Tag: casual

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Bruce Gray - March 17, 2017

Modern Masters 2017 Top Ten Casual Cards

Casual Encounters- Top 10 Casual Cards from Modern Masters 2017

Deadeye Navigator

Well, Wizards has fully spoiled Modern Masters 2017 and in the process have driven players wild with just loads of amazing reprints.  They must have looked at the reprint policy and then just shredded the thing in the recycling bin because this set looks NUTS.  Honestly, who’s idea was it to reprint all this awesome stuff?  On top of the set being full of many valuable reprints, Wizards has done an admirable job of balancing cards intended for competitive play and those destined to see play in Casual formats.  Today I’m going to go through my top 10 cards for Casual play from Modern Masters 2017. If you feel like I missed something on my list, leave a comment down below.  

  1. Cyclonic Rift: This makes the list because it is totally and utterly ridiculous in any multiplayer game. It is also just about as ubiquitous as you can get in a deck playing blue in edh. There is no messing around around with this card and it always does good work. The rift may not be a flashy start but it is a highly sought after card and something EDH players are happy to see reprinted as the price continues to steadily climb.
  1. Coiling Oracle:  The color requirements kind of hamper this card but it is a super sweet card to play if you can handle blue and green.  The card advantage stapled to this creature is super fun and is just asking to be abused. It plays one part ramp, one part card draw spell and all for 2 mana and even comes with a body.  There may not be tons of Simic coloured commanders in EDH but they all love this little guy.  I was happy to see this get reprinted.

 

  1. Ghostly Flicker: this card is ⅓ of a combo in Pauper that had to be banned. Flicker + Archaeomancer +Peregrine Drake essentially ruined Pauper by giving it an infinite mana combo that took over the game. I don’t expect the same level of dominance in Casual circles, but with the format already being heavily weighed towards getting lots of value from your ETB  triggers this seems like a pretty potent way to land a bunch of new triggers. I can think of plenty degenerate things to do with this and am happy to grab a few more copies on the cheap off the draft table. The existence of an infinite combo helps to some degree too.

 

  1. Craterhoof Behemoth: Ah. Yes. ‘Hoof. Well this guy is just hilarious and any deck that’s a) playing green and b) has tokens is just going to love this guy as a way to win out of nowhere . Think of all the Commanders that could make good use of this big fella: Prossh, Ghave, Trostani,  just to name a few.  He’s bonkers and the fact that the price is about to get crushed will be good news for Casual players.  Sure, Elves players are seriously stoked about the inclusion of their #1 finisher, but Casual players like the beef this guy offers.

 

  1. Temporal Mastery:  I think every time I see a card that says ‘Take and Extra Turn” I slap it on this list.  This feels super flashy and powerful and is exactly the sort of thing casual players like me want to do when we play.  The fact that this can be cost for its Miracle cost makes it extra appealing because I love the thought of top decking it and going ham.  Yes, I know that the statistical probability of me top decking this is slim to nil, but the thought of doing it is just too appealing.  I’m happy to see the price on this get dropped quite a bit so I can get a couple more copies and see if I can’t live the dream.  #6 seems generous for a card that I’ll likely never cast for its Miracle cost, but I’ll let it ride with my eternal optimism.
    5. Shard coloured trilands:  I wasn’t playing during Shards of Alara block, but I was exposed to Tri-Lands in Khans Block and I was a big fan.  To have them reprinted in Commander 2016 gave me a bit of a taste for the mana-fixing these offer, but now to have them in wider circulation as part of this set is super exciting.  These will be readily available to afford colour-fixing for casual players for years and that’s good news for the rest of us.

     

  1. Signet Cycle:  While the tri-lands are nice, these are far more sought after and represent very good value in this set.  You can feel better knowing that if you don’t open Lili or Goyf in your pack that you might at least open something of use in the form of a signet.  While these aren’t flashy, they do offer yet another way to offer mana fixing and ramp quite easily and can fit in virtually every Commander decks. 
  1. Zur the Enchanter: Commander players were pretty happy to see this reprint, although he is a little unexpected.  I have read a few places describing some of the broken shenanigans that this enables and it seems pretty excessive.  The fact that this guy was last seen in Coldsnap back in 2006 means that it was about time for this guy to get a reprint and to make him a little more widely known.  The only thing I might have asked is new cooler artwork, but that’s a little thing. 

 

  1. Restoration Angel – I feel kind of silly putting this on the list but Restoration Angel is just too good to pass up. This is just a massive value engine that is totally under costed. A ¾ flier with flash AND blanks a removal spell is just a huge value swing that can’t be missed. The blink on the angel is probably the most valuable attribute on a card that is an A in almost every regard. Add in the fact that this enables infinite combos with Kiki Jiki and you have something that shouldn’t be trifled with. Yes competitive players want this too,  but competitive and casual players can both like doing powerful, efficient things and this card is where they overlap.

 

  1.  Deadeye  Navigator:  This one makes the list because it is skating on thin ice.  Every player that I know who plays EDH either loves or hates Deadeye Navigator because it is so difficult to deal with once it is resolved and soulbonded.  If the player controlling Deadeye has mana open this becomes a nightmare to deal with and every time you blink something with it you generate even further value.  The consensus from players I know is that it is just a matter of time before this gets banned because of the gross and abusive things that it can do. 


If you feel like I missed something, please leave a comment down below or find me on twitter because I’d love to hear what other people have got in mind.  As always, thanks for stopping by and be sure to come again for another Casual Encounter.

 

Bruce Gray

@bgray8791

 

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Bruce Gray - January 27, 2017

Brewing with Aether Revolt

Casual Encounters- Brewing with Aether Revolt

aether-revolt

One card that I overlooked in my survey of the set was Baral’s Expertise. Now, I knew the whole cycle was good, but I didn’t realize just how good the card was until I sat down for my pre-release.  Every time I was able to cast it I won the game handily and the extra free spell was truly back-breaking.  The fact that it made things SO lopsided suggested that I might want to try and brew with this.

As I sat down to brew looking at Baral’s Expertise, the second clause, where I can play a spell with cmc 4 or less, jumped off the card at me. Inverter of Truth is quite possibly the biggest thing you can do for 4 mana right now in Standard and landing a 6/6 flier on the table puts your opponent under a ton of pressure.  Yes, it has a significant drawback, but it is seriously undercosted for what you are getting.  In addition, in the later stages of the game, when you have a number of solid creatures and removal spells already in your yard, it doesn’t seem like such a bad idea to ensure you draw only gas. 

So, Blue and Black looked like a fun direction to take the deck but I wanted to do a little more.  Inverter of Truth was good, but it couldn’t be a 4 of because the drawback on the card is even worse in multiples.  I was looking for another big scary Black creature to run along with Inverter and then I got my hands on Herald of Anguish.  Oh baby.  Through a little wheeling and dealing I managed to get my hands on a couple of Herald of Anguish and my spidey-sense was off and tingling.  This gave me another big scary flier that even came with a powerful cost reduction mechanic in Improvise meaning I was all in.  Sure, I had to play some artifacts, but I was sure I could find some very suitable candidates to make the deck take shape.  

I started with asking myself if there were any cheap artifact creatures that would be useful to play to reduce the improvise cost on Herald of Anguish but could be decent to help to help slow down an opponent.  Consulate Skygate could just be that annoying little artifact creature because for a mere 2 mana you get 0/4 defender with Reach.  4 toughness allows the Skygate to do a pretty reasonable job of holding the ground in the short term and can even tangle up a few of the fliers like an Aethersphere Harvester.  

Our gameplan goes something like this: Renegade Map on Turn 1, Consulate Skygate on 2, and something like a Weaponcraft Enthusiast on 3 and you can have your Herald online for turn 4 and really setting the tone of the game early.  Now, this does all seem a little like Magical Christmas land, but it also doesn’t seem totally unrealistic, and apart from the Herald, reasonably affordable on the old pocket book.  Let’s have a complete look at the decklist:

 

U/B Expertise

 

This deck is nothing really fancy, but a few of the card choices are a little unusual.  Gifted Aetherborn is just a very solid 2 drop.  Yahenni, Undying Partisan is a super-interesting card with far too much text to not be a strong card and so trying it out a pair of copies seems reasonable. Weaponcraft Enthusiast gives you yet another target to hit off Baral’s Expertise and gives you a couple of Servo tokens to help with making use of Herald of Anguish. Gonti, Lord of Luxury  gives you yet another target for Baral’s Expertise and a super relevant ability to get yourself a little more card advantage and a relevant on-board creature with Deathtouch. (Editor’s Note: to see just how much Bruce loves Gonti, check out this article.)

The spells are pretty straight forward.  Die Young and Live Fast are likely the two most unexpected choices, but both offer unexpected sources of Energy to be used to power the Glint-Sleeve Siphoner for additional card draw, or to make sure that Die Young takes out something that is a little more difficult to handle.  The final piece is making sure you can turn on the Revolt mechanic on Fatal Push.  With no fetch lands in the format Evolving Wilds and Renegade Map will have to do.

The final piece is the cost to assemble all these cards.  The lands are reasonable in part because Sunken Hollow at $3.62* is reasonably prevalent because so much of BFZ was opened on account of the Expeditions. Spire of Industry is another versatile choice and if you can keep an artifact in play  then you can have access to the mana you need when you absolutely need it.  Otherwise, basics and the Wilds are cheap.  

Now, compared to many of my other decks I have built, this is a little bit pricier, but I would expect that if you wait a number of weeks that this will come down in price and be far more reasonable.  I would honestly expect that Herald of Anguish (at $17.99* on Three Kings Loot) will drop in price significantly in the next few weeks.  Yes, there could be a break-out deck at the Pro-Tour, but I expect that the card will likely drop shortly.  Inverter of Truth continues to sink in price and is a mere  $0.75* and the rest of the cards are all reasonably priced as they are Rares and not Mythics.  Finally, Noxious Gearhulk for $7.99* continues to see modest play but the price is hardly outrageous.  

So, there we have it.  A bit of a helter skelter deck that could really be fun.  Now, while I’m happy to share my ideas for brewing with a new set, I’m always happy to hear what other people are brewing up for their next fun night.  So, feel free to share with me what you’ve got brewing for your next casual game by leaving a comment down below or finding me on Twitter.  

Thanks for reading and please stop in next time for another Casual Encounter.

 

Bruce Gray

@bgray8791

*Editor’s Note: All prices quoted are subject to change according to the whims of the multiverse.

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Bruce Gray - January 13, 2017

Top 10 Casual Cards From Aether Revolt

Casual Encounters- Top 10 Casual Cards from Aether Revolt

karizev

Hi everyone and welcome back once again.  Aether Revolt is just around the corner and everyone is counting down the top cards to be excited for. Well, I’m no different except that I’m not looking at Limited cards or Constructed cards.  No, what I want is some fun new toys to splash around with in some Casual decks and to really spice things up when I get to sling cards with my buddies around a kitchen table.  So, with Casual decks in mind, let’s look at the top 10 Casual cards that I’m eyeing from Aether Revolt.

ajanivaliantprotector

  1. Ajani, Valiant Protector: I usually don’t put Planeswalkers on my lists because they are typically very good and clearly geared with Constructed decks in mind,  but this one is just my style.  Ajani, Valiant Protector is the face of one of the Planeswalker decks meaning he is undoubtedly under powered because the product is geared for new players and as introductory product to playing Magic.  However, he plays ideally into a recurring Green/White theme and that’s namely +1/+1 counters on creatures. With a pair of plus abilities that are likely both very relevant in decks where he is featured he provides both +1/+1 counters AND card advantage without losing any loyalty.  That’s big because you can steadily march him upwards to his Ultimate and likely use that to end the game in a quick and decisive way.  Is he flashy the way some Planeswalkers are?  No.  Could he be on theme and very useful?  Absolutely.  Casual decks all over are going to love this new addition.

karizevskyshipraider

  1. Kari Zev, Skyship Raider: Kari Zev makes the list for the sole reason that she makes a Legendary Monkey Token whenever she attacks.  She makes a Legendary Monkey Token when she attacks! How awesome is that? Her casting cost is very favorable at a mere 2 mana, but really, who cares?  It is all about that Monkey Token.

rishkarsexpertise

  1. Rishkar’s Expertise: I took one look at this card and wasn’t really worried about the second clause on this card.  The card had me hooked at “Draw a huge pile of cards”.  Let’s face facts.  If you are playing Casual Magic and you are playing green you likely have some very large creatures which essentially means you get to draw a big old pile of cards when you cast this.  The second clause is potentially very relevant too because you just might want to slam a second play after playing this, but I’m all in on the card draw effect in my Green decks anyway. Can you imagine this in a deck with Ajani, Valiant Protector after a couple of activations?  Oh, that sounds like FUN to me!

whirofinvention

  1. Whir of Invention: Hello Chord of Calling for artifacts! I’m not going to suggest any combos because everyone will likely have their own, but the power level on this just can’t be missed.   Go find that big awesome artifact at the end of your opponent’s turn and then reap the benefits (end of turn Blightsteel Colossus anyone?) EDH decks love tutors and this one is going to be able to do some very powerful things in short order. It might see Constructed play to allow you to go and fetch a Gearhulk or something, but in Casual decks where the sky is the limit, this is going to be very spicy.

exquisitearchangel

  1. Exquisite Archangel: The life swing on this alone is kind of nuts. I can imagine this finding an immediate home in an EDH deck where this is used as a way to totally negate all the damage you’ve sustained at the hands of your opponent by giving you back your starting life total AND to give you a powerful flying blocker to help secure the battlefield.  At 7 mana it is undoubtedly too expensive for a Constructed format, but this will have a very bright future around the Kitchen table for years to come.

maulfistrevolutionary

  1. Maulfist Revolutionary:  This one is a little understated but the interaction it could have to in a deck interested in +1/+1 counters just can’t be missed.  However, the fact that it could potentially net you loyalty counters on your Planeswalker, or add to the Poison or Energy Counters in play is extremely interesting.  It gets even MORE appealing when you start to blink this guy in and out of play resulting in a whole bunch of triggers.  Sure, it is a little slow and potentially a little durdly, but it is exactly the sort of card a Casual player is going to scoop up and put to good use on  some Saturday night slinging cardboard with his buddies.  

trophymage1

  1. Trophy Mage:  This may as well read “Go tutor up your Sword of X/Y”.  EDH decks are going to love the ability to tutor up their Swords and so there is little doubt that this will see fairly steady Casual play.  Oh, it gets better if you can blink it and go and find more goodies in your deck. Really, what isn’t to love?

aethertidewhale

  1. Aethertide Whale:  This giant flier is a solid creature, but what really gets me excited is the amount of Energy this thing produces.  You get a whooping 6 energy whenever this enters the battlefield and that could be super important. You can even return the Whale to your hand for 4 energy and then re-cast it meaning that each time you do you are netting 2 Energy.  You could see yourself scoring a whole pile of extra Energy and doing some really powerful things  There are whole bunch of really neat things you can do with that sort of Energy production like Aetherworks Marvel or Gonti’s Aether Heart or casting a very large Harnessed Lightning.  Whatever you like, there are lots of fun options that this creature will enable making him likely a slightly under appreciated card heading into the pre-releases. If you are looking to make use of Energy in  a deck this is the sort of creature you are looking to include.

paradoxengine1

  1. Paradox Engine:  This just screams to be abused.  The ability to untap ALL your nonland permanents when you cast a spell is hugely powerful. I’m sure that there are people out there looking to break this card already, but the potential is dead obvious that you can’t miss it.  I kind of hope I get my hands on one of these in my pre-release so I can take it for a spin too!

planarbridgeregular

1.Planar Bridge:  This is a very potent card for EDH decks.  As a repeatable creature tutor that activates for 8 mana, this is an amazing way to go and find that big bomb you have lurking in your deck and dump it straight on the battlefield.  However, the other thing this does is it allows your deck to go and play more like a “Tool Box” deck that is so acclaimed in other formats.  Now, R & D has assured that at 8 mana to activate this that it is not a Constructed card, but in EDH, if you need an answer to eliminate that terrifying artifact, creature, or enchantment, you now have a tool to allow you to go and find it at Instant speed.  It may not be the most efficient way to answer something, but if the alternative is you dying then I would rather take my chances with the expensive creature tutor.  The one thing I am glad of is that Planar Bridge puts them on the battlefield rather than “casting” them and thus avoiding all the nasty “When Cast” triggers like on Emrakul, the Promised End.   This is going to make EDH very interesting.  Also, the Masterpiece version of the art of this card is stunning and one of the few times I might be prepared to shell out for the premium version rather than a simple non-foil version.  A very fun and beautiful card and in my estimation the top pick for Casual Players from this new set.

Well, there you have my top 10 Casual Cards.  As always, these lists are highly debatable and there is no doubt that I could have added another 5 cards easily.  However, I have to draw the line somewhere and 10 feels about right.  What has caught your attention from Aether Revolt? If you’ve got something that has captured your attention or something that you are really looking forward to playing let me know in the comments down below or find me on Twitter.  As always, thanks for stopping by and be sure to stop in next time for another Casual Encounter.

Bruce Gray

@bgray8791

 

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Bruce Gray - November 30, 2016

MTG Bargain Hunting

Casual Encounters- Bargain Hunting… Again!

hedonists-trove-dragons-of-tarkir-mtg-art

One of my favorite things about playing Magic is that with over 20 years of cards available there are many options and obscure cards that are available to help fill out a deck.  Sure,  in some formats your choices are limited,  but when you play casually you have countless options.  The only catch is that the very best cards are super expensive and hard to come by, and then may not even help you win. However there are plenty of perfectly viable cards that cost a fraction of the money that often perform just as well as their more expensive cousins.  Today I’m going to share a list of some very useful cards that are currently super cheap that should help in keeping your casual brews under budget and yet still fun to play.

I’m going start with some cards from Theros because it is a much-maligned set that many overlook for being able to offer anything interesting.  I think this perception is a little misplaced for the simple inclusion of the Scry Lands. These are likely one of the most balanced land cycles I have come across and have a huge amount of utility in Casual games.  They help fix your mana, but come into play tapped which is a fair trade off. This is certainly a drawback but they also allow you to Scry 1, which is hugely beneficial. That simple Scry 1 can allow you to help smooth out your draws in the early, mid, or late game and all the while helping to ensure that you are able to produce both colours of mana.  The design itself is so clean that it really is remarkable and the ability seems so minor, but yet can be so crucial.  To make matters better you can use all sorts of cards to eke extra value out of them like perhaps playing one of the Ravnicabounce” lands, or a Kor Skyfisher. Furthermore, since essentially everything from Theros was so widely printed, the prices on these have fallen to precipitously-low levels. Many of these are available on Three Kings Loot for between $0.99 (CDN) and $2.99 (CDN) making them  very modestly-priced and a real solid pickup.  

Prognostic Sphinx is another very solid card for your Casual games as a 3/5  flier with Hexproof if you discard a card. A 3/5 Flying body that is able to protect itself quite inexpensively is a very solid addition and this could see plenty of play in many decks, particularly some sort of Grixis-coloured deck with a number of Madness-themed cards, but it can see application in any deck playing Blue.  The real asset is the Scry 3 that is triggered when it attacks.   This can really generate some significant value and make your deck operate extremely smoothly because  Scry 3 offers you tons of control over the top of your deck. To make matters better, we are talking about essentially a bulk Rare at $0.49 (CDN)  meaning that he costs you less that a cup of coffee.  I call that some good value.

Another very sweet  addition to Casual decks playing White is a little common from M15.  M15 was largely a poor set with only a few truly interesting cards that might still see play, but Heliod’s Pilgrim is a tremendous little find.  In my 4+ years playing MTG again I have seen plenty of games won on the back of a terrible Aura that people just can’t remove or interact with profitably.  Well, if you have a casual deck with a potent aura hidden somewhere, Heliod’s Pilgrim acts like the ideal tutor. It it even leaves behind a body making it a very useful Tutor on a stick and an upgrade over Idyllic Tutor (that runs a very pricey $19.99).  It is no Enlightened Tutor, but Enlightened Tutor is a $15 card while you can get the Pilgrim for a cool $0.20 (CDN). A bargain basement pickup if there ever was one.

There are a number of other totally innocuous cards from Eldritch Moon and that are well-worth keeping an eye on. The first is Grapple with the Past  which can serve as an extremely versatile and potent “Regrowth” type effect.  We have seen time and time again that self mill strategies can be extremely potent and in the Commander 2015 product there was a B/G Meren of Clan Nel Toth deck that looked to exploit its graveyard for extensive value.  However, many of the Self-Mill cards recently printed reveal a certain number of cards and you select the required card, if it is among the revealed cards, and put it in your hand. (e.g. Mulch or Grisly Salvage).  However, Grapple with the Past goes into a much different range in that after you dump the cards in your yard you can select a creature or a land card from your graveyard, not just from the cards that were revealed.  Meaning, that as a late game play, once your yard has been filled up, you get to cherry pick the very best thing your graveyard has to offer.  Now, the original version of this sort effect is Regrowth and was last reprinted in a regular set in Revised (but it has been printed in a number of supplemental products recently) and can be found available for anywhere between $1.15 and $9 (CDN) depending on your version.  Grapple with the Past is a little more limited but can be found for a mere $0.37 at Three Kings Loot to help keep the old pocket book in check.  In a world with many “value” creatures Grapple with the Past is a very effective option and is a considerable discount over some of the alternatives.

Another card to keep your eye on is Splendid Reclamation. I think everyone is aware that this card has the potential to be truly broken given the right circumstances. Personally I have been truly astounded to find myself in a situation in numerous decks where I have either purposefully or inadvertently discarded, milled, or generally had lands destroyed and end up in my graveyard.   Splendid Reclamation does an amazing job of getting you all those lands back and essentially acting as a gigantic ramp spell. To my mind it is at its best in a self-milling strategy, but I could make a case for it in plenty of other situations as well.  However, once you start to see a bunch of lands end up in your graveyard, this is the perfect way to jump from having 4-8 land to having something like 10-12 lands in a single spell.  While you may not win the game on the spot on account of Splendid Reclamation, the truth is that you are now in a much more advantageous position because you have the ability to cast far more spells.  Add in the fact that this recently-printed rare is languishing at a mere $1.25(CDN) and you’re talking about a real bargain for something that could result in you having the upper hand at your next casual game.  

The final card  that I have for you all is yet another common, but this time from Kaladesh.  I have to say that I was astounded to find this card looking at me in my pre-release kit because I always figure this sort of effect is printed at uncommon or higher.  However, for a mere 3 mana (2 generic and a Black) you get a Fortuitous Find, a modal card to allow you to potentially regrow TWO targets.  The obvious first mode is to regrow a creature, that is very easy to predict, however the option to get back a potential artifact could be a hugely powerful play in the late game.  I can well imagine a situation where you have landed an early piece of equipment or a strong Artifact creature (think a Gearhulk)  and it gets destroyed by a well timed piece of artifact hate.  To have the chance to regrow both your best creature target AND an artifact is potentially backbreaking. We all know that in many casual games your opponent can likely deal with your best threats the first time,  but it is the ability to recur that threat a number of times that is truly the key asset and Fortuitous Find is a super cost-effective way to add that element of recursion to your deck. 

Well, those are a few things to add a little versatility and to make you a little more resilient when you start losing threats to the removal of your opponents.  There are plenty of great cards to help players of any budget, so I encourage you to go out and try a broad range of cards and see if you too can’t find a few highly effective budget options to help bring some versatility to your decks. By all means, if you find something fun and inexpensive share that with me here because I’d love to hear about a sweet new (or old) tech out there to spice up my next Casual game.

As always, thanks for stopping to read and be sure to stop in again next time for another Casual Encounter.  

Bruce Gray

@bgray8791

*Editor’s note: As with any discussion about prices, it’s important to remember that they’re always subject to change.

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Bruce Gray - November 15, 2016

Two Ways to Spice Up Your Casual Decks

Casual Encounters- Two Ways to Spice Up Your Casual Decks

wispweaver-angel-kaladesh-mtg-art

The Inverted Truth

    Well, the boys and I got together and jammed some very casual games of Magic this past week.  It was glorious!  We just sat around and slung card board around until it was far too late and enjoyed every moment of it. However, one problem with playing casual Magic is that it takes so darn long.  Multiplayer games take ages because everyone is apprehensive about going out and attacking and leaving themselves vulnerable to some sort of counter attack by the rest of the table.  The game turns into plenty of defensive posturing and very little else going on.  In 5 hours of Magic we played 2 complete games.  2 Games!  That just isn’t very much.  There are lots of house rules that one can play, but I think I may have found something even easier to help bust up that board stall and speed up the game.

My solution is a maligned Mythic from Oath of the Gatewatch  that seemed like it could almost make the grade in Constructed, but sadly has fallen by the wayside.  I’m talking about Inverter of Truth  which is a devastating 6/6 flier for 4 mana.  With those sorts of stats you need to respect it, but there is a drawback.  The drawback is that when Inverter of Truth enters the battlefield you must exile your library, and your Graveyard becomes your Library.  In most situations this means that you lose a big portion of your deck, which can hurt.  If this is done too early you can run yourself out of cards in a real hurry and basically forfeit yourself the game because you just don’t have the tools you need to get the win.  However, if you use this judiciously, Inverter of Truth can be cast to great effect.

Imagine a situation where you have already cast a number of really good spells.  Perhaps you cast some removal spells, a couple of really strong creatures, maybe a reanimation spell or two and some other goodness.  What it means is that once you cast Inverter of Truth you get all those spells back and this time you won’t be drawing land in between good spells.  That sounds actually really appealing. Who wouldn’t want to draw only spells that ensure you play action?  

The other side effect that this card does is that it changes the mental position of the player who cast Inverter of Truth.  We played two games and both times that Inverter was cast the player who cast it immediately adopted a more aggressive position because they no longer had the luxury of playing for the attrition based resource battle. The player who just cast Inverter needs to get down to business of using his Library (that yields only gas) and this efficient 6/6 flier to pressure the table and bust up the board stall that is so typical in multiplayer Magic.  It is often this shift in just a single player that can push the whole table away from stalling out and reinforcing their position and then move everyone into a frantic race to not get run over.  This single person shifting into an aggressive posture is all the game needs to pick up speed and to cause itself naturally, without the addition of house rules or other adjustments to the game itself, to come to a very rapid conclusion.  It is a very effective trick to get a game kicked up into high speed.

In addition to the very intriguing and powerful card, Inverter of Truth gives us a very budget friendly creature to add to decks playing Black.  At a mere $0.75 this is a bargain for a card that dramatically changes the face of the game.  Some might argue that it doesn’t feel “Mythic” enough, but the effect on the game is immediate and profound suggesting that naysayers may be mistaken.  The next time you sit down to ponder what changes to make to your deck, do not discount Inverter of Truth because it can provide a much needed infusion of something truly interesting into the game.

*Editor’s note: Prices are subject to change according to the whims of the multiverse. 

 

Kaladesh and Blinking

There is no doubt that Kaladesh is a casual player’s paradise. The set just offers so much in the way of fun mechanics and innovative ways to get more out of your cards. However, to my eye the real element that has been built into Kaladesh that sets it apart from other sets is all the built in ways to “blink” your guys for value. Not since Avacyn Restored have we had so many ways to blink stuff and have draft chaff look so good.

Wispweaver Angel is the perfect example of a ridiculous limited card that has a huge payoff in casual games to allow you to blink all sorts of goofy things. It is a long way from being Restoration Angel, but the fact remains that using Wispweaver Angel is going to have some similar effects around the kitchen table. Pair the angel up with Panharmonicon and you have yourself some extremely powerful synergies to grab the attention of Casual players.

If blinking your stuff is proving an issue, or you’re looking for another way to get some value from your ETB triggers, Kaladesh has another totally innocuous card  in the form of Aviary Mechanic that can now play alongside Kor Skyfisher and  Emancipation Angel as some of the best ways to re-play your value creatures.  Let me assure you, these are the sorts of commons casual players look for and love to abuse.  Whether it is returning a Scry Land for the free Scry, or a Siege Rhino, or something slightly more degenerate, these simple but effective additions to casual decks can really help push them in the right direction. Look for them and see if you can squeeze them in because you might be pleasantly surprised.

Well, that’s what we’ve got for this week.  Thanks for stopping in for a read and be sure to stop by next time for another Casual Encounter.

Bruce Gray

@bgray8791  

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Bruce Gray - October 27, 2016

Gonti, Lord of Luxury is Awesome

Casual Encounters- Gonti, Lord of Luxury is Awesome

gonti-lord-of-luxury-kaladesh-art

Folks… something got my attention.  I found my new favorite casual card and it is awesome.  It feels SOOO good to cast this guy.  It does everything I want in a Magic card. I have found Gonti, Lord of Luxury and I am pumped!

Let’s get out in front of this: yes, I played at the Kaladesh pre-release and followed all the spoilers so I knew he was good.  Heck, I even picked Gonti as one of my top 10 Casual cards in the set.  Anyway, I was already aware that the guy was good, but HOW good was he?  Oh, he’s awesome.

Let’s fast forward to the other night when I got the nerve to step back into MTGO and draft Kaladesh. Well, my draft was largely uneventful and I had a B/R artifact deck that was no great shake.  However, Pack 3 revealed Gonti and I snapped him up.  As the draft unfolded he was by far the best card in my deck and was exactly what I wanted to cast every time.  I had a Diabolic Tutor in my deck and found myself often searching out Gonti even if I had larger creatures in my deck.  Gonti was too good to pass up and was a house for me all league long.  

After the event was all finished I sat back and thought about WHY I wanted to cast Gonti with such regularity.  I mean, his body isn’t great at 2/3 .  He’s not hyper efficient at 4 mana, and double black at that.  Deathtouch is usually just an annoyance and rarely a truly defining ability.  His ETB ability is interesting but not game breaking… right?  Wrong.  The ability is EXACTLY what I wanted.  His trigger to mess around with your opponent’s deck is just the sort of thing I want.

Gonti, Lord of Luxury, is quietly a 3 for 1 in most instances and leads to nasty stuff that really intrigues me.  Wait… yes I said a 3 for 1… at LEAST.  Let’s think about it: You cast Gonti and you get a 2/3 body on board, which is certainly a thing.  He attacks ok, is a nuisance if your opponent attacks you, and is generally just a solid creature. Next, Gonti lets you look at your opponent’s top 4 cards and exile one and can play it.  This often means you get to deprive your opponent of a key resource at the very least, and, at best, have the chance to use it against your opponent yourself. That is a powerful reversal of fortunes if you turn up something like a Gearhulk, Eliminate the Competition,  or some other powerful effect. So everyone can admit that, to date, this is a 2 for 1  easily enough because for casting this single card I get two cards worth of value.  Getting a 3 for 1 isn’t hard if the card you get off of Gonti trades for 2 cards itself.  So a 3 for 1 is pretty easy to get, but I would make the case that you could even get a 4 for 1 out of this scenario if you put a further good card on the bottom of their library further depriving them a chance to play it.  This isn’t fool proof if they have a “shuffle” effect, but making them put useful resources on the bottom of their deck is often as good as depriving them of the resource out-right because you are rarely going to have a shot to play a card on the bottom of your library. So, for 4 mana you get pretty close to 4 for 1 and can seriously chop your opponent down to size.

So, Gonti is a ridiculous Limited card.  Perhaps fringe playable in Constructed.  However, in Casual play the guy is just silly.  Let’s face it, in Casual formats people are likely to push for one effect and look to take it to an extreme either because their deck is themed around a given ability or because they enjoy causing their opponents grief. Regardless of what camp you are in, the chance to re-use Gonti’s ability in a Casual format is mind boggling.  

In a 60 card casual format you get to play multiples of this guy.  That is insane!  In Commander, where you can build this sort of card into the theme of your deck, the options are endless, and too appealing to turn up.  

So, Gonti is good…Blink him, mill him and re-animate him, make him your commander…and see for yourself.  My mind immediately took him to my Smuggler’s Copter Commander deck and he fits in perfectly.  Alesha wants to trigger her ability on creatures with power 2 or less and Gonti is a prime target. Triggering Gonti’s ability multiple times in the same game sounds awesome.     

Here’s the best part, Gonti is essentially a bulk rare.  You can find him at Three King’s Loot for $1.49*.  In a set where there are pricier cards like Smuggler’s Copter or Torrential Gearhulk or a Masterpiece, $1.49* feels pretty affordable.  You can likely pick one up in trade somewhere reasonably inexpensively making him a great bargain AND a really good addition to your deck.

So, what is the appeal?  I’m not 100 % sure WHY I like trying to make Gonti really good, but to me he feels like a slight variation on one of my other pet cards: Villainous Wealth.   I just love the idea of playing with my opponent’s deck and anything that let’s me do that is awesome. It feels deliciously filthy to beat them to death with their own things.  

As always, thanks for taking the time to stop in and read and please check back again next time for another Casual Encounter.

Bruce Gray

@bgray8791

*Editor’s note: All prices are subject to change according to the whims of the multiverse.

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Bruce Gray - April 8, 2016

Top 10 Casual Cards From Shadows Over Innistrad

Casual Encounters – Top 10 Casual Cards From Shadows Over Innistrad

werewolfart

With the set releasing this weekend, I thought today would be an excellent opportunity to go through my top ten casual cards from Shadows Over Innistrad for all of you. Now, these may not be all the hottest competitive cards. Sometimes there are other cards that are spicy and fun to play with, but may not be particularly good in the competitive Magic scene. However, even casual players appreciate mana-efficient, powerful cards so don’t be surprised if some of those also appear on this list too. Let’s get down to business and see what I’m excited for in this new set!

 

Honorable mentionNew rare land cycle

 I always get excited for new land cycles because having good mana is so crucial to playing this game. I have maintained now for a long time that good mana is often better than having the premier spells because you can reliably cast your spells if you’ve got the correct mana. The new lands give us one more tool to help fix our mana, but the interaction with the Battle lands, namely that the Battle lands are dual typed, means that you can have this new cycle come into play untapped quite reliably. They aren’t exciting and most people aren’t thrilled about them, but I think they are one more viable land option. The other piece is that these lands should be fairly readily accessible and inexpensive for the foreseeable future making them an inexpensive investment and something that helps casual players get the mana fixing they want without breaking the bank..

sigarda, heron's grace

10- Sigarda, Heron’s Grace: While the other angels have gone crazy, Sigarda has stayed pretty true to her original printing. She’s still 5 mana, is a good body, but now she gives your humans and you hexproof. This doesn’t seem like it is very relevant, but she goes in tribal human decks very readily. Whether you are playing human Allies, Warriors, or even pre-transformed werewolves, she is relevant and could make life difficult for your opponents. I’m not sure if she has a future in constructed decks yet, but I know casual players will be excited for her to be played in tribal decks.

Triskaidekaphobia-Shadows-over-Innistrad-Art-600x403

9-  Triskaidekaphobia: I feel like this will be one of the cards that leave a lasting impressions on this set long term. Triskaidekaphobia is not likely to see much in the way of Constructed play, but it is templated beautifully for Multi-player games giving it more appeal for Casual players. The real draw here is that it is an alternate win condition for a deck that is interested in that sort of thing.  I know some EDH deck is going to brew with this thing and I have a few friends who will take a stab at making this viable, but that will only see the light of day around the kitchen table.  The art on this card is insane too in that it calls out to so many different instances of the number 13 that it is almost comical.  This will certainly be remembered and is extremely unique even for a set as rich and flavourful as Shadows over Innistrad.

SOI_Seasons_Past_Christine-Choi

8- Seasons Past:  As a casual player, this speaks to me very clearly.  For 6 mana I can regrow MULTIPLE targets?  So, sure, it is NOT what a Constructed deck wants, but I can imagine getting all sorts of things back in a Casual game very easily.  Just think about your favorite 1 drop.  Do you have it in mind?  Great.  Now a 2 drop.  Repeat that for a 3 drop.  Keep going…how about 4 now…and 5, and 6, and, and, and.  Seasons Past is exactly the sort of card that will scale ridiculously depending on what’s in your deck and we all know casual players are more apt to have bigger, splashier things in their deck.  This could be amazing… and the stories you will tell will start like this “Remember when I cast Seasons Past and got back…”.  Yeah.  I’m pumped.

Odric-Lunarch-Marshal-Shadows-over-Innistrad-Art

7- Odric, Lunarch Marshall:  Wow…so, you know when I had Sigarda playing guardian angel for a tribal humans deck?  Well, I want this guy to be the reason I win that game because he just grants all my other creatures silly abilities.  It isn’t hard to imagine this guy being ridiculous and casual players are ready and willing to give this guy a brand new home leading their decks.  Just a sweet new treat to make decks unbelievable. Fellow looter JP Vazquez is also excited by Odric, so check out his article if you haven’t already!

thalia's lieutenant

6- Thalia’s Lieutenant:  Hmmm…tribal humans just got another lord. Ok.  Sign me up. I could almost see this guy helping to build the foundation for a silly Humans build in Modern playing alongside Champion of the Parish and Hardened Scales but even without that push this is hard to miss.  

Second-Harvest-Shadows-over-Innistrad-Art

5- Second Harvest:  I read this card and had to stop and look at it again.  For 4 mana for that ability doesn’t seem THAT good. Oh wait, what am I talking about.  I’m clearly wrong and can’t wait to play this and do some degenerate token shenanigans with it.  Think about playing this in some of the EDH decks out there that are focused on token strategies: Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice, Ghave, Guru of Spores, Rhys the Redeemed, just to name a few.  These decks look to go wide. This lets them go WIDER. At instant speed.  We’re all going to die to this card in EDH.  I accept it and want my chance to try and cast it too.  

cardart_SOI_Epiphany-at-the-Drownyard

4- Epiphany at the Drownyard: This is perhaps my favorite card in this whole set.  I love drawing extra cards and nothing makes me happier than being able to do that at Instant speed.  The fact that this scales in the late game when I have a pile of mana is very appealing and could help me stock my hand all over again.  The similarities between this and Fact or Fiction is unmistakable and further adds to the appeal of the card because I love forcing my opponent to make a choice and see if they make a bad one for me to capitalize on.  This is a very strong card and certainly not something I will overlook.

Trail-of-Evidence-Shadows-over-Innistrad-Art

3- Trail of Evidence:  I’m using Trail of Evidence as a placeholder for cards that allow you to create multiple Clue artifacts.  I think these Clue artifacts are an ingenious way to help smooth out limited play by allowing players the chance to draw more cards.  If you can draw more cards you might find that answer you desperately need to stave off your death.  The result is very positive for Limited.  However, for a Casual player, these Clue tokens create a very interesting opportunity when paired with Ghirapur Aether Grid because you can use your Clue tokens to help deal damage to your opponent.  Any time you can weaponize something that is essentially harmless you have something that will appeal to a certain type of Casual player.

the gitrog monster

2- The Gitrog Monster: This is a wild card that has entirely too much text on it for it to NOT be something that Casual players are going to drool all over.  Don’t ask me where it goes…maybe it is the general for a whole new EDH deck…but I know that this thing is a) stupid big b) packs a ton of powerful abilities and c) has super cool art. I want me one of these guys.

PW_ArlinnKord_preloader

SOI_PW_Embraced_by_the_Moon_image_gallery

 

1-  Arlinn Kord:  This was a tough choice because I kind of wanted to put Avacyn in this spot. The reason I picked Arlinn is just because she is the first Planeswalker with the ability to flip back and forth under your control.  Garruk Relentless flipped over and stayed that way with no chance of flipping back.  Same for the more recent flip Planeswalkers in Magic: Origins.  This is the first time that we’ve seen a walker who can go back and forth at will. That makes her unique and something that can’t be overlooked ever.  She will undoubtedly be a strong competitive card in Constructed, but Casual players are going to love her too.  I mean, she packs 5 abilities, is a Werewolf, and looks amazing…she’s a casual all star and takes top spot on my list.

 

Well, there we have it.  My top ten is likely very different from most top tens.  Heck, I left Sorin, Avacyn and Relentless Dead off my list!  Don’t get me wrong, these are going to be amazing cards but they will find their home in Constructed Magic right away.  Some of the cards on my list will see competitive play, but there are others that will never see the light of day at a major tournament and will shine brightest around the kitchen table.  

Was there anything else that caught your eye or has you super excited?  Let me know by finding me on Twitter or by leaving a comment down below. This is clearly going to be a terrific set and I’m excited to see these cards dominate kitchen tables for years to come.    

Until next time good luck and have fun wherever you play Magic and be sure to stop by next time for another Casual Encounter.

 

Bruce Gray
@bgray8791 on Twitter

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JP Vazquez JP Vazquez - March 16, 2016

An Intro to Intros

Optimum Jank – An Intro to Intros

goblin-recruiter

So You Want to be a Magic Player?

Welcome to the world of Magic: The Gathering. A world filled with nuanced heroes in troubled circumstances, interesting monsters that are often more than they appear to be, captivating worlds begging to be explored and fantastic spells that bend the reality of those worlds. Somewhere in that mix, there just happens to be a pretty fun card game to collect as well. Exciting, isn’t it?

Whatever the reasons may be that brought you to this game, there are always a number of questions that plague new, returning, or even experienced players. Whether it be about card evaluation, deck piloting strategy, or simply how to introduce the game to a new player, there’s no end to the number of queries this game can create.

Although there’s an endless amount of content by pro players much better at the game than I am to answer questions about critical meta-game strategies, there’s far less content out there for the more casual players. The ones trying to figure out if now is the best time to come back to the game after a long hiatus. The ones who have no idea what to do with all the draft cards they’ve amassed. The ones who want to introduce the game to their friends but aren’t sure how best to present it to them. The ones who like to bring their silly combo deck to Friday Night Magic. If this sounds like you or one of your friends, I have a feeling we’ll get along swimmingly.

Totally-Lost

Everyone Starts Somewhere

Getting started (or re-started) with Magic can be a daunting and/or overwhelming experience. There are a lot of rules. There are a lot of experienced players. But most of all, there are a lot of cards. The sheer number of cards alone can often astound newer players. Some of the most frequently asked questions I get when explaining the game to prospective players are: “How do you remember what all the cards do? Did you have to study them all? Does every player know what all these cards do?”

Here’s a little secret: Most players don’t know what every card does. Certainly, there are players who do know a large percentage of the cards, but most don’t know every single card printed in the history of the game. A large majority of the time, you’ll only need to know a handful of cards at a time (depending on which format(s) you’re currently playing) to follow along. The longer you play, the more time you’ll spend talking about cards. After a while, you’ll notice that you’ll hear about particular cards more than others. Eventually, you start to learn based on this repetition. There’s no need to study the entire catalog of Magic cards before you start playing and there’s no need to memorize all the strategies, archetypes or lingo before you get going. All you need is a pack of cards and a buddy who’s willing to guide you through your first few games and you’re good to go.

treasure hunt


Anything and Everything

Now that we’ve covered what you don’t need to do, the next question becomes: Which cards do I need to collect or need to know about in order to play? Technically, the answer to that could be any and all cards in the history of Magic as long as your deck meets the format’s minimum card requirement.

I can see you panicking again. Don’t worry, we can fix this too.

Magic‘s most popular format is something called “Casual Magic,” also known as “Kitchen Table Magic” because of the mental image that most casual players play around the kitchen table. When playing Casual Magic, all you need is a deck of cards and some buddies to play. The reason this is the most popular version is that it has the least rules and regulations. At this level of Magic, people are just reading the cards and playing the game as they see fit. There’s no banlists nor format requirements that allow certain cards and prevent others cards from being in your deck.

Inevitably, there will come a time when you might want to optimize your deck. Or challenge yourself by playing against more difficult or focused decks rather than the random cards you’ve thrown together for kitchen table games. Most players will recommend Friday Night Magic (FNM) events at their local game stores as the next logical step. While this may be a solid step for returning players who already have experience with the game, I’ve seen a number of new players get very nervous about Drafting or playing against expensive, finely tuned Constructed format decks.

Frequently overlooked by enfranchised players of the game, there are other options available to newer players which will allow them to step up a their game before venturing in the realm of FNM. A format I love recommending to newer players is what I call “Intro Pack Magic.”

intro art

Allow Me to Re-Intro-duce Myself

Whenever a new Magic set is released, Wizards of the Coast (the folks who make the Magic cards) release “Intro Packs.” These are 60 card pre-constructed decks that (currently) come packaged with two booster packs. These decks and boosters predominantly contain cards from the current and/or immediately preceding set of cards. As an example, at the time of writing, the newest set released is Oath of the Gatewatch. Oath of the Gatewatch Intro Packs contain cards found in OGW (the abbreviation for Oath) and Battle for Zendikar (BFZ); the set that preceded OGW.

These decks are exactly what you would expect from something called an “Intro Pack;” they are a means to introduce a new player to the newest set and to Magic itself. These are not meant to be tournament competitive decks: They will be crushed by top tier decks if played against one. That being said, they’re usually solidly balanced to play against each other. If you can find a friend who’s interested in playing “Intro Pack Magic” with you, here’s how it’s done:

  • Both you and your friend buy an Intro Pack: You can each buy the same Intro Pack if you both desire, but it is much more enjoyable to play two different decks. You get to see more cards and more mechanics from the newest set if you do.
  • Don’t open the booster packs right away: You’ll often hear differing opinions about why you should or shouldn’t “crack packs” depending on who you talk to in the Magic community. In this particular case, there’s sound reasoning why you shouldn’t crack them open right away.
  • Play with your Intro decks first as is: You’ll want to get a feel for your Intro deck. Play a few games against your friend. Try to learn the strategy behind your deck and at the same time, try to figure out what your friend’s deck is trying to accomplish. Perhaps you like your friend’s deck better than yours? Ask if your friend would mind switching decks with you. It is very rare that Intro decks will contain tremendously valuable cards, so trading an entire Intro deck with your friend shouldn’t be too much of a hassle… unless of course, you friend loves their Intro deck. In that case, you’re on your own.
  • After you’ve played a few rounds with your Intro decks, now is the time to crack open those boosters.

Why are we waiting to open them, you may ask? By playing with your deck straight out of the box, you’ll hopefully have developed an understanding of your Intro deck and what it’s trying to do. These booster packs will have a lot more meaning to you now. Not only do you get to see sweet new cards and hopefully open an expensive rare, you’ll be looking at all the cards through the filter of your Intro deck. You’ll start to evaluate which cards would work well with your deck, which cards might actively work against it and which cards might not have any importance either way. Perhaps you’ll find a card or two that you’ll want to add to your deck. Great! Try to take one card out of your deck for each card you add in. Replay your decks with your new cards and see how that goes. You can continue making modifications to your deck as you see fit.

By focusing on this smaller initial pool of cards, you’re already starting to develop and learn basic skills you’ll be needing as a burgeoning Magic player: You’re learning such concepts as card evaluation, deck construction, the management of limited resources and the ability to quickly learn new cards found in a particular Standard set.

Intro Pack Magic can be taken a step further within your playgroup if, at the end of every week, you each agree to buy a booster from the set your Intro Pack is from. Add the cards you like from your new booster to your deck. Over time, you’ll acquire more cards for your collection, have a uniquely tuned deck that you’ve played with friends in a non-competitive environment, and will develop skills needed if you do decide to make that leap to FNM Draft or Constructed.

End-Hostilities

The End of the Beginning

I hope you enjoyed today’s column! The topic of how to start (or jump back into) Magic is one I often see pop up on Magic forums and websites, so I was excited to address it here. In future, we’ll be looking at various other ways to play Magic which will hopefully appeal to the Casual and Competitive alike. If you liked what you see here or have any questions, feel free to leave a comment in the Comments section below!

JP Vazquez – Optimum Jank

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