Tag: courser-of-kruphix

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Avatar Bruce Gray - January 27, 2015

Brewing a budget modern deck

Eidolon of Blossoms

Casual Encounters: Brewing a Budget Modern deck

By Bruce Gray 

With the banning of Cruise and Dig Through Time I thought I might take a bit of a stab at Modern. The format seems SOOO intimidating because it is just so powerful and with so many truly ridiculous archetypes that even getting into the format seems very challenging.  Now, I don’t have the money to jump into the format with one of the Big Boy decks, so I end up having to brew my own budget deck just so I can play.  Today, I thought I would share with you guys what sort of budget Modern Brew I’ve been working on.

Budget means different things in different formats.  To most of us a budget deck at Standard means that the deck costs less than $100.  At Modern that threshold changes significantly and puts you well into the hundreds of dollars, but considering that some of the Modern decks floating around can cost THOUSANDS of dollars, this still seems like a bargain.  The deck I have for you today costs a couple of hundred dollars and thus falls into this realm and could be a lot of fun to play.

Sometimes there are decks that you brew for one format that you like so much that you keep them together as they roll over into the next format.  That is the case for this deck that I ostensibly built for Standard during Return to Ravnica and Theros Block.  It wasn’t a mainstream deck by any stretch of the imagination, but it was a deck that I liked to play and it could do some awfully powerful things and steal a win out of nowhere. Let’s take a look at the deck list.

 

Bant Enchantress Auras – Modern Budget deck

 

Breakdown

Ok, a number of people are going to look at this list and just scoff because I have things like Plasm Capture…and I agree…but part of the idea behind this build was to do something a little off beat…and I think I’ve got it.  This deck is trying to do a number of things, and that might be its downfall.  It wants to be 1 part control deck, 1 part Hexproof, 1 part Enchantress and looks and feels a bit clunky, but with some streamlining could be really fun. Let’s have a peak at some of the cards.

The Hexproof package is the Aqueous Forms, Ethereal Armor, and Unflinching Courage and the game plan is pretty easy.  Suit up a Witchstalker and go nuts. The Lone Revenant was something I found in a janky binder and tossed in just in case I needed another target because I wrathed away the board…and the additional card draw is kind of a sleeper addition to the deck. Ajani is in here for his 2nd ability, to give a Witchstalker flying and double strike and it can well and truly end a game in a hurry.

The control package is the trio if Plasm Capture and Render Silent along with the Supreme Verdicts.  This is pretty straight forward in terms of concept but the choices I made are pretty unusual.  Counterspell and Plasm Capture are both likely too slow for Modern, but if there is going to be a 3 mana counter spell to run, Render Silent feels like a good option because it is Counterspell  and a Silence stapled together.  Plasm Capture is just a greedy spell that gets passed over, but even nabbing one spell with one is a huge tempo swing.  This package could no doubt be streamlined, but they provide for some interesting options and are spells your opponents would NEVER expect to contend with. Sphinx’s Revelation is just a powerful card draw spell that can’t be overlooked and some number larger than 0 felt like the right call.

The Enchantress package is powered by the ever popular Eidolon of Blossoms. I took one look at the large number of enchantments, particularly Auras, and decided that nothing makes an Aura based deck run better, and ruin more opponents, than cantripping into your other spells.  So, in went the Eidolon to abuse all those enchantments and off I went.

A few other pieces that are useful in here don’t fit with any real theme, but are versatile utility creatures.  Qasali Pridemage is great example as he wrecks other enchantments and can provide a meaningful boost to a solo attacker.  The original interaction of this deck had Fleecemane Lions but with those still being played heavily in Standard I made a suitable substitution.  Courser of Kruphix is another useful card that jives well with the Enchantress theme, but would likely get run anyway because it just provides so much value.  Thassa, the Charioteers, and the Bow of Nylea all offer similar utility for differing reasons, but all could be replaced without much trouble.

 

Substitutions

At Modern the Shocklands paired with Fetchlands are indeed the way to go so the mana base is most of the way there.  The Scry lands aren’t ideal and the “buddy” lands would be preferable…particularly the Hinterland Harbour and Glacial Fortress.  However, those are fairly modest adjustments to the mana base.

Render Silent and Plasm Capture are both targets for an upgrade provided you have a suitable option.  Mana Leak, Spell Pierce, Remand all come to mind, but some of those are more expensive. The permission shell has room for improvement and there are a number of possible ways to go.

I could run Slippery Boggle and Gladecover Scout as Hexproof one drops instead of the bulkier Witchstalker, but I like how the stalker could be used to punish Black and Blue decks who want to play on your turn.  Those +1/+1 counters accelerate the clock in a suitable way for sure. It might mean that the deck is too slow, but I’ll need to test it out and see.

Obviously the Aura package could stand to be improved with Hyena and Spider Umbra’s to help my Hexproof dudes have a little resilience as I wash away my opponent’s threats with Supreme Verdict.

The Lone Revenant is likely FAR too expensive…but I think he’s a funny card and something that could be an interesting solo threat.

Well, that’s my deck…it may not be much good and could most certainly be streamlined with a bunch of other options, but it is a fun and interesting deck.

 

Thanks for reading and until next time, keep it fun, keep it safe…keep it Casual.

Regards.

By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter
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Avatar Bruce Gray - October 8, 2014

Let me AXE you a Question… [Abzan midrange]

Anafenza the Foremost - Abzan midrange

Let me AXE you a Question…

by Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters

Today I wanted to take a moment and share some of my other random thoughts that I’ve had since I last sat down to write.  I’ll be honest, getting back into the grind of the school year has been a challenge and left me without too many chances to sit down and play Magic, let alone write.  However, I’ve had lots of thoughts and ideas and finally had a chance to collect some of those thoughts.  So, I apologize if my ideas jump around a little, but that’s the stage I’m at this point in my playing.

 

Garruk’s Freaking Axe

So, I wanted to share just how excited I was the other day when I opened up my email and was notified that apparently I was selected to win one of Garruk’s Axes from the M15 pre-releases.  SWEET! My brother and I took a terrible photo at our pre-release event and were certain we’d never win.  However, when there were only 22 entries from across Canada and 16 potential axes to win, the odds were pretty good. So, when the email landed in my inbox I was pumped.  Sure, the odds were pretty much in my favor, but it is still neat to be selected.  I can hardly wait for the axe to arrive at my house because it is going to be hilarious.  My wife is going to ask why there is a giant foam axe at my house and just roll her eyes! Just priceless.  Also, it will get carted to every Casual card night we play as just another ridiculous MTG thing in my collection.  I can hardly wait.

 

M15 pre-release and Invitational Decklist

So, as the fallout from my brother and I placing second at our Two-Headed Giant pre-release in July we had something extra nice come our way.  The Local Game Store we go to holds an invitational tournament for all players who finish in the top 4 of a “premier event”.  Basically, any “premiere event” (as defined by the store) is an event played on the Weekend such as a GP trial, Game Day, or even a Pre-release.  So…my brother and I, for inadvertently placing second at the Pre-release got invited to play at another event.  Sweet!! The issue becomes this…I’m more of a Casual/Limited sort of guy and this event, which is hosted October 11th in conjunction with Canadian Thanksgiving, will be a Constructed event.  That leaves me in a bit of a quandary. I don’t have the deepest of pockets and can’t spring for cases of Khans…so I’m, in a bit of a tough spot rolling into the new Standard environment with only a few weeks to brew and get set up.  Also, I sort of pride myself on the home brew/budget approach to playing Magic but am concerned that my deck building skills won’t be up to that sort of a test.

 

With that said I think I’m on to something that could be pretty useful. I’ve been struck with the combination of aggressive creatures and controlling nature of the Abzan clan from Khans and feel like they might lead to something in the upcoming Standard format. Basically, I like the ground and pound game the Abzan provide and immediately said “there’s my boys”.  That means I’ll need to learn to play some Black for a change, but that is likely healthy for me in order to continue to grow and develop as a player.  Here’s what I’ve got as an early decklist.

 

Abzan Midrange – Khans Standard

 

This game plan is actually pretty straightforward.  Sylvan Caryatid and Courser come down early to play some early D and help you ramp up to some of your more expensive things.  The fact that half the mana base comes in tapped is an issue so the ramp could be pretty key.  Fleecemane is pretty beast as a 3/3 for 2 mana that is even better once Monstruous.  Anafenza comes down as a 4/4 for 3 mana and hates out graveyards pretty hard.  Polukranos is just about the best thing you can do for 4 mana and then can act as a Pit Fight if you need it.  Dawnbringer Charioteer is a disgusting 2/4 with Heroic, Flying, and Lifelink. I feel like this is a card that is a little under utilized, but could be just what this sort of deck wants and needs to gain back a little life, and if you can trigger the Heroic ability things could get out of hand…fast.  Siege Rhino is just another efficient fatty and enters with a gross Enter the Battlefield trigger.  Nylea is an automatic because she could just tip the scales in your favour so badly. The High Sentinels synergize nicely with all the creatures that make +1/+1 counters through a number of methods and can just be a killer. The last piece is the Abzan Falconer, because nothing is scarier than when all your creatures with +1/+1 counters take to the skies and can overload the air born defense of your opponent.

 

The removal package is pretty robust.  Abzan Charm has three relevant modes including an exile mode for other creature with power 3 or greater. Banishing Light is a nice catch all, and Hero’s Downfall just crushes just about anything.  The Abzan Ascendancy is a nice addition because it can dump counters on all your creatures to enable the Falconer (or just pump your team), but the second mode, that of making 1/1 flying spirits is pretty useful and could totally enable a plan B approach with Pharika (out of the sideboard) to flood the board with tokens. Reap What is Sown again enables all sorts of Counters and Heroic stuff.  Elspeth and Lili are just too powerful to overlook for a number of reasons and I’m sad I can only squeeze in a pair.

 

Now, I am absolutely aware that this is not a Budget deck…heck, the mana base alone ensures that it isn’t a budget deck.  However, there are some interesting options to help bring the budget factor of the deck down.  The Fleecemane Lions can totally be subbed out and replaced with the Ajani Pridemate.  The Pridemate is very realistically a 3/3 for the same two mana…but likely a turn later.  The way this works is you drop some of the Temples and replace them with the Refuge lands from Khans and every time you gain a life when they enter the Pridemate grabs a counter.  So, turn 1 drop a land…turn 2 is better if your land is untapped and cast Pridemate.  Turn 3 drop a Refuge land and your Pridemate is now a 3/3 and you are basically on par with the Lion.  Siege Rhino can be dropped in favour of the Reaper of the Wilds and there are lots of other options at the 4 slot to play perfectly viable creatures instead of Nylea.  There are really no alternatives to the Caryatid or the Courser, but things like Voyaging Satyr or Golden Hind can do reasonable approximations of these all-stars but at a fraction of the cost.

 

The sideboard is whole other issue that I’m not sure about.  I’m not 100% sure I know what the meta will be playing, and seeing as I am only dabbling in Constructed I’m likely pretty screwed so I might just pack a sideboard full of removal and some Ajani’s Presence…and some Nyx-Fleece Ram to put the crews to Burn decks everywhere.  It isn’t a perfect fix, and I’m open to suggestions from anyone out there in the community.

 

Well, there we have another week.  The good news, I’ve picked up some Khans boosters and some Crack a packs are on the way for those who love to draft.  For those out there with a penchant for Constructed, let me know what you think about my deck for the Invitational.  Do you have some suggestions?  I’m all ears. Let me know because I at least want to put up a reasonable result (i.e. not embarrass myself). And we’ve got a Casual night coming up complete with a Fresh Hobo deck to share with all of you.  Lots to come, that’s for sure.

 

Until next time, keep it safe, keep it fun…keep it casual.

by Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter
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Avatar Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - September 29, 2014

Jeskai Tempo by Kevin Jones (1st at SCG Edison Standard Open on Sep 27...

Champion’s Deck

Mantis Rider - Jeskai Tempo

Jeskai Tempo by Kevin Jones

1st at SCG Edison Standard Open on Sep 27th 2014

As we bid a fond farewell to RTR/THS Standard and all its mono-colored shenanigans we see how quickly everything becomes new again with both decks sitting at the final table in the wedge colors. There was also in the final a Mardu Midrange deck which in and of itself is a beautiful work of art which simply did not draw well against an amazing draw of the Jeskai tempo deck. But for us today we are interested in this Red, White and Blue beast of a list which was able to battle through 13 rounds and stake its flag first at the summit of this opening weekend.

 

This deck is built around taking advantage of burn to take incremental advantage and close out games quickly and efficiently. To work towards that goal we find a trio of creatures that while not monsters are able to go long and chip away quickly at the opponents life total to make it easy to top deck a burn spell for the win. The first creature drops down turn two with a trio of Seeker of the Way which combo well with the burn through its Prowess to not only get pumped up but also gain lifelink to ensure survival against other Aggro decks. Next we find one of the defining cards of Aggro for the current meta with Goblin Rabblemaster which on an unchecked board will be able to quickly overwhelm the opponent with a horde of goblins beating face. Then we get to a new tool for these colors with Mantis Rider which as a tri-colored creature sports a very strong package as a three drop with Haste to beat face immediately upon arrival, Flying to leap over the walls of Courser of Kruphix, and even Vigilance which allows you to bring the assault with impunity. Supporting the troops there is a duo of Red planeswalkers starting with the all new powerhouse Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker which is basically taking the role of Stormbreath Dragon as another aggressive flyer for the deck but also doubles as decent removal taking out a slew of four toughness creatures. There is also a misers Chandra, Pyromaster which is able to grind precious life points while either blasting potential chumps or immobilizing big blockers, and could also add to the decks drawing power. Speaking of draw there are two cards with which to gain additional resources with Dig Through Time able to go deep to find you two spells which will hopefully finish your opponent  and Steam Augury that does rely upon the choice of your opponent but can easily be a bomb spell depending on what else you flip up with it. Magma Jet is also a pseudo-draw with its Scry 2 not only are you flinging fire but also setting up potential or even pushing useless cards to the bottom in advance of a Dig Through Time. Then we get to the package of straight-up burn spells with sets of Lightning Strike and Stoke the Flames to either flambe some pesky creature or just fling straight to the dome of your opponent to close out a quick victory. You also have the option to barbeque opponents with your Jeskai Charm, but also bounce giant creatures away or pump your team while gaining some incidental life points. Finally we wrap up with catchall answer Banishing Light which is the decks main answer to planeswalkers, enchantments, or artifacts but will also deal with problematic creatures as well.
Man oh man am I ever in love with Jeskai Tempo. It just looks so aggro just like my cup of tea, but still able to overcome traditional issues like draw and removal for bombs. Now I will admit that watching the deck win there was a definite element of variance which handed Jeskai an easier road to walk towards victory, but he took it all the way from beginning to end so there must be value in it. I would be very happy to sleeve up a deck like this and run with it, but with so many new styles and the Pro Tour coming up I’m going to happily observe for now. If you do decide to pick this up though I imagine you’ll have a blast burning up the competition.
Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter
Email: ejseltzer@hotmail.com
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Avatar Bruce Gray - July 27, 2014

Deep Thoughts on…Inspiration

Aqueous Form - Bant Auras

Deep Thoughts on…Inspiration

by Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters

 

What motivates you to Brew?  Is it a card?  Is it a mechanic?  Is it a colour?  Brewing up a deck takes as much creativity as any other creative output, whether it is writing the next piece of great literature, or composing the next symphony, or even painting a masterpiece to be displayed.  No, regardless of what you do in your life, if you brew up decks at Magic, you need some sort of inspiration.  Let’s explore some of those sources of inspiration and where you go looking for creative ideas to make a deck.

 

There are lots of different types of decks out there and lots of different people out there brewing things up.  Not every one brews up first rate competitive decks…and that’s fine. Let’s be honest, the very creative and best are rare and hard to find.  If it was easy to be creative there would have been more Mozart’s, Rembrandt’s, or Shakespeare’s.  The same theory applies to creating a deck…the top deck builders are the top deck builders for a reason.  They “see” things that the average player misses, and that’s what makes them special.  However, we can learn a process, we can all improve, and the fact that we aren’t that special talent does not invalidate our own efforts to build decks.  In fact, there is a great deal of satisfaction in building your own deck even if it is never going to be used at more than a game at your kitchen table. Building decks is a creative activity that brings with it its own level of enjoyment and joy regardless of how talented you are.

 

So, when you sit down to brew, where do you start?  For me there are a couple of ways that often kick start the process. The first and most obvious jumping off point is you open up an automatic “build around me” card that it is just too tempting to turn up.  These are usually super powerful mythics or rares and come in a variety of colours and shapes, but these present an opportunity to exploit something very explosive and powerful.  However, sometimes these are commons or uncommons that can yield a more consistent result because you likely have a playset to fill out in your deck.  One such example would be the card Aqueous Form from Theros.  “Huh?” you ask, but let me run down how this could be such a card.  We have seen that unblockable creatures are super hard to contain and interact with…and the only thing harder is an unblockable creature that is also hexproof.  Basically, I took one look at Aqueous Form and said “ well…let’s make my own Hexproof/Unblockable creature and make the game totally degenerate”.  So, I next needed to find hexproof creatures…and I was off and running to build a deck all on the back of 4 common Aqueous Form cards.

 

 

Another approach for inspiration is looking at the decklists of others for ideas.  This does NOT mean straight out copying the deck list.  As much as that is a very popular form of building decks, it is not really inspiration because there is very little of your own creative thought that goes into the deck.  No, the idea spawned by the decklist is a decent place to start but you need to take that idea and then build around it by substituting and replacing pieces of your own.  This may be done on account of you not having the same pieces as the decklist that was posted, but sometimes it is to reflect your own interests.  Perhaps you want to push the linear mechanic in the deck further. Perhaps it is to reflect your playgroup and you make changes to deal with particular decks. Whatever your reason, you move away from the standard decklist that you found somewhere on the internet and take it in a different direction.  On occasion I have done this as well mostly to get a sense of some core pieces that can fit nicely together that interest me, but I then go around and fill out the shell with the cards that I want.

 

A third way to find some inspiration is looking at decks from previous formats and then modifying them with the use of cards that are currently in the Standard format.  The nice thing with Magic is that often similar cards get printed that have the same or similar effects.  This isn’t always the case, but you can find most effects you want printed in one form or another.  As a result, the same style of decks and archetypes can exists, but with slightly different cards and with some slight differences.  One such archetype that I have been enjoying is the Hexproof/Auras decks…particularly the Bant Auras deck that was played while Geist of Saint Traft and Invisible Stalker were in Standard.  Both of these cards are effectively broken and to arm them up with Auras makes for a potent deck.  My immediate thought when they rotated out was that Theros could NOT support such a strategy again because the deck was pretty degenerate.  Honestly, who wants to play a deck that allows for almost 0 interaction and races you with devastating effectiveness?  Not me…unless I’m the one running the deck! Then I saw a deck tech on the coverage for the Theros Pro-Tour that was a W/G Hexproof auras deck and my hopes were renewed as I took inspiration from source #2 (someone else’s deck).  This is where my interest in Aqueous Form, an idea for a current deck in the Meta, and a previous archetype coalesced to form one common deck idea.

 

Now, once you have a deck idea the actual brewing process can be very quick or it can take a long time to assemble the cards you want/need.  I’ve sat down and in 25 minutes put together a perfectly reasonable deck with a variety of synergistic pieces. That’s fine so long as you are prepared to play with a bunch of common and lower price tag cards.  However, I have also been building a deck for the better part of the last 8 months in an attempt to assemble all the cards I want.  Now, the prime reason it has taken me so long to build the deck is that I have been looking to pick up the premium rare cards and lands to make the deck go.  When you play Magic on a relatively tight budget it takes time to trade, acquire, scrimp and save enough to acquire the pieces you want for you deck.  That is exactly the situation in which I find myself and have had to piece together the cards for my latest deck.

 

Bant Auras “Aqueous Form” decklist

2015 Core set Standard

 

 

So, that’s the deck I’ve been building since September. It is a combination of all three forms of Inspiration that I usually use.  The common playset of Aqueous Form, the W/G Hexproof shell from Pro-our Theros, and some of the main tenets of Bant Auras as it existed while Geist and Stalker roamed the battlefield. I’m actually proud of this deck because I have yet to actually see a deck that looks like this in Standard anywhere.  Now, that likely means it is likely no good, but it is nice to think that is entirely my own brew and not copying or emulating any other deck running around Standard currently.  It is also a long way from being a budget deck.  That’s part of the reason it has taken me so long to build this deck and to take it out for a test drive.  Inspiration is great to give you direction…but sometimes the old bank account can hold you back from some of those goals. It has taken me 8 months to put together the pieces for this deck and will likely continue to evolve.

 

Further Deep Thoughts on Inspiration

 

Tribal

I haven’t included much in the way of discussion around tribal decks because they are almost self evident.  You open up a bunch of Goblins…you make a Goblin deck.  Horsemen (Centaurs), make a Horsemen deck.  That’s easy enough, but just because it is easy doesn’t mean that it can’t be fun. Sometimes the simplest source of inspiration is the best sort.

 

Kor Skyfisher

I built a rather wonky casual deck around this one common and the interaction with Spark Trooper.  What could be more fun than a recurring Ball Lightning with Lifelink! Sometimes finding cards that extend across sets separated by a number of years can yield some fun and unexpected interactions and fun inspiration for a deck.

 

Griefer

Sometimes I wake up and want to build a deck that will totally cause nothing but grief for my opponents.  It is not normally my style, but there is a sort of sick satisfaction from just hosing your opponent and locking him out and then crushing him.  Mill. Counter decks. Land Destruction. This can be immensely enjoyable…but only in small doses.

 

I have to say that a Monte Cristo sandwich is really quite delicious.  If you’ve never tried one, if you see it on the menu of a restaurant near you, give it a whirl.  Think Grilled cheese sandwich meets French Toast…and 100% delicious.  That’s some solid food to Brew on!!

Monte Cristo sandwich - Bant Auras

 

 

Thanks for reading…if you have any other ideas on what motivates you brew I’d love to hear about it.  Everyone is different and maybe you have a trick that you could share with the other readers. Shoot me a tweet and let me know.

 

Until next time keep it fun, keep it safe…keep it casual.

 

Bruce Gray
@bgray8791

 

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Avatar Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - June 17, 2014

Champion’s Deck – BUG Midrange Theros block by Fabrizio An...

BUG midrange theros - Temple of Malady

BUG Midrange by Fabrizio Anteri

Grand Prix Manchester Champion – Theros Block Constructed on June 1st 2014

Winner of ‘the other’ Theros Block Constructed tournament was Fabrizio Anteri playing a powerful BUG Midrange deck. This deck is the flip side of the Elspeth, Sun’s Champion coin and as such runs the means to beat it rather then join it. As was proven at Pro Tour Journey into Nyx that the battle lines were drawn with the majority taking sides between either Elspeth and Prognostic Sphinx then jamming in the formats Green acceleration package.

In this format the most commonly played cards it turns out are a pair of Green mana accelerants which most likely are going to become the dynamic duo come the next Standard season. This decks ideal opening lies with a turn one Scry land into a turn two Sylvan Caryatid followed by a turn three Courser of Kruphix before making your land drop. That provides the deck with the possibility of rushing out that early five drop which is where the deck plays into. The main avenue of attack lies in the Prognostic Sphinx which was discovered to be the main foil to Elspeth as it not only will fly over her ground forces but also is able to skirt her destroy creatures ability by virtue of being not too powerful. There is also additional beatdown provided by Reaper of the Wilds which sports great stats as a 4/5 for four mana able to protect itself if necessary, but also provides some added bonus with a Scry whenever another creature dies. A pair of planeswalkers are included with Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver doing a lot of heavy lifting by not only milling away possible threats and answers from the opponent but also stealing some of those threats away, and Kiora, the Crashing Wave which can add extra draw and acceleration, lock down a particularly troublesome creature or even ‘Call the Kraken’ if allowed to build up enough loyalty. As this deck chose the Midrange route instead of Control the only disruption in the deck is provided from a set of Thoughtseize to not only strip them of their most bothersome card but also provide you with all the information about their plans so you are able to set yourself up properly. Then we have the removal suite which is as robust as they come. Centering around the formats best there is a full set of Hero’s Downfall to rid the board of creatures or planeswalkers alike, a trio of the pseudo-sweeper in Silence the Believers which can often hit two or three necessary targets, a pair of Bile Blight that is extremely good at taking care of an army of Elspeth tokens, and a misers Unravel the Æther to deal with any troublesome artifacts or enchantments including Gods as they are shuffled back into the library. A solitary Read the Bones provides the deck just a tiny bit of draw power to help dig for the cards it needs.

Definitely this is a strong build and worth thinking about as a deck going forward into the next Standard season. Although there is still many more cards to add into the card pool between now and the end of September it is never to early to start planning ahead. If you find this to be an appealing design I would definitely encourage you to start piecing it together and looking at all the new on color cards as they are spoiled to see if they have a spot in the deck. It pays to be prepared.
Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter
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Avatar Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - June 3, 2014

Champion’s Deck – Naya Midrange Standard by Justin Crandal...

Naya Midrange Standard - Ajani, Mentor of Heroes

Naya Midrange Standard by Justin Crandall

1st Place at StarCityGames Standard Open on 5/31/2014


Another weekend of SCG Standard has passed and sitting at the top of the heap we find a successful jumble of acceleration into monstrous beasts and powerful planeswalkers. What we find there is essentially the GR Monsters shell that’s been prevalent in Standard for quite a while, but dipping into White for additional planeswalkers and some removal options. And judging by the popularity of this archetype in the Theros Block format it looks like it has quite a future ahead.

It is no stranger that the most prevelant duo of Green mana dorks both in Standard and Block is Sylvan Caryatid into Courser of Kruphix. This not only fixes your mana and even effectively draws you additional cards but also gains you vital life points which are so crucial in this aggressive metagame. The downside is that Courser provides your opponent with nearly perfect information which can foil you bluff when playing off the top of your deck. As an additional accelerent there is also Voyaging Satyr which won’t help if you are missing a color but will still allow you to gain extra mana. All of that goes towards powering out some monstrous fatties quickly so you can activate their Monstrosity abilities and close out games quickly. The two we find in the deck are Polukranos, World Eater which also acts as much needed removal in this deck and also the hasty flier Stormbreath Dragon which peeled off the top is often the recipie for certain doom. If those monsters are the meat of the deck we then find the fine wine pairing in the foursome of planeswalker to accompany them. The main player is party animal himself Xenagos, the Reveler who not only brings his satyr buddies with him but also helps acheive Monstrosity fast with his ramping ability. Next to join the party is Ajani, Mentor of Heroes who has a dual purpose between pumping up your creatures and digging into your deck to find more threats, but also when protected can threaten its ultimate to bolster a diminishing life total. There is also a major contribution from Elspeth, Sun’s Champion with her legion of soldiers following her, but be wary of her second ability as your bombs tend to be destroyed as well as the opponents. And why not a misers Chandra, Pyromaster as well to add a little card advantage to the deck and her first ability helps slip your big boys past their chump blockers handily. The rest of the deck is rounded out by some varied pieces of removal. There is Keening Apparition which is able to destroy any enchantment the opponent presents to the board such as Chained to the Rocks or even Underworld Connections. As a great sweeper Mizzium Mortars is able to be overloaded to deal four damage to all the opponents creatures and cast aside any would be blockers for your giant monsters. Then the last piece of the puzzle comes with the flexible Selesnya Charm that can either pump and grant Trample to a creature to rampage for a win, exile a creature that has power greater then five, or even add another threat to the board with a vigilant knight token.

So here we find that the GR Monsters deck which has already been a force in Standard continues to have room to grow and adapt as it proves it is a major player in Standard. What really interests me with this list is that the core of the deck is all from Theros Block and will undoubtedly continue to be a force into the next rotation of Standard. If you are looking for a deck to invest in as a long term prospect then this is undoubtedly the one.

Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter
Email: ejseltzer@hotmail.com
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Avatar Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - May 30, 2014

Deck of the Day – BUG Control Theros Block by Josh Utter-Leyton ...

BUG Control Theros Block - Ashiok Nightmare Weaver

 

BUG Control Theros Block

Piloted by Josh Utter-Leyton
3rd at Pro Tour Journey Into Nyx [Block constructed[

We had on one side of the Theros Block coin the RG Elspeth deck and other White based decks like Patrick Chapin’s winning Junk Midrange running the powerful planeswalker Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. But the flip side of that coin has the decks which were able to figure out its natural enemy was Prognostic Sphinx. That second pillar which emerged in the format was BUG Control which used the Sphinx to attack into Elspeth through her natural defense, ramp up quickly with the staple Green creatures and dipped into Black for efficient removal. This is definitely going to be a player at Grand Prix Manchester.

It is no surprise to see that as a Green deck the creature package starts with both staples of the format in Sylvan Caryatid and Courser of Kruphix there to help ramp quickly into an early Sphinx or getting multiple planeswalkers out. The only other creature is Prognostic Sphinx who’s main goal is to fly over defenders to beatdown Elspeth and conveniently skirts her destroy ability, not to mention is already able to protect itself well with its Hexproof granting ability. Moving into planeswalkers there is first Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver that while there is a low threat density in the deck from creatures can often steal one of the opponents fatties to bring down the beats upon them. The other is Kiora, the Crashing Wave who plus is able to lockdown the biggest threat on the other side of the board, can do a fantastic impersonation of Explore, and realistically will be able to create an emblem to ‘Free the Kraken’ if you can offer he a bit of protection. The title is a bit misleading as it does not play a big permission role as a Control deck but more of a board control through removal which is why there is only the misers copy of Dissolve in the main deck. As far as removal though there’s a full set of Hero’s Downfall to smash either creatures or planeswalkers, the pseudo-sweeper Silence the Believers to banish at times two or three nuisance creatures, Bile Blight which is an excellent way to rid the board of an overwhelming amount of Soldier Tokens or any other creature they have out in multiples, and also Unravel the Æther which will save you from enchantment or artifact alike especially an Indestructible god that’s ruining your day. It wouldn’t be right for a Control deck running Black to not include some discard and for that we have a full set of Thoughtseize to not only strip away the opponents most relevant threat but also to provide you with some extremely valuable information about their game plan.

It’s going to be very interesting to see what configuration of this powerful deck emerges as the most dominant. I’m sure we will see some tweaks shake out to mold to the expected meta. As three different copies were able to make the top 8 at Pro Tour Journey into Nyx I would be surprised if it doesn’t show itself in Manchester. Definitely going forward into the next Standard season this is well positioned to be a powerplayer there as well.

Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter
Email: ejseltzer@hotmail.com
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Avatar Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - May 28, 2014

Deck of the Day – RG Elspeth Theros Block by Yuuki ichikawa (4th...

RG Elspeth Theros Block - Polis Crusher

RG Elspeth by Yuuki Ichikawa

4th at Pro Tour Journey Into Nyx – Theros Block Constructed on May 18th 2014

One of the shining pillars of the Theros Block Constructed format is the awesome White planeswalker Elspeth, Sun’s Champion though that doesn’t necessarily lend itself easily to just White deck choices. This deck was one which realized how to harness that incredible power while finding support for it in other colors. What emerged was a Gruul based Naya deck that went down a very Aggro beatdown route. There are strong ramp elements to power out monstrous creatures and incredible planeswalkers working hard to seal the deal as fast as possible. And although there are different combinations to build this deck there are key elements which emerge from all of them.

It all starts with the trio of ‘mana’ dorks with Voyaging Satyr and Sylvan Caryatid into Courser of Kruphix. These three are crucial to the plan of deploying huge Midrange threats well ahead of the curve, and those threats come in the form of some truely monstrous beasts. The first of which we find Polis Crusher which is a fine beatstick as a 4/4 for four but also has a relevant ability in this format with Protection from Enchantments, and when you activate his Monstrosity becomes a 7/7 that destroys enchantments the damaged player controls which with its Trample should connect often. The next step on the Monstrosity curve comes with Stormbreath Dragon which with Flying and Haste will often be a surprise to skirt around sorcery speed removal, and against control style decks blasts to the dome of your opponents equal to their cards in hand when he becomes monstrous. There is also a one of Polukranos, World Eater as a value five power four drop that can go monstrous to act as additional instant speed removal for the deck. Yuuki chose to run with a trio of planeswalkers but it all centers around a full set of the decks namesake Elspeth, Sun’s Champion which unchecked by the opponent will easily start to dominate the board with its soldiers, remove large threats en masse or even beef up and raise your entire army to the air with her emblem. He also went with a pair of Ajani, Mentor of Heroes to strengthen your soldiers, it can gain some advantage by finding any of the decks 28 creatures or planeswalkers, and given enough time even gain you 100 points of life. The other planeswalker we find in the deck is Xenagos, the Reveler who’s ramping ability in conjunction with the decks dorks will help power out the big monsters quickly unless you need him to bring some of his satyr friends to the party, or if you do get to ultimate with him with 45 creatures and lands in the deck the top seven is bound to share a bounty of wealth. The deck is wrapped up simply with White based removal using the catchall enchantment answer Banishing Light to remove a plethora of permanent threats and also Chained to the Rocks which is the reason why we find the deck with a substantially larger amount of Mountains then in similar decks of this style.

There was also another RG Elspeth list by Andrea Mengucci which finished in sixth place. While it did follow the same line of attack there are some fundamental differences starting with the manabase where Andrea not using Chained to the Rocks opted for much less Mountains and went for Temple of Triumph instead of Mana Confluence and a singleton Plains. In order to add in a varied array of spells he cut a Voyaging Satyr and the singleton Polukranos from the creatures but was able to pack a more robust removal package. He decided upon only two Banishing Light and then went with direct damage with a set of Lightning Strike, a trio of Destructive Revelry and a singleton Magma Jet. He also opted to forgo Ajani to go up to three Xenagos instead. While neither list is necessarily better then the other they do play along a slightly different line and you should run with the one you feel compliments your style of play better.

I have very little doubt that we will see this as one of the top decks at the Grand Prix in Manchester. We have already seen in Standard that this combination of Green and Red monsters is a winning style. And with the addition of Elspeth to that equation there is little to prevent the raw power of this deck from shining. I expect that we will see this not only as a superstar in the Block format but also continuing into the next Standard season as well. I would definitely stock up on the cards for this deck if you enjoy this style of Midrange monster beatdown.

Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter
Email: ejseltzer@hotmail.com

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