This is going to be the third and final crack a pack that I will be doing for Battle for Zendikar…at least for right now. Having taken a shot at a draft I really got a taste for the format. However, watching better players sink their teeth into the format has helped me solidify some of my thinking around many of the cards. There are so many things going on out there that I would like to try and touch on, so I’m going to do this pack and then take a little break from cracking packs and talk about a few of the other things going on in the Magic community in the weeks to come. So, let’s not waste any more time!
Let’s see what we’ve got this week.
Murk Strider is a pretty reasonable card if you want to play the Ingest/Processor deck or the R/U Devoid deck. However, a 3/2 for four mana is not an outstanding rate and the ability of bouncing a creature is just decent because the set-up cost is quite high. If this was a mana cheaper or a bit bigger this would be a much stronger critter, but it trades with most two drops and is largely replaceable. This would not be anywhere near the first pick and I would expect I can find this pretty easily very late in the pack.
Sludge Crawler is a more relevant threat. 1/1 for 1 is not usually that relevant because unless you land it on turn one they often get blanked by a 2/2 or better. However, this one can scale in the late game to trade more profitably by pumping. The Ingest is also relevant. It is still not a first pick, but I would look at it ahead of the Murk Strider.
Kor Castigator is a pretty relevant ally. A 3/1 for 2 mana is very aggressive and can pay you off handsomely if you are in the ally deck by coming down early and threatening plenty of damage if unchecked. Also, since it is an Ally it also is not a dud in the late game to trigger a pile of Rally triggers. The last piece of text is that it can’t be blocked by Scion tokens which is very relevant in many matchups. I’m still not taking this early because I would expect to find this quite readily later if I am in the Ally deck.
Reckless Cohort is not a first pick by any stretch. It is a reasonable 2 drop and can play a role in the R/W allies deck. However, a 2/2 for 2 and a questionable drawback hardly makes this guy exciting.
Cloud Manta is just a solid reliable flier. Nothing fancy here but it is usually a useful card and you won’t be sad to run it. This and Shadow Glider are just two relevant fliers, sort of like Wind Drake, that decks running Blue or White will gobble up and love to run. Not a first pick mind you, but something that is likely to get snapped up fairly quickly.
Sandstone Bridge is another of the utility lands this set packs and it’s pretty decent. This not a first pick because the land just isn’t good enough but it will often be the pick over many of the other playables because it just offers a little more flexibility. Nice card…but still no.
Tajuru Beastmaster is the first real card we’ve seen in this pack and even at that it likely isn’t a first pick. It’s a big curve topper in an ally deck or a deck looking to leverage the anthem-esque effect of this thing. It is clearly the best card we’ve seen to date in this pack but I would be very displeased if this ended up being first pick.
Demon’s Grasp is bad sorcery speed removal. You don’t really want spells like this if you can help it, but sometimes you need stuff like this. I wouldn’t seriously look at this for a first pick and in this pack many of the other just “playable”cards would win out over this. Sure, you might take it late, and you might even run it, but you don’t really want to if you can help it.
Eldrazi Skyspawner is the business. This is just a value creature and there is no other way around it. A 2/1 Flier and a 1/1 scion for three mana is very solid and stacks up with Sandsteppe Outcast or Ghirapur Gearcrafter from some of the other formats we have recently seen. This also goes in just about any deck playing blue and is pure value. Whether I select this over the Beastmaster is debatable, but I think I would be leaning towards this because this is quite a bit cheaper and easier to play, but I would need to really think about it.
Scythe Leopard is a 1 drop that I’d probably rather avoid. It is very good in a Constructed Landfall deck where it can consistently be cast on turn 1, but in Limited this doesn’t match up well in any other situation other than being cast on turn 1. Even with Landfall this gets outclassed by so many other creatures that it is hardly worth the pick. I like the leopard, but just not if I intend to win.
Grovetender Druids puts me in two colours and with a creature that is good, but not insane. I don’t think the payoff is big enough for me to jump into two colours right away, so I think I’ll pass on this and opt for one of the other cards in the pack.
Cryptic Cruiser is another payoff for ingesting. However, as a first pick I don’t think it makes sense. If you want to go into the Ingest/Processor decks you really ought to start with the Ingest cards and then try to find your payoff instead of grabbing the payoff and then finding the Ingest cards. Not all Ingest creatures are equal and you want to be sure you have some good ones before you start looking for the payoff.
Drowner of Hope looks like it should be the slam dunk pick. Six mana for a 5/5 are solid stats and it makes two 1/1 scions so in essence you are getting 7 power and toughness for your 6 mana. The ability to sacrifice a scion to tap down an opposing creature is also an important ability. However, if you take this you need to ask yourself what sort of deck lends itself to maximizing this sort of creature. At first glance this looks it should fit in a B/U sacrifice sort of deck where this and Zulaport Cutthroat are your big time payoffs. However, how many 1/1 scions are you getting to maximize the ability to tap down your opponent’s team? Blue makes a few and Black has a couple, but you aren’t really getting a ton of them so the idea of sacrificing a bunch of scions and then reaping the benefits as you drain your opponent out is fairly limited. On top of that, B/U usually wants to play the Ingest/Processor game and not token production. Green is the colour that makes a pile of tokens and is the situation where this could be really explosive. Can you imagine sacrificing a pile of tokens, tapping down their whole team and then crashing in for a ton of damage? Sounds appealing to me. But is U/G really a powerful thing? Maybe with the Converge deck, but that can be tricky. Drowner might also want to go in the U/R Devoid deck because that is also a relevant choice. With so many deck options it is hard to pick one solid deck that this goes in, but Drowner plays reasonably well in all of them and it leaves you very open to a number of strategies. Drowner of Hope seems to be big time game and looks like the front runner in this pack.
First pick is very handily the Drowner. It is strong all on its own and fits in a wide variety of decks meaning that our options going forward are pretty good. The real question becomes where do we go from there? There is almost no chance we’ll see the Sky Spawner come back around or the Sludge Crawler but you never know about a few of the other things in this pack. Even things on my top 5 list might make it back around depending on what other decks start to take shape around the table. As a result, it is very difficult to predict what might come back on the wheel and so our next couple of picks will be very important to help get us into a “lane” here and steer our future selections. The nice thing is that Drowner leaves us open and gives us lots of options and very sizeable top end to our curve that can help get us there.
Thanks very much for taking the time to stop in and read. BFZ is proving to be a very complex and difficult draft format. My own limited playing experience is proving to be a bit of an issue, but thank goodness that lots of other, more skilled, players are posting Draft vids all the time so I can see first hand what is getting picked and where.
Next time I’ll be back to brewing and I have a couple of budget decks that I’ve been working on that I’m ready to share with all of you. So, until next time take care of yourselves and have a great MTG day!
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
Wow. It has been a while since I last cracked a pack for my own blog. The last time I posted one was March 10th! Yikes. Since then Dragons of Tarkir has become a thing and NOW Modern Masters 2015 is hitting the shelves (like TODAY). I guess that sort of makes Dragons of Tarkir old news, but I still enjoy the set. So, I’m going to open up a pack and have a look and see what I would take if I was sitting down to start a draft. Let’s take a look at the pack.
This is a very interesting pack. It has some solid playables, the uncommons seem strong, and an intriguing rare card. Let’s start with the rare and move from there. Volcanic Vision is a fascinating card to open up. My first gut reaction was “No Way”. The 7 mana is extremely steep and the fact that it returns a Sorcery or Instant to my hand is hardly exciting. However, I sat and thought about the card for a long while and I feel like my first reaction might have been way off.
The text on the card reads “Return an Instant or Sorcery from your graveyard to your hand. Volcanic Vision deals damage equal to that card’s converted mana cost to each creature your opponents controls. Exile Volcanic Vision”. The key word here is EACH. You could conceivably have this behave like a one sided sweeper, provided you have a suitable target in your graveyard. Herein lies the problem. The conditional nature of the spell, that you need a good target to get good value, is crucial and a major stumbling block for the card. Most times you have things like Roast, Twin Bolt, Wild Slash, or even Bathe in Dragonfire as suitable targets, but I’m not thrilled by those. Each of those spells deal a couple of points of damage, wipe out a couple of “bears”, but I’ve invested a huge amount of mana in this silly spell. The return just might be marginal or I open myself to being blown out by a 2 mana Negate. Also, the typical Red burn spells or cheap enough that they won’t handle the big threats that MUST be answered meaning that my 7 mana hasn’t done enough to win me the game. So, I keep thinking, these Burn spells CAN’T be the intended target of Volcanic Vision and there must be a better target worth playing.
The real payoff for playing Volcanic Vision is buying back something like a Fierce Invocation, a Pyrotechnics, or a Sarkhan’s Rage. All of these spells have a converted mana cost of 5 mana and that essentially burns out all the creatures your opponent is likely to be using. Now, all of these are plausible options to be able to pick up, and the one sided wrath-esque effect is pretty terrific, but that feels like a lot of things that need to line up just right for this to work.
If you take Volcanic Vision it is very much a speculative sort of pick and one you are hoping pays off in the end. The power level of this card is extremely high because it could wipe out everything your opponent has on the battlefield, but in that same vein it could sit in your hand. In addition to the raw damage being dealt by Volcanic Vision, you are full on getting your instant/sorcery spell back and can recast it all over again. The potential to generate massive card advantage off the torching of a bunch of creatures your opponent controls and getting a card back is pretty insane and might be worth the risk.
I would look at this and think seriously about it. I think it would garner some consideration because the power level is so high, but this is a very speculative first pick and contingent on having some other cards to play into it in order to generate maximum value.
The next card that gets my eye is Swift Warkite. 6 mana for 4/4 flier that gets me back a card from the graveyard is nothing to take lightly. My issue with this as a first pick is that it is a gold card meaning that there is a higher chance I can’t play it. I’m not going to rule it out, but I’m not excited to pick a gold card first because it just forces me to be so much more inflexible if I intend on playing it.
Salt Road Ambushers is essentially a Hill Giant that also packs a powerful ability and the ability to come into play as a Megamorph. The raw stats make it quite playable, and the Morph cost is hardly outrageous either. However, the real payoff is whether you can make the extra ability that grants +1/+1 counters to creatures as they flip up an actually relevant line of text. The question is how many Morphs are you going to be able to grab? How many creatures can you Manifest? If you are sold on the Morph/Manifest style deck then this would be an amazing first pick and a real engine to help your Morphs outclass the opponent very quickly. However, Megamorphs are slightly less prevalent than they were in Khans of Tarkir and typically more expensive meaning that you might only ever get to flip 1 or 2 Morphs in a game. That sort of return is hardly overwhelming, but it is nice to think that you could make it work.
Strongarm Monk comes with a form of super Prowess and that might entice some people to jump on board. I’m not a big fan and I feel like for his raw stats that I’m getting short changed. Also, I’m not keen to need to pack my deck full of non-creature spells in order to get this sort of bonus. I feel like this sort of bonus is at odds with the need to play creatures in my draft deck in order to get work done and that finding enough good non-creature spells is a little tricky. I can see the value, but this would not be something that catches my eye much.
Coat with Venom is a fine combat trick. Not a first pick, but a fine combat trick.
Anticipate plays along really nicely with Strongarm Monk but I don’t think that deck manipulation is so important that I need to take this first. No, this will be a much later pick if I find myself in blue.
Kolaghan Aspirant is a fine 2 drop by is also not a first pick. Moving on.
Enduring Victory highlights the ongoing cost increase for removal spells. This acts just like Divine Verdict, but now we’ve added an extra mana to the casting cost in order to justify Bolster 2. Don’t get me wrong, the Bolster is nothing to sneeze at and you’ll run the removal spell, but I do miss having more access to efficient removal.
Epic Confrontation would actually be something that catches my eye because it is a very efficient and powerful removal spell. The +1/+2 it grants really pushes the power level on the card and allows creatures to punch out of their regular “weight class”. As much as it would be strange, I would have this pulled to the front and give it a hard look to be first pick.
Of the remaining cards, Tormenting Voice, Keeper of the Lens, Reckless Imp, Elusive Spellfist, and Conifer Strider, exactly none of them would even get a look for first pick. I would rather speculate on the 7 mana rare or the over costed super-prowess Monk than try these on for size. So, that sums up what I think of this group.
My first pick would be Volcanic Vision. I would be prepared to speculate on my first pick with something that behaves like a pseudo asymmetrical board wipe knowing that I’m not married to that card or that colour. However, I know that I need to be on the lookout for useful instants and sorceries in order to get maximum value for this card.
Thanks for taking the time to stop by. What you would be taking from this pack? Would you be trying the Volcanic Vision? The Warkite? Epic Confrontation? Leave me a comment down below and let me know what you think!
Have yourself a great MTG day.
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter
Crack a Pack with Bruce 23. 4th Fate Reforged
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
Hard to believe that Fate Reforged will soon be paired with Dragons of Tarkir and we will be saying goodbye to Khans of Tarkir for draft purposes. In the mean time, let’s open up another pack and see what we would take in a draft pick 1, pack1. Here we go!
Where to start? There are some very solid cards in the pack, so let’s start with our Rare. Mardu Strike Leader is a super sweet little addition to the collection of Black/White warriors. A 3/2 for 3 mana that gets a 2/1 warrior whenever it attacks? If this gets left unchecked this is a menace because that 2/1 warrior is a full card. The token trades with Morphs and most 2 drops in the format, meanwhile the Strike Leader is taking sizable chunks out of your opponent. If you can slot him into that B/W warriors deck he is an all-star, but even on his own he’s very useful and well worth the pick up. I would be pulling him to the front of my pack as an early favorite for our first pick.
Mistfire Adept is another pretty sweet card. This is essentially a Hill Giant on the Vanilla Test…and that’s just fine. However, you want this guy for his Prowess ability and the ability to make something fly. Essentially, in a Prowess build, this guy can act like a 4/4 flier (or better) and really cause havoc. He’d be pulled forward because I really like the Jeskai/Prowess deck, but I’m not sure he’s better than the Strike Leader. He takes a few more pieces in order for him to really shine while the Strike Leader is just good all the time.
Fruit of the First Tree is not a first pick. The set up is far too high on it, it doesn’t impact the board nearly well enough, and really isn’t what I want to do with my deck. NOW, in a janky brew…sure…I’ll play this, but in a draft this would be a long way down my list. I’ll save this to the end and see if one of the other players around the table wants to play it.
Marang River Prowler is card I like very much. His ability to keep coming back and to be unblockable is really solid. Sure, he’s only a 2/1, but that puts your opponent on a clock that if they can’t finish you off then the Prowler is going to slowly get the job done. If you can add on a little augmentation, like maybe a +1/+1 counter from a Bolster trigger, that clock just gets that much quicker AND you don’t really feel bad if it dies because it comeing straight back. There are decks that don’t really want him, but he’s quite strong and more often than not he’s a solid addition. I don’t think he’s a first pick, but he is a solid card and will usually make the cut in most deck lists.
Sandsteppe Outcast is something I’d be grabbing quite readily. Quite literally he’s the best common in this pack and plays into that B/W warrior deck. Pair this with Harsh Sustenance and you immediately have some terrific interactions. He’d be up to the front on the pack as well, but I think the Strike Leader is still better.
Mardu Runemark is not something I want. I don’t like the Runemarks and it sets you up to lose 2 cards for 1 with a simple removal spell. The Jeskai Runemark is really the only one of this cycle I like (which is in this pack too) but the Mardu Runemark doesn’t offer me enough except being two for oned. I’ll pass.
Hunt the Weak is not a first pick, or even in the top five cards in this pack, but it always seems to do good work. I won’t turn it down if I’m in Green. Nothing brings a bigger smile to my face than playing a Morph on turn 3 and then turn 4 fighting their Morph with Hunt the Weak and winning combat. That feels really good. This is a solid mid-round pick up.
Smoldering Efreet is for those Red aggro decks. I’m not a big fan, but I can see that it has its place. I would be prioritizing this pretty late once I start to get a bit of sense where my deck is going, but it isn’t usually my play style. I would let this go and wouldn’t think twice about it.
Douse in Gloom, however, is exactly what I want. Inexpensive removal that just gets the job done. This would be a fairly early mid-round pick up in my eyes.
Abzan Skycaptain is something I rather like as well. The fact that it Bolsters when it dies is pretty nice and makes your opponent decide if it would rather just let it connect, or kill it and run the risk of the extra +2/+2 landing somewhere that isn’t pretty. At 4 mana he’s a tad on the steep side for a 2/2 body, but I think there is enough upside that I won’t mind running him. Likelihood is that this would be an early mid-round pick up for me.
Sultai Emissary is a very reasonable 2 drop that feels like it gives you a 2 for 1 because it replaces itself when it dies. That extra Manifested creature can be very useful. I’m not crazy for it, but I would be very interested in seeing it in the mid-round. Maybe if I’m lucky it will wheel and I’ll get a second shot at it.
Lotus Path Djinn is just a reasonable dude. You aren’t crazy excited to see him, but you aren’t sad either. He flies which is always nice, but otherwise there isn’t much to say. He’s just another serviceable body to run in your Prowess deck.
Harsh Sustenance is just fine, but it isn’t an early pick because it is 2 colours. Once I have established that I’m playing Black and White I would consider this because it plays really nicely with some of the other cards in this pack (if I can get them). Mardu Strike Leader, Sandsteppe Outcast and even the Sultai Emissary work well with this card and can make for a big turn. However, to take this early and over commit to a pair of colours could strand this in your sideboard and have it never really see play or leave your deck weak and floundering.
First pick is pretty clearly the Mardu Strike Leader. I like the Adept and the Outcast, but I would rather have the Strike Leader by virtue of the extra beefy tokens it can produce. If it goes unchecked it can quite easily take over the game. I’m sad that it isn’t a 3/3 because 2 toughness means it dies to lots of things, but a little augmentation and this is just going to be menace. I would be slamming this first pick and then really looking to see if the Douse in Gloom, Sultai Emissary or even the Abzan Skycaptain don’t wheel to give me a shot at the B/W deck as I head into the Khans pack. At least, that’s the theory. Sometimes you can’t get stuck on that flashy rare and if Black dries up I would be pretty prepared to hop colours to something that is more available.
Well, there we have it folks. Thanks for taking the time to stop in have a read here at Casual Encounters and Three Kings Loot. Feel free to drop me a line below or hit me up on Twitter. Have yourself a great MTG day!
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
Welcome back! Another busy MTG day for all you readers out there so let’s not waste any time. Let’s crack open that pack and see what we would take pick 1 pack 1 in a draft. Here we go.
Let’s start with the Rare. Flamerush Rider is pretty solid and from a quick look around, it looks like the strongest card in this pack. I’m not in love with the card and by no means am I in love with Red in this set, but it is a strong card that makes combat very difficult for your opponent. I would certainly be pulling this one to the front of the pack and seriously looking at this first.
The uncommons are all a little underwhelming. Fearsome Awakening is interesting, but by no means good. It is certainly not good enough to first pick. I might look at that once I have a dragon or two in my deck just to see if I can make it work for me, but otherwise I might just leave this one to wheel around the table until the very end.
Reality Shift is a decent card and can be a useful removal type spell in Blue, but I’m not keen on leaving behind the Manifested creature. That extra 2/2 could be just about anything and that’s usually an unpleasant surprise when it is something that is good for your opponent. Also, it doesn’t really clear the road the way most removal does and you still need to work around the Manifest on the battlefield as you rumble in for combat. I wouldn’t be grabbing this first, but I’m interested in the card and figure it could be pretty interesting to take if I’m in Blue later in the round.
Humble Defector is another interesting card that can be abused pretty easily. There are a number of cute plays you can make with this guy to abuse the activation followed by the loss of control of the card, but it isn’t a first pick. I like a good laugh when you get to go off with this one, but I would rather do something a little more powerful than this.
The only real card that I like from among the commons here is Aven Surveyor. Yes, he’s expensive, but the bounce effect is extremely potent and well worth the cost of playing this one. I’d be pulling this one to the front for a close look as well.
Typhoid Rats are nice. I like those guys. I wouldn’t take them first pick, but if I was to be in black 2 or 3 picks in I would happily grab them.
Cunning Strike does a number of things, but it does them all modestly well. It deals some damage, but maybe not enough to kill something. It “shocks” your opponent for a pair of damage which may be relevant. It draws you a card to replace itself. All of this for the bargain cost of 5 mana. I know, I know. That’s 3 effects for 5 mana. That’s not so bad. And it even triggers Prowess. But I’m not in love with the card and would rather keep moving.
Frontier Mastodon could be a 4/3 for 3 mana…which is a steal. That’s a sizeable upgrade in toughness on an Alpine Grizzly because now it doesn’t die to Cunning Strike, Douse in Gloom, Wild Slash or one of the other many two damage spells floating around. However, it could just as easily be a 3/2 for 3 in which case you are highly underwhelmed. This is likely a late pick up and might not make the cut for you 22 or 23 card deck.
Alesha’s Vanguard is a card I’ve discussed earlier in my review of commons and uncommons, but to sum up it is a Hill Giant that dodges sorcery speed removal but burdens your board state if you choose to Dash it because you will have not developed your board any further. It’s a fine card, but I’m not excited.
Gore Swine is another fine vanilla creature. It’s not an early pick up, but it’s fine to help fill out your creature package.
Abzan Advantage is card that people keep talking about as a playable trick. I’m not excited, but the ability to remove their Siege AND Bolster one of my creatures seems good. Even if they don’t have an enchantment to sacrifice, the Bolster is quite nice. It’s by no means a first pick, but it has improved its chances of being played in recent weeks by just being an effective card that has some reasonable upside.
Arashin Cleric is very low on my list of priorities here. It just doesn’t do enough to warrant a mid round pick. This might get forced at the end of the pack and will rarely make your deck unless your creature count is very low.
Sibsig Host is another reasonable creature, but I’m not jumping up and down for it. It does block reasonably well and helps fuel a little Delve, but let’s not go overboard here. It is a fine card for a deck playing Black but it is not a high pick.
For me the first pick is Flamerush Rider because I feel like it has more upside and a higher overall power level than the rest of the pack. I’m not in love with red and if the following packs didn’t have strong commons/uncommons to support the Flamerush Rider I am more than prepared to move colours and ditch the Rider altogether. I could make a really good case for the Aven Surveyor because it is an outstanding common and if you grab a couple of them then you are well and truly set to make life miserable for your opponent. Typhoid Rats is just a very solid creature because nobody is really keen to trade with it. The Rats just about always manage to get you good value by taking out a more expensive creature and that means I want to grab it sooner rather than later. Further down the list I get to the 5th card and I am unsure if I would rather take the Humble Defector or Cunning Strike. I decided the Humble Defector was likely the pick on the grounds that it is a mono-coloured card rather than a gold card like Cunning Strike.
On the whole, the strength of this pack is pretty weak. The rare is just ok, the uncommons are not particularly good, and the commons start off quite strong but trail off quite significantly. I feel like that is one of the traits of the set and this represents a fairly average pack. I’ve tried enough drafts on MTGO and watched enough other people draft that this seems to be the trend. It is good to know for those rare times that you find a bonkers pack to keep it in mind that this is not the norm.
Thanks for taking the time to stop in and read today and good luck in your next draft.
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
Good morning and thanks for stopping by here at The Bag of Loot and my Casual Encounters column. For those who are new here, I will be cracking a pack of Fate Reforged and looking at what I would select first if this was Pick 1, Pack1 in my next draft. Let’s take a look at what I’ve got.
Fate Reforged seems a little more heavy with bombs than Khans was, so let’s start with the rare. Yasova Dragonclaw is a pretty strong starting place. She’s efficient to cast as a 4/2 for 3 mana and comes with Trample making her pretty solid from the outset. She triggers Ferocious if that matters to your deck as well, which is always a benefit. However, I get most of those same stats with an Alpine Grizzly so what makes her so appealing? Her ability to effectively Act of Treason one of their blockers each turn is actually really difficult to handle. Even if the creature you’re pulling aside isn’t a huge bomb, it can really upset combat math to pull aside their blocker and then swing in. The only catch is that she can only target a creature with power less than hers. That may or may not be ideal because you might only be pulling aside a Wetland Sambar or an Ainok Tracker. If you can find a way to Bolster her or to augment her to steal something larger then you might find things will get a little out of control. I’ve played against one in a match and while her ability is kind of tricky, it certainly is beatable. However, she’s still a very powerful card and would be pulled straight to the front of the pack for some careful consideration.
Mistfire Adept is a very nice uncommon and has some solid stats. The basic body is that of Hill Giant, which is quite reasonable. However, the Prowess and the ability to grant something Flying is the real perk here. You cast a spell and suddenly you have a 4/4 flier. That’s nothing to take lightly. There’s not really a whole lot of downside here because this is a useful to just about any deck playing Blue and would be getting a long hard look as well.
Renowned Weaponsmith is underwhelming in every regard. The artifact theme is not strong enough to warrant this guy, and the ability to tutor up a bad artifact is also not overly relevant. His base stats are a little on the poor side as well because he gets quickly outclassed. Sadly, this guy isn’t very good and will likely a late pickup for filler to someone in Blue.
Hewed Stone Retainers feels like a downgraded version of Illusory Angel. If this had Flying, or First Strike, or anything really, you’d consider playing it, but at a vanilla 4/4 the answer is probably not. Don’t get fooled by the casting cost, the fact that you need to cast this as the second spell this turn increases the cost of this and unless you have a deck with some cheap spells to fire off this might get stranded in your hand for a while.
Write into Being is a card I quite like. One of the concerns I have with the Manifest mechanic is that I often feel like I don’t have much control over what gets manifested. It might be that land I really need, or that super efficient removal spell, or that hyper expensive creature that I was really hoping to find in the late game. In all of these of situations having the card get Manifested is less than ideal. Write into Being gives you some measure of control over what spell you end up getting and that is very useful. The casting cost puts it right on curve with other Morphs and the fact that is a non creature spell helps provide you with fuel for Delve spells and triggers Prowess. While this is a long way from being a home run it is a deceptively powerful card and is ultimately very useful.
Temur Runemark is NOT something I like. Most auras are a surefire way to get yourself in a situation where you lose out in a 2 for 1 situation. Unless the Aura is really powerful, it is usually a better idea to play cards that stand on their own merit. I’m not going to say I won’t play an Aura, but I’m certainly not looking to play those auras unless I’m pretty desperate.
Collateral Damage is a card that I like in certain decks, but is usually not something I’m too keen to grab. I never like sacrificing MY board state to deal damage, so sequencing this spell just right to have maximum impact is tricky and pretty important. If I can’t find a way to sacrifice something that is being blocked (and dying anyway) to take out something else I’m just not overly keen to play this. The ONLY other way I play this if I have a tokens strategy where I can use the tokens as fodder, but even there I’m not going crazy with this card. This a tricky card and something that certainly has a benefit when played correctly, but not always available in the optimal way.
Whisperer of the Wilds was in last week’s pack too and I’m still a fan. I’d be flipping this to the front of the pack, but likely won’t be first picking this at this point.
Gurmag Angler is the sort of aggressive mid-round pickup you just love to see. The big body on this one is very appealing and the fact that the casting cost can be significantly reduced with Delve makes this very appealing. I don’t think I really want to first pick this because if you are in on the Delve plan you have a limited number of cards slots that can be devoted to delve cards and this guy may not be the best way to go. However, he is a very nice early pickup and a big body to sure up the board.
Typhoid Rats are one of those common cards that you always overlook, but it always makes your deck. Nobody likes attacking into or blocking a 1/1 deathtoucher and the rats just do some much work. It isn’t a first pick, but it certainly is a good mid-round pick.
Grim Contest is interesting because it is an unusual take on the “fight” mechanic that green usually gets for removal. The part I like about this is that it is at Instant speed meaning that you can use it on your opponent’s turn and leaving you to do whatever you like with your mana on your turn. Sadly, it is a gold card and fits into fewer decks, but if you have Green and Black in your deck I see no good reason not to take this mid-round and see if you can make it work for you. This would have been ideal in M15 Limited with Rotfeaster Maggot, but that is a digression. This is an interesting spell and something that will garner mild interest, but is in no way a first pick.
While a number of the cards in this pack are pretty interesting, there is no doubt that I would be taking Yasova from this pack with my first pick. I feel like Green leaves you open to go into some very powerful combinations by making Abzan, Sultai and Temur all available and her raw stats are very solid. Her two toughness is an issue because she dies readily to Wild Slash , Douse in Gloom and Debilitating Injury but there is plenty of upside to her because her repeatable “Act of Treason” is quite powerful and will really mess with combat. I don’t think she’s an insane bomb the way some of the Legendary Dragons are, but she’s very good and a cut above the other cards in this pack.
Thanks for stopping in today here at Casual Encounters and taking the time read. I hope you guys have an awesome MTG day!
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
Well, welcome back to our continuing Crack a pack MTG Series here at Casual Encounters and Three Kings Loot. I’m very happy to say that this is crack a pack number 20 for me! I can’t believe that I’ve got to 20. It seems like not all that long ago I was pitching the series to the guys at Three Kings Loot. The goal for 2015 is to continue writing these and hopefully build up some more readers who are keen to get into a discussion about the cards and the selections. So, let’s see what we’ve got on deck for today!
Today we’ll be opening a shiny new pack of Fate Reforged. Remember, as Fate Reforged enters the draft environment we are now drafting one pack of Fate and 2 packs of Khans meaning you will still be pretty heavily Khans focused. That said, Fate Reforged dove tails pretty well with Khans so it should move pretty seamlessly. Here we go.
Oh boy…we just opened something pretty spicy in Crux of Fate. People have been calling for a re-print of Damnation for a long time and this may be as close as we ever get. This is an awesome mass removal spell in Black, something that doesn’t come along in every set. The fact that this is modal could be relevant in Draft if you have a couple of the uncommon dragons on board and need a way to punch them through, but you will mostly look at this as premium mass removal that you will grab first almost each and every time.
Valorous Stance is a tremendously versatile card and both modes are very relevant. It is extremely efficiently costed at 2 manaand just does exactly what you need it to do every time. In most packs this would be first pickable, but today it’ll like slide to the 2nd pick in this pack.
Neutralizing Blast is a very underwhelming counter spell. The fact that it only targets multi-coloured spells is a huge issue because the number of such spells is quite low. Think about it, there were some in Khans, but many of those were Morph creatures (that aren’t multi-coloured if cast face down) and a cycle of uncommon spells like Ride Down. In Fate, there is once again a cycle of common spells and the cycle of Rare Dragons. That means that there aren’t a lot of relevant targets for this…so you’re likely just best to pass this and see if you grab it late as a sideboard option for the greedy 5 colour deck that the guy next to you is building.
Shifting Loyalties is a super powerful effect and could really turn the tide quickly as you trade you junky creature for their awesome one…but the variance on this is high. If they only have a Gore Swine do you really want to spend 6 mana and trade you Jeskai Sage for it? Likely not. So you have a dead card in hand. If you have a Jeskai Sage and they have Atarka…well…that’s different. I’d be careful with this one and wouldn’t prioritize it too highly because it could really backfire and just sit dead in your hand.
Sandteppe Outcast is a very useful 3 drop. 3 mana for a 2/1 creature and a 1/1 flier OR a 3/2 creature is nice versatility. I imagine the 1/1 flier is the most likely mode you’ll pick, but I could make a case that you really want the 3/2 if you have the Abzan Falconer or Abzan Battle Priest on board. Either way, this is very good and efficiently costed and could be a first pick if you were hard pressed.
Write Into Being is an interesting take on Manifest. It is a sorcery that only costs 2 and a Blue for a total of 3 mana. That is on par with Morphs…so that’s a perfectly acceptable casting cost for a 2/2. However, the fact that you get to look at the top two cards and pick which one gets Manifested is actually excellent value. You can essentially craft exactly which card you want turned over as a 2/2. That gives you a lot of control and could allow you to play some very fun head games with your opponent. Not a first pick, but a nice spell that likely goes in the early half of the round.
Fierce Invocation is another Manifest Sorcery. I like this one less, but it is still a 4/4 for 5 mana which isn’t bad…and if it is a creature…you’re in business. This is a mid-round pick up.
Douse in Gloom is Pharika’s Cure…just slightly more expensive. This is another early pick in this pack because it deals with everything from facedown creatures to Alpine Grizzly without any difficulty. This one isn’t flashy, but is the backbone of most limited decks.
Cunning Strike feels too expensive and just not good enough for 5 mana. At 5 mana I want to do something AWESOME…this just feels slow and awkward. Couple that with the fact that it is two colours and there is no doubt that this will table. I’d pass and only take this as a last resort.
Arashin Cleric…and the consensus is…NO. It doesn’t do enough. It can’t block Morphs and Manifested decks profitably, the life gain is fairly modest, and it gets outclassed quite quickly. No, don’t take this, you can do better.
Collateral Damage is a spell I really like. In a tokens strategy, or heck, just with that dumpy Arashin Cleric, sacrifice the creature for 1 red mana (at instant speed) for a Lightning Bolt. That seems fine to me. Not a crazy high pick, but very reasonable once you establish your colours as a mid-round pick up for some inexpensive removal/damage.
Gore Swine is just a 4/1 vanilla creature. I’m not going to dump on this creature because it can be quite serviceable, but if I have better options I’m taking those long before I take this. All that can be said for this thing is that at least it triggers Ferocious.
Bathe In Dragonfire is an excellent red removal spell. The 4 damage is very useful and deals with most threats. I’m not a fan of the Sorcery speed on this thing because it won’t catch Dash creatures, but you can’t expect too much from a common. For the record, this continuing the trend of seeing removal slowly become more and more expensive…so while this is pretty reasonable it likely would have been cheaper had it appeared in a set 3-5 years ago.
This is pretty much a no brainer…you grab Crux of Fate and move on. There really isn’t anything that would match up well with Crux, and if suggested anything else I would out right lying to you. So, while the other cards are pretty good…Crux is the hands down winner.
Wow…that was easy.
Well, thanks for reading folks and thanks for coming along for the ride to get to 20 Crack a Pack MTG. 20 may not seem like a lot to you guys, but let me assure it has been quite the trip. Let’s see if we can get to 30! Thanks for reading and until next time may you open nothing but Mythic rares.
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
Well, I’m back at it trying to work through some pick selections and I’ve got another crack a pack MTG with a fresh Khans booster. This format is showing lots of variances with loads of tough choices…and what makes it doubly difficult is that there are a number of ridiculous Bombs that are obvious first picks, but aside from that there are a wide variety of picks that can all be considered depending on what style of game you like to play. So, let’s bust open this pack, take a peak, and see what we’ve got.
Well, this pack is very uninspiring. The Rare is a pretty big dud, the uncommons are reasonable but hardly insane, and the commons leave me wanting more. Ok…so where do I begin? I know. Let’s start with the LEAST desirable card in this pack and move from there. The card I want least from this pack is Lens of Clarity. This is a do nothing artifact that is completely useless. If I see this in my pack I want nothing to do with it and would rather take a land, even a basic, over it because it is just that poor. No thanks. Forget this one and move on. And don’t be that guy who plays it to be cute…it’s a sign that you drafted garbage and are likely ripe for a beat down.
The Rare is Hardened Scales and while this seems like a neat card, it is likely of little or no value to you unless you are really keen to be in on the Abzan game plan. Regardless, you aren’t taking this first. I actually see this being more of an EDH or Casual card rather than an actual Draft or Constructed card. It just doesn’t have enough of an impact to make it worth the first pick…or even an early pick for that matter unless you have set your path to your deck and are committed to play counters in a big way.
Frontier Bivouac actually gets a fair amount of attention because the Tri lands are very good. Initially I wasn’t overly impressed, but they offer so much flexibility to your mana that they are well worth an early pick. Also, since they hardly EVER wheel, you had better grab it now or it will be gone…particularly with how poor this pack is. I’m not excited to consider this as my first pick, but it might be something that makes sense.
I’ve started to hear whispers that there is a Goblinslide/Quiet Contemplation deck out there but I’m not going to jump on this little treat until I get a couple of picks deep and start to see that it is still available. Also, the deck feels pretty unreliable so I think that this card may be something I pass along and try another direction unless I start seeing multiple Slides floating around.
Pine Walker is a very nice creature with a very powerful ability. Really, are you going to complain about a 5/5 for 5 mana, has Morph, and a relevant triggered ability? No. Didn’t think so. This would be very reasonable as a first pick.
War Behemoth, Glacial Stalker, Canyon Lurkers, and Kin-Tree Warden all fill the same sort of void in your deck. They are perfectly viable Morphs depending on your deck and can ambush an unsuspecting opponent pretty easily. Am I in love with any of these? No. But will I play them? Absolutely. Just not as a first pick.
Bloodfire Mentor is something that is quite interesting and is pretty overlooked but it can be a very aggressive creature. A 3/1 with Prowess can be very powerful if you can fire off a non-creature spell to hit your triggers and watch the damage start to pile up. Sure, it isn’t very good on Defence as a blocker (apart from as a speed bump), but it is quite a strong aggressive creature that at least bears some consideration in the mid round of the draft if you are in Red and have any ability to trigger that Prowess.
Bitter Revelation is a fine card for a mid-round pickup and can do a fine job of enabling Delve and still netting you a card or two. You will likely only want 1 of these in your deck but you are unlikely to regret the choice. It’s just a solid utility card that does what it needs to do quite well and is nice addition to decks playing Black.
Smite the Monstrous is a very nice removal spell to wipe out fatties. This includes pretty much the ENTIRE Temur deck and many of the dudes in Abzan colours meaning you have a fairly high ratio of targets. I’d take this as an insurance policy once I’m committed to being White, but there is no way I’m picking this first.
Singing Bell Strike is generally good removal to just tap down a pesky critter but does have an unintended drawback against Abzan decks. Since the board state tends to stall out there will be lots of chances for your opponent to play a load of land and then untap a creature with Outlast and then use the Singing Bell Strike to effectively Outlast the creature numerous times on the same turn, provided they have the mana. I have seen this happen to me and seen my plan brutally backfire and then face down a massive Outlasted creature. Ouch. So, I’m generally pretty pleased with this one, but be wary.
Dismal Backwater is yet more solid fixing and something that I generally like because the format offers so much flexibility if you are prepared to select it. I like this as a solid mid-round pick and would be prepared to pick this up likely a little higher than many other players.
In a marginal pack like this the first pick is very tough. I’m honestly torn between taking the very solid creature (Pine Walker) or going for the mana fixing (Frontier Bivouac). My sense at this point is to go for the Bivouac because creatures are readily available and can be somewhat more interchangeable whereas the land could be at a premium. That is by no means a slight on the Pine Walker and I could make a really strong argument to select it first, but I still think taking the land is the more prudent play and will net you more benefit in the long run.
It isn’t exciting is it? However, I think it is the better choice considering what is in this pack. Well…there we have a pretty unexciting pack. If I actually opened this at a draft I would feel pretty sad because they was very little to get jazzed about. We did get to see just about the least playable card in the set, which is always a nice treat to see which poor chump ends up having it forced on them. But, as for the rest of the pack, the best word to describe it is lackluster.
Thanks for reading once again this week. If you have some ideas of your own or experience that would lead to a different first pick, by all means let me know. Fire me a Tweet or leave a comment down below. I love having an honest discussion with players and sharing ideas and points of view to help make us all better players. Until next time, may you open nothing but Mythic Bombs.
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters @bgray8791 on Twitter
I’m trying to get things back in order and get back into a routine of writing for you guys. It’s been a while since I’ve sat down and done much in the way of writing, but I have been tinkering with some decks some more and have some ideas that I am prepared to share with you guys, however not today. Today I’m going to bust open another pack of Khans and see what we get because this weekend I’m actually going to get a chance to draft some of this stuff. I’m pretty excited and hope that my preparation (such as writing here on Three Kings Loot) and watching a number of other guys stream their draft videos will help me to a decent record in my upcoming events. Let’s open up our pack and see what we find.
Well, this pack has a number of solid commons, a high profile Rare, and bunch of lousy uncommons so it makes for a number of interesting selections. Let’s start with the Rare. Crater’s Claws is a pretty awesome ‘Fireball’ that is just really versatile. It’s even better if you can trip the Ferocious trigger on this little treat that makes this a shock at worst, and just insane from there on. Seeing as this can serve as removal if you need it, or as a form of inevitability to just burn out an opponent to the ‘dome’ this makes for a pretty excellent spell to pick and one that your opponent is unlikely to play around or expect. This is a nice spell and will be a high priority in this pack for me.
Seek the Horizon and Goblinslide are spells that I don’t much care for. Seek the Horizon is a pretty marginal ramp spell that can be useful if you need the fixing, but it eats up a slot at 3 mana on your curve. You know what else takes 3 mana on your curve? Only every Morph in the format is what. You would rather be playing a Morph at 3 mana and not durdling for more land. So, Seek the Horizon is likely to be cut in favor of creatures and spells that have more impact. Goblinslide takes a fair amount of set up and then you STILL need to pay for it. I can imagine a Jeskai sort of deck with lots of non-creature spells that would be interested in this, but honestly, if you WANT to run this card it is because you want the comedic value of trying to bury your opponent under a pile of Goblins. However, I am generally not that motivated by this one either because I would rather be doing some other things with my mana.
Watcher of the Roost is the other uncommon in this pack and I’m pretty okay with it, but I would not be taking this early. Sure, it comes down as a Morph and can flip essentially for free if you reveal a White spell, gives you two life and even has flying. These are all relevant things to do. However, a 2/1 with Flying is…how to put this…slightly disappointing. I will happily play this but I won’t be taking it early because I maintain that there are better things and select.
Moving on the commons there are some very reasonable spells and creatures to weigh. The first one that gets my attention is Alabaster Kirin. It’s a 2/3 with flying and vigilance which makes it a pretty solid attacker that can also play defence. The 3 toughness makes it a very reliable blocker to handle all those Mardu aggro creatures or Warrior tokens. It isn’t flashy but very effective. It is also nice because it dodges stuff like Suspension Field and Smite the Monstrous making it a surprisingly difficult to creature to handle.
Abomination of Gudul is another very solid Morph and among the best of the Gold common cycle of Morphs because it packs flying and lets you ‘Loot” once you get through for damage. It dodges Smite the Monstrous which is also a thing, but sadly still gets caught by Suspension Field. I like this one too, but it falls behind the Kirin for me because the mana requirements are pretty tough to meet.
Mystic of the Hidden Way is another very reliable Morph that provides good inevitability because you can’t just block it. It’s a very solid, Morphs for cheap and is just a stud to wreck an opponent. The part I like best about this card is that it isn’t as broken as Invisible Stalker was, but it is still a tricky creature to contain because of the evasion it has. It’s a pretty solid mid-round pick up.
Mardu Hateblade is a solid 1 drop that can pack deathtouch. If you are Abzan, or Mardu, or even the Warrior deck you want this guy because he is just a reliable creature that is major deterrent to your opponent because nobody wants to have the feel bad of having your better creature die on a 1/1 deathtoucher. He’s a nice pickup, but Ruthless Ripper and Heir of the Wilds are better choices because you don’t have to activate the deathtouch ability. Sadly, they are both uncommons and you are far more likely to find this guy in your pack than either of those.
Kin-tree Warden is yet another solid Morph that is a resilient defender that helps a Abzan deck get to the late game by regenerating for the ridiculously cheap cost of 2 mana. Honestly, I miss the days of cheap regeneration cost and this guy is as close as you are likely to get. I like it and would be prepared to grab this as a mid round pick.
Rugged Highlands is pretty solid because the common Refuge lands are lynch pins in any multi colour deck and even MORE crucial if you are rocking the 5 colour Morph deck with all the flashy spells you can grab. It isn’t an exciting pick, but in this format, with a lack of obvious pick you grab a land and fix your mana to do something more powerful than you would otherwise do in a regular 2 colour deck.
Rotting Mastodon is a big dumb wall. 5 mana 2/8’s or huge to fight through and make solid ways to get your shields up while you Outlast your Abzan dudes. I’m not a huge fan but can see the role this fatty can play.
Cancel is acceptable counter magic that is an insurance policy. If you play Blue, you’ll want one of these just to be sure you can counter their biggest threat or that key piece they are looking for, but otherwise you don’t really want this too highly.
Barrage of Boulders is not something I want. It doesn’t do enough for me and to trigger the “unable to block” feature means you need to have the Ferocious online. I don’t know…I might give it a try this weekend to see if I can make this lead to a blow out, but I’m not big on this guy at this point.
Lastly, Summit Prowler is a just another dude in your deck. You aren’t excited about this guy at all.
First pick is pretty easy this week. Crater’s Claws is most obviously the first pick in this pack but there are a number of very solid creatures and Morphs available. The hope is that you can wheel at least one of them when the pack comes back, but the relative depth of this pack is pretty low meaning that you might get this pack back with nothing but junk left in it. That’s a shame. However, Crater’s Claws offers you, like I said, a bad shock at worst, or a way to close out a game out of nowhere. The potential ceiling on this card is extremely high and you will absolutely grab this and make a point of playing it. Not to mention, you will not be sad to draw this at just about any point in your match. It may not be worth all that much on the secondary market, but the relative impact this can have in a game is huge and well worth the risk.
Thanks very for taking the time to join me this week as we go through yet another pack. Things are looking pretty spicy and the format looks like a lot of fun with a ton of variance meaning that there are a number of successful archetypes and strategies to win with. I hoping to be able to return next week, after my weekend of getting a number of drafts in, and be able to pass along a little more to you guys.
Thanks again and until next week may you open nothing but Mythic bombs.
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters@bgray8791 on Twitter