The King is back with a quick article about this silky box, containing the five enemy Fetch Lands that feature the artwork of premier Magic artists Alayna Danner, Adam Paquette, Sam Burley, John Avon, and Seb McKinnon.
There has been some complaining online about this reprint of Fetch Lands. The complaints are not about the reprint, but because of the way they are being released. As a Secret Lair: Ultimate Edition, a collection containing one non-foil copy of each enemy Fetch Lands. Some would have preferred a reprint in a Booster Set like Modern Masters 2017. While Masters Sets may be discontinued, Wizards had other opportunities to reprint fetches like Modern Horizons and Mystery Boosters. Wizards of the Coast did say WPN stores will receive up to 10 copies starting May 29.
This collection reminds me of From The Vaults. Except that, for the week after these go on sale at WPN stores, Wizards will be running a Secret Lair superdrop as well. More details about all of the drops will be released closer to June. The only detail Wizards has shared is that if you purchase the bundle that combines each drop that goes on sale during the superdrop, you’ll receive one random fetch land for each bundle you purchase. Wizards also added there will be another way to pick up some stylized versions of fetch lands later this year that will also be in your local game store. It could be Commander Legends, the first-ever Commander set, set to release in December 2020. The JumpStart set in July is the other possible non-Standard set. However, I don’t think they would contain Fetch Lands.
Pre-orders for the Secret Lair – Ultimate Edition containing all five Fetch Lands are on our website for only $299.99. Don’t miss out!
Hello fellow Looters! We are in the midst of the final week before Shadows Over Innistrad (SOI) releases. The pre-release was this past weekend, and I hope you all had fun playing with the new cards! So with SOI so close, I figured it is time to talk about Standard. There are going to be a lot of changes from this last season and this is one of the benefits, (or detriments, depending on who you ask,) of the Standard Format. Obviously, we won’t know until the cards hit the table (hopefully in sleeves…) but hopefully this will get you thinking about the format.
The biggest way we will see standard change during this rotation is the power reduction of available mana. Now, we are not losing the ability to play multiple colors as there are still plenty of lands in the format (Pain Lands, Battle Lands, Man Lands, The new SOI land cycle, etc.). Let me put it in perspective, though. Currently, with fetch lands and battle lands, it is possible to use one fetch to get one of any four colors and even untapped a good portion of the time. This allowed four color decks like Abzan Blue, Mardu Green, Four Color Rally, and every other deck with an uncreative name to run rampant. To put it in the words of Patrick Chapin, “You don’t have to ask yourself if you can afford to play this card, you have to ask yourself, why not?” Why not splash Jace or Siege Rhino? With the loss of the fetch lands, we are now losing the ability to have such a streamlined mana base. In addition, tri-lands and gain-a-life duels are out the door as well. It is still very possible to run that many colors but you run a heavier risk of stumbling and your deck will be a lot slower with more lands entering tapped. I fully expect to see many more two to three color decks during this standard format, which will be a welcomed change for me.
KHHAAAAN!’s of Tarkir is parting ways with standard and ushering in the slow climb of fetches until Wizards decides to reprint them. It is taking its buddy Fate Reforged with it and, between the two of them, that is a lot of cards (454 to be exact). The most notable cards we are losing from standard, aside from fetch lands, are the hyper-efficient three-color cards. This includes things like Siege Rhino, Mantis Rider, Abzan Charm, Crackling Doom, Big Knucks, and a bunch of other cards loved by these four-color decks. There was nothing stopping decks from jamming these cards for almost no additional effort and it really crushed the playability of some otherwise great cards. Mana is supposed to be a restriction and I am glad we are returning to a world where more tough deck-building choices need to be made.
Abzan Aggro – Will Abzan completely disappear? Probably not, but with the loss of Khan’s of Tarkir, they are losing a lot of the cards that make the deck super powerful. Warden of the First Tree, Siege Rhino, Anafenza, and Abzan Charm are all rotation which leaves the wedge less supported.
Rally – When a deck loses its namesake, it is usually not going to survive rotation. That being said, most of the other pieces remain short of Grim Haruspex. Depending on what graveyard synergy we see, from Eldritch Moon and with Collected Company still in the format, we could see an efficient creature combo deck remain strong. Plus we still have to deal with Reflector Mage…
Hardened Scales – Same goes with this namesake card. Khans also housed a good number of counter’s matters cards which will squish counter strategies until they are better supported. Counters will go from being a combo to just being… regular I guess. There are still plenty of powerful counter strategies that could make their way into standard.
Most 4/5 Color Decks – They won’t be impossible to build but we definitely will not see as many of them moving forward. That being said, I could probably 100% see a 4 color super friends deck or something similar being in the format.
Tribal (Vampire, Werewolves, and Zombies Oh My!) – There are so many awesome tribal cards that we are seeing from this set. I would not be surprised at all to see Zombies, Spirits, or Werewolves become a playable Standard deck. This being said, I don’t see any of them being top tier. The simple fact is, you limit yourself when building around a specific tribe which at times can cost you a slot that would have gone to a slightly better creature. This won’t stop people from building tribal decks as they are some of the most fun decks to play and they are really well-supported this time around! I could fully believe a Humans, Vampire, or Werewolf deck taking down a GP at least once as well. Eldritch Moon should make this category even strong as it will add cards without causing a rotation.
Reanimator – This was a deck that saw a lot of play in the original Innistrad Standard environment and was very powerful. Ever After and Necromantic Summons are two very powerful spells that bring things straight from the graveyard to the battlefield. I think we need to figure out some better targets as currently most of the powerful effects trigger on casting the creature rather than entering the battlefield. That being said, I am all for another Reanimator deck, (assuming there is hate for it in the format, of course).
Artifact – Color me crazy, but this archetype is something to investigate. Origins is host to all sorts of Artifacts with a high power level. Cards like Thopter Spy Network could take over an entire game and with the introduction of Clues, I think there could be something here. There are not too many constructed playable clue producers, however, in my head I have delusions of tapping six Clues with Ghirapur Aether Grid to have a repeatable Lightning Bolt. You never quite lose that ecstatic brewer in the back of your head. We also still have creatures like Hangarback Walker and all of the various thopter producers as well.
I think the format is going through a well needed change. Normally when a new block rotates in, it has a theme and it is supposed to have hate cards that weakens previous strategies to allow new cards to shine. Battle for Zendikar fell short as it failed to bring much to the table and did little to break the hold that Khan’s of Tarkir had over the format. There was little punishment for player playing tons of colors. Aggro was in too weak a spot as removal was everywhere. Now that Khans is rotating, I am not sure how Standard will look but I am a big fan of keeping things new and exciting which is why I love the Standard format.
@Sockymans on Twitter
It is usually around this time of year where we all get to stop and reflect on our lives over the past year. While a year seems to come and go so quickly, it always amazes me to think about how much my life has changed from one year to the next. I have been very fortunate this year in many facets of my life and now I would like to express a little thankfulness. I won’t bore you with my personal life, but I did want to share the ten things MTG that I am thankful for as we leave 2015 and make way for 2016.
10- Prereleases: I love these things. I find the prerelease experience to be just about the most fun you can have and the two-headed giant variant is my personal fav. I make a point of attending these whenever possible and the one in January is already on my calendar. At its core a prerelease is a fun tournament that brings out all sorts of different players and not just your local game store grinders which can make it so much more fun. As a father of a young family with not a lot of time to spend haunting my LGS, the pre-release experience allows me to whet my competitive juices, meet new people, have tons of fun with my buddy, and just really enjoy Magic.
9- YouTube: YouTube has been a blessing because it allows me to find so many different content producers, videos, and general MTG news all in one spot. When you are a little limited in the amount you can actually play, watching another (usually more skilled) player can really help you to make up some of the gap that exists between those who play sparingly and those who play more frequently. My weekly consumption of YouTube videos is pretty high and I am very thankful that they exist.
8- Hearthstone: It seems strange to put the competition on this list, but I am thankful for the advent of Hearthstone from a number of perspectives. The first is that it gives MTG players an alternative to sinking a huge amount of time into a tournament on MTGO. With Hearthstone you always have the option to get in, jam a couple of games, and then get out without feeling like you are missing something. Yes, you can jam some games in one of the other play lobbies on MTGO, but that isn’t the same as being to be able to jam some games that matter in a fairly short time frame and feel like you accomplished something. Leagues are step in the right direction on MTGO, but there is likely still a little work to be done in this regard.
The second reason I’m thankful for Hearthstone is that it gives MTGO an honest competitor in lots of regards and that’s awesome. Competition is healthy for the average consumer because it means that companies need to be mindful of what their customers want and continue to improve their product. That means that WoTC needs to continue to improve their online products or risk losing customers to playing Hearthstone. We have seen a number of recent changes to how MTGO works and some improvements to play options as a response to the growing pressure that Hearthstone is putting on the market. Sure, MTGO is very different in many respects, but they can’t simply ignore Hearthstone and that will ultimately benefit players as MTGO will continue to evolve and improve thanks to the growing competition between the two products.
7- Pucatrade: Pucatrade has seen a real explosion over the last year and it is a real benefit to players. When I signed up Pucatrade had made less than a million trades. Today they are nearing 3 million and counting. With over a 100,000 users and more changes to the online trading features of the program magic players are going to continue to see more value from the site. Personally, it means I can continue to trade cards I no longer want or need and look to pick up cards I am interested in without trolling through online vendors and dropping yet more of my hard earned money on cards.
6- The Expeditions: These have a huge revelation for a number of reasons. First off, they are beautiful. Second, unless you are a hardened enfranchised collector they represent you opening up a rather large sum of money that you can trade/sell to further offset the cost of playing the game. Case in point, my friend Dave opened a Verdant Catacombs and turned that into a healthy chunk of change that he could use to buy the cards he wanted to play. The third side effect is that because so many people were looking for the expeditions that record amounts of boxes of BFZ have been opened this fall. As a result, the price of just about every other card in the set is way down meaning that it is cheaper for the rest of us to get the singles we want for that sweet deck we’re building. Anytime this game can be more affordable is a win for the average player and the Expeditions have been a big force in that regard this fall.
5- MTGO: now I did say I wouldn’t go too far into my personal circumstances, but I think it is relevant to mention that I have two young children, a beautiful wife, a full time career and am a busy person. I don’t have many opportunities to go to the local LGS and play Magic nearly as frequently as I would like. That would mean I forgo bedtime with my boys, don’t get to spend time with my wife or take care of any other chores that need to be finished up before the end of the day. However, MTGO mitigates this somewhat by making the playing of Magic more convenient because all I need to do is turn on my computer and I can access all sorts of tournaments and game experiences. It is that convenience that I appreciate more than anything. Is MTGO perfect? No. But given the alternative of not playing it is vastly preferable.
4- Limited: I am thankful for limited formats because I like the mental challenge of building a deck from a smaller pool of cards. I know many players enjoy playing constructed, but I relish the challenge and diverse game play limited offers. From Draft, to Sealed, to Cube it is that experience playing these ever changing formats that is super refreshing and helps keep Magic fresh and exciting for me.
3- Siege Rhino: Only the most omnipresent card in Standard since he dropped in Khans. Abzan is everywhere and this is in every Abzan deck. He’s not easy to cast but a 4/5 trample plus a 6 point life swing at 4 mana is worth the time and energy. Personally, I’ll be sad to see him rotate out in 2016 because he’s my boy, but he’s had a good run and is likely good enough to see play in modern going forward meaning he’ll get a renewed lease on life.
2- Fetch Lands: These have helped make casting tri-coloured spells like Siege Rhino, Crackling Doom, and Mantis Rider a thing and have now pushed mana to the point where 4 colour decks are the norm. The fetches have been hugely influential for Standard and have uses in every constructed format making them highly sought after. I have often stressed that good mana is paramount in any format you happen to play because if you get blanked on one type of land your game plan falls apart. The fetches have helped mitigate this substantially and have been extremely powerful and important cards for all of 2015 and I wouldn’t be doing my job if they weren’t on my list somewhere.
1- Double-Sided Planeswalkers: I was very thankful for these guys this summer when Origins was released because I like the flavor that each of them brought to the game. The way they changed from a Creature to a Planeswalker, and how they each did it, was a very interesting and fun dynamic to have as part of the game. Now, not all of them are equally good, but their abilities and the lore they each brought to the game was fun and exciting. I feel like these were excellent additions to the pantheon of Planeswalkers and I was happy to see them arrive on the scene. Let’s ignore the fact that Jace is silly expensive, the design was good, the flavor was a nice addition, and the cards have a been a fun addition.
Well, that’s it for me in 2015. Thank you to all of you who stop in and read my little corner of the internet. I’ve had plenty of fun and spoken to lots of interesting people this year thanks to Magic and I look forward to continuing with what I’ve started in 2016, So, until then, enjoy the time with your family and a friends and find a little MTG thankfulness in your life. See you all soon for another Casual Encounter!
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter
by Bruce Gray -Casual Encounters
Regardless if you play Standard, Legacy, Vintage, Limited…or you just play on a Saturday night with some buddies around the kitchen table, lands are by far and away the most crucial component to any deck. If you don’t have the right mana you can’t cast your spells. Everyone can play with basic lands of whatever colour, but in some instances that still leaves you stuck looking for just the right land to cast your awesome spell or activate that cool ability that you want to trigger. What can a guy do?
In its original form Magic had dual lands. They were just like any other land except they produced mana of both colours. As time has passed these lands have been revealed to be tremendous assets and greatly increase the consistency of decks and thus have climbed in value to the point that only the most ardent of collector or the most competitive of players are prepared to pick them up. Other dual lands of varying nature have been printed, all with differing drawbacks, but yet these too have seen their value climb. Players want access to both colours of mana and modest tradeoffs are perfectly acceptable.
As a casual player, I fully appreciate the need for access to the right mana and dual lands are certainly the way to go. However, the price tag on these lands can be staggering. If you were to review the mana base for many top tier decks, the value of the lands that are being run in the deck are often the most prohibitive part of replicating the deck yourself, or of brewing up something that is just as competitive. So, how do you balance the need to have access to the correct lands without putting a hole in your pocket? Today I will go through some of the options that a casual player can use without mortgaging your home (again) but can still make your decks fun and relatively competitive when you sit down to play.
The cheapest and easiest dual lands is the guildgates from the Return to Ravnica. The nice thing is that all 10 colour combinations have access to a guildgate making them very versatile and readily accessible for decks looking to access the mana of both colours. Each guildgate enters play tapped which is a dilemma if you are looking to have untapped lands, but played strategically can be a nice addition to a deck. Each guildgate runs for about $0.25 on Three Kings Loot but can often be found in boxes at game shops for a dime. This makes them eminently affordable and can help greatly to smooth out the mana hiccups.
For a number of years Core Sets had a series of lands affectionately called“Buddy Lands”. These were lands of typical allied colours (W/U, R/G, B/U, G/W, B/R) and came into play tapped unless you controlled a basic land of the required colours. These lands balanced the need for access to both colour mana and had a suitable drawback without making them undesirable to play such that they were extremely popular. The other nice thing is that since they saw a number of print runs the cost of picking them up can be quite a bit lower than other dual lands. Three Kings Loot has them listed for anywhere from $1.99 to $5.99 a card. These can add up quickly to a costly investment, but their versatility and ability to come into play untapped may make these appealing. Since these have rotated out of Standard there is likely no rush to pick them up, so unless you suddenly get the urge to test out your latest deck at a Modern event you should be just fine to gradually collect these to help defray the cost over a period of time.
Another cycle of inexpensive dual lands that is a little older are the Zendikar “Life Gain” lands. Again, these were allied colour combinations (G/W, W/U, B/U, R/G, B/R) where the land came into play tapped. What sets these a little bit ahead of a guildgate is the fact that when the land enters play you can gain a life. This may sound like a minor benefit, but any benefit is better than simply coming into play tapped. Also, in a deck where you may be running 4 or more of these lands in your multi-coloured deck you may fine yourself with a 20-30% increase in you life total, which is actually very sizable. It is even possible to recur these lands and gain the benefit a second time with creatures such as Kor Skyfisher or Emancipation Angel making for a little extra benefit from these lands. These lands run for approximately $0.75 a piece on Three Kings Loot but can be found at local game shops for about $0.50 a card, making them very inexpensive and perfect for a casual player.
When people think of fetch lands everyone immediately thinks of the Zendikar fetch lands (Arid Mesa, etc). These cards are extremely pricey and not typically something someone on a tight budget can afford. However, Mirage had a very reasonable set of fetch lands. Flood plain, Bad River, Grasslands, Mountain Valley, and Rocky Tar Pit enter play tapped, but can then be sacrificed to fetch a basic land of either type of land type. This is extremely valuable because it allows you to effectively thin your deck out for land and still let you get the land you require to cast your spells. Is it as desirable as the Zendikar lands that let you play them untapped? Absolutely not, but when you compare the difference in cost, a casual player may be willing to accept this tradeoff. The Mirage fetch lands are listed on Three Kings Loot for $0.50 a card and are roughly the same at the local game shop near my home. Arid Mesa is about $40 a card. I could pick up a play set of all 5 Mirage fetch lands for $10. If I’m looking to stretch my dollar I know what I’m looking to get.
The Ice Age “pain” lands are another option for those looking to pick up lands that produce both types of mana. Unlike the “buddy lands” or the “life gain” lands, “pain” lands come into play untapped and can be used for a colourless mana with no drawback. However, if the land is tapped for a coloured source it deals 1 damage to you. As your deck initially kicks off at the start of the game you may be willing to accept this drawback in favour of getting off to a quick start. The option to then use them as colourless mana is appealing to limit the damage you take, but still leaves you open to options. These Ice Age lands were initially in the Allied colours, but a similar set of Enemy dual lands was printed in Apocalypse, giving the “pain” lands a full complement of colour options. These lands usually run for about $1.99 a card, making them somewhat more expensive but not outside the realm of possibility.
There are other ways to go about fixing up your mana situation without needing dual lands or fetches. There is always the option of artifacts that allow you fetch your lands. The cheapest and easiest to put into practice is Traveler’s Amulet as it was printed in Innistrad block and again in Theros. Traveler’s Amulet allows you to fetch a basic land and put it into your hand and is very useful to get out of a jam. Along the same vein, Expedition Map grants you a similar ability. The activation cost to sacrifice it a tad more, but you can fetch ANY land including a non-basic. There are also countless spells and creatures that allow you to fetch lands of varying sorts and all of these are viable as well.
The problem with having these different mana fixing tools in your deck, whether you play at a kitchen table or commander, or some other variant, is that all these cards take spots in your deck. Some players may not mind running a 61 or 62 card deck, but every additional card limits the chance to draw what you really need. Conversly, if you stick to 60 cards you are sacrificing spots in your deck for creatures, removal, or other spells in favour of mana fixing. In Commander, with only 99 spots, you may find yourself unable to squeeze in the required mana fixing into your deck. As a result, these options are not optimal and having access to the correct mana is vastly preferred.
So, as you look to diversify the mana in your casual decks in time for your next kitchen table game, take a moment and consider if access to the correct lands is in your best interest. Instead of getting bogged down with the prohibitive cost of playing the newest and most expensive dual lands, explore some of the other options available to you to help keep you competitive without drying up your bank account. Remember, Casual Encounters are the perfect place to give these older, and often overlooked, cards a chance to shine once again, and great way to help keep your game of Magic fresh and interesting.
Until next time keep it fun, keep it safe…and keep it casual.Bruce Gray @bgray8791