or regenerating a Pain Seer, there is going to be value generated.  The last one is Asphyxiate which is a poor man’s Hero’s Downfall.  Same casting cost…but much slower and more conditional.  Not my first choice, but acceptable considering the financial cost of a playset of Hero’s Downfall.

Some would say that this looks like an Extort deck from Gatecrash and I can’t disagree…except I prefer this model to relying on the Extort mechanic of Gatecrash because Extort rewards you for durdling around with spells and paying the extra mana to drain the life.  In this deck there is no need to durdle around.  If you have open mana sink into something…like your Scholar of Athreos, attack with your Servant of Tymaret, or cast a Bestow creature to make blocking totally undesirable. You are being proactive and engaged instead of being rewarded by casting derdling spells and hiding.

This deck is weak to decks packed with fliers or with control elements like counter spells and plenty of targeted removal.  Oh, and it still gets run over by the pack rat/desecration demon game plan prevalent in Standard, so don’t take it there.  Where does this deck shine?  Multiplayer variants of all sorts.  Free for all, Two Headed Giant, Grand Melee…if any of these formats match what you like to play then this is a cheap and efficient deck that will do work.  Life drain is absolutely brutal in multiplayer matchups and this deck is no different.

So, I have done my part to restore faith in the mechanics of Theros…particularly Inspired.  Now it is up to you to go forth and Inspire that same belief in your opponents and drain the life right from their souls…without ever attacking!  Enjoy frustrating the heck out your opponents because you can bet I’ll be enjoying every minute of it.

Thanks very much…and until next time keep it fun, keep it safe…keep it Casual.

 

Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
 
@bgray8791
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Gregoire Thibault - February 5, 2013

Top Cards from Gatecrash – Standard Addendum

With Gatecrash still fresh out of the pack there are already new decks starting to pop up.  We see the aggro meta starting to form with decks like Jund, Boros and Mono Red climbing to the top of this weekends Open series.

Boros Reckoner

Boros Reckoner:  This was the big card of the weekend.  Reckoner is turning into one of  most the sought after rares from Gatecrash.  Starting at $3.99 when it was spoiled, it then went up to $9.99 at the release and is now at $14.99.  It’s  in the maindeck or sideboard of R/W Aggro (Boros) and Mono Red (RDW) with usually a full 4 played.  Reckoner  is a beast against Rakdos, usually yielding 2 for 1’s when blocking or attacking.

R/W Aggro
Andrew Schneider
3rd place SCG Standard Open

Creatures (26)

4 Ash Zealot
4 Boros Reckoner
4 Hellrider
2 Lightning Mauler
4 Rakdos Cackler
2 Stonewright
4 Stromkirk Noble
2 Thundermaw Hellkite

Lands (23)

15 Mountain
4 Clifftop Retreat
4 Sacred Foundry

Spells (11)

2 Boros Charm
1 Brimstone Volley
4 Searing Spear
4 Pillar of Flame

Sideboard

1 Thundermaw Hellkite
4 Volcanic Strength
2 Boros Charm
4 Skullcrack
4 Mizzium Mortars

Mono-Red Aggro
Ryan Cruz
9th place at SCG Standard open

Creatures (28)

4 Ash Zealot
4 Boros Reckoner
4 Hellrider
4 Lightning Mauler
4 Rakdos Cackler
2 Stonewright
4 Stromkirk Noble
2 Thundermaw Hellkite

Lands (22)

21 Mountain
1 Hellion Crucible

Spells (10)

4 Searing Spear
3 Skullcrack
3 Pillar of Flame

Sideboard

2 Reckless Waif
2 Zealous Conscripts
2 Volcanic Strength
1 Skullcrack
2 Thunderbolt
2 Mizzium Mortars
1 Pillar of Flame
2 Traitorous Blood
1 Cavern of Souls

Experiment One

Experiment One: The new aggressive one-drop we see appearing in the new Jund aggro brews.  Has the potential to get to a good aggressive size and once it has two counters becomes very difficult to remove without being forced to waste extra resources.

Ghor-clan Rampager

Ghor-Clan Rampager:  Junds new 4-drop that doubles as an aggressive finisher using bloodrush.  Giving +4/+4 and trample for RG is quite aggressively cost.  I had my eye on this card for Limited already and was thinking it is good enough for standard.  We see it used  along side Experiment One in this Jund Aggro list.

Jund Aggro
Tyler Lindsey

Creatures (28)

3 Deathrite Shaman
4 Dreg Mangler
4 Experiment One
3 Flinthoof Boar
4 Ghor-Clan Rampager
4 Hellrider
4 Strangleroot Geist
2 Thundermaw Hellkite

Lands (24)

3 Forest
1 Mountain
4 Blood Crypt
2 Dragonskull Summit
4 Overgrown Tomb
4 Rootbound Crag
4 Stomping Ground
2 Woodland Cemetery

Spells (8)

2 Abrupt Decay
4 Searing Spear
2 Tragic Slip

Sideboard

1 Deathrite Shaman
2 Abrupt Decay
2 Golgari Charm
2 Gruul Charm
1 Rakdos Charm
3 Skullcrack
2 Tribute to Hunger
2 Rolling Temblor

Cartel aristocrat

Cartel Aristocrat:  This is the new sacrifice engine that is being used in the Human Reanimator deck to abuse the synergy of Angel of Glory’s Rise and Fiend Hunter.

Human Reanimator

Brian Braun-Duin 2nd Place at SCG Standard Open series

4 Angel of Glory’s Rise
4 Cartel Aristocrat
1 Cathedral Sanctifier
4 Fiend Hunter
4 Huntmaster of the Fells

Lands (23)

1 Blood Crypt
4 Cavern of Souls
2 Clifftop Retreat
1 Godless Shrine
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Sacred Foundry
4 Stomping Ground
3 Sunpetal Grove
2 Temple Garden
4 Woodland Cemetery

Spells (20)

4 Grisly Salvage
4 Faithless Looting
4 Farseek
4 Mulch
4 Unburial Rites

Sideboard

3 Cathedral Sanctifier
2 Purify the Grave
3 Ray of Revelation
4 Appetite for Brains
3 Slaughter Games

Devour Flesh

Devour Flesh:  Gatecrash’s new Cruel Edict with just a splash of Swords to Plowshares.  One of few answers to Geist of Saint Traft or Invisible Stalker

Esper Spirits

Eddie Walker 8th place at SCG open series

Creatures (18)

4 Drogskol Captain
4 Dungeon Geists
3 Restoration Angel
4 Geist of Saint Traft
3 Obzedat, Ghost Council

Lands (24)

1 Island
1 Plains
3 Cavern of Souls
3 Drowned Catacomb
4 Glacial Fortress
2 Godless Shrine
4 Hallowed Fountain
2 Isolated Chapel
1 Moorland Haunt
1 Vault of the Archangel
2 Watery Grave

Spells (18)

3 Blind Obedience
4 Azorius Charm
2 Devour Flesh
3 Orzhov Charm
2 Ultimate Price
4 Lingering Souls

Sideboard

2 Pithing Needle
4 Augur of Bolas
3 Detention Sphere
3 Rest in Peace
2 Devour Flesh
1 Ultimate Price

We will be keeping a close eye on all the different formats over the next few weeks to see which Gatecrash cards get played in Standard, Modern and Legacy.  We welcome all feedback and please comment on the articles if you have any thoughts.  Until next time…

Greg Thibault (@gregsterism on Twitter)

greg@threekingsloot.com

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