Hi folks. We had a huge weekend at PAX. I watched a good deal of the coverage and am firmly convinced that at some point I will need to attend one of these events because it looked super cool. Did you see the GIANT Eldrazi sculpture erected in front of the exhibit hall?! Wow! That was amazing and looked super cool. The most impressive part was the detail on the sculpture…but I won’t go too far into that.
In addition to the World Championship and PAX, we got a massive amount of previews from the set that will be hitting the shelves this fall. That’s right, Battle for Zendikar is just about here and I’m excited. I’m really looking forward to getting a chance to play with all these giant Eldrazi monsters stomping around because it feels amazing to see so many massive creatures. And they all seem to pack some sort of nasty ability! Talk about spoiling us!
The last time we visited Zendikar, during Rise of the Eldrazi, I wasn’t playing and was totally oblivious to these creatures. I have since come to know many of them through things like watching and paying attention to deck lists, reading up on the lore of the plane, and generally paying attention to the happenings in the Magic community. However, I have seen these guys in isolation. I have watched Emrakul get cheated into play with a variety of tricks. I have seen Ulamog in a Modern Masters 2015 draft pack. I have heard about Kozilek and the destruction he can wreak on a board and the massive card advantage you can draw. But I have never seen these three beasts in their own element. I have never faced down the wrath of a horde of voracious Eldrazi and I can hardly wait to get my first real Eldrazi experience now that we are heading back to Zendikar.
While the prospect of facing down the Eldrazi is very appealing, there are a few other things that were spoiled that are bound to be of interest to people. Personally, the most important thing spoiled was the new cycle of dual lands. Initially I read that there were a lot of people who were disappointed that the Enemy Coloured Fetchlands weren’t going to be reprinted, but it seems unusual for WoTC to have all 10 Fetchlands in standard at the same time. So, Fetchlands were out but word got out that a new set of Dual Lands was being released and the speculation exploded. What was revealed Saturday night was a very interesting set of lands.
The lands are allied coloured dual lands. That’s a fair place to start and not the least bit unusual. I hope we see the remaining five enemy coloured lands in the second set, but for the time being we have 5 lands. They also have a drawback of coming into play tapped unless you control 2 basic lands. That is a very reasonable drawback, but I will come back to that. The most interesting feature is that they have 2 land types meaning you can fetch them with a Fetchland. That is exciting because the last time that non-basic lands had two land types was the Ravnica Shocklands, but once again we’ll come back to any comparison with the Shocklands. On the whole, this is pretty exciting cycle of lands and an interesting variant on dual lands in general.
The reaction has been mixed to say the least. The initial place that most people started with was that these lands are inferior versions of the Shocklands. Yes, they share the characteristic of having 2 basic land types on them, but the Shocklands can enter play untapped based on YOUR decision and aren’t conditional to you controling 2 basic lands. So, we can agree that the Shocklands are a notch better, but there is something to be said for NOT having your land hit you for 2 points of life (or 3 if used in conjunction with a Fetchland) that might make these more appealing. That extra 2 or 3 points of damage per land is a very real cost and now having the chance to avoid it is appealing and will give players in Modern reason to pause at least to consider their mana base before sleeving up their deck.
As far as Standard is concerned, these will be nice replacements for the Temples and could be seen in many ways as an upgrade because you can actually fetch them. As nice as the Temples were, you could never fetch them up and that was not optimal. The tradeoff of a Scry in favour of being able to fetch the land is very real, but something that many players will be prepared to make. The new Mulligan rules may prove to be a saving grace to many players because they might be able to get that first turn Scry that they have become accustomed to thanks to the Scry lands. We’ll need to keep an eye on that trend for sure once all the changes come into effect.
The other piece here is that the clause that allows you to have them come into play untapped is conditional and not a choice. This feels like a very balanced option and a way to mitigate the relative power that you can harness by having access to two colours of mana in the same card. In my mind this harkens back to the balancing act that WoTC was trying to get with the “Buddy” lands but with a new twist. In either case, players who are looking to play their lands untapped will find themselves putting more basic lands in their decks and limit the number of colours that they play, while decks that are prepared to pay the price of playing your land tapped may continue to run three or more and play these happily.
I think that these lands are being unfairly criticized by some members of the community. I think people are looking for a direct and obvious upgrade to the Shocklands that can migrate over to Modern. Looking at these, I don’t feel like that was ever the intent, but I will not be surprised to see some people opt to play some number of copies of these in their Modern decks. No, these lands have been designed to be played in Standard and they fit in nicely. Just as we lose the Temples we get a balanced, interesting, and fun land mechanic that will undoubtedly shake up the sequencing of your land. If they happen to move to Modern, all the better, but for the time being Standard is a good starting point.
The other major preview was for a new Planeswalker. In the upcoming set we will be seeing Gideon, Ally of Zendikar as the newest incarnation of our friend Gideon and he’s pretty sweet. I like that they have retained his ability to become a powerful creature that is difficult to kill, but his other two abilities are extremely relevant and a significant departure for Gideon. His 0 ability has him make a 2/2 Knight token, which is pretty significant. This is a new ability for Gideon, and making a 2/2 Knight is pretty awesome. However, the most interesting thing is the ultimate ability that allows you to IMMEDIATELY remove all the counters from him and for him to become an Anthem effect. In many aggressive decks Anthem effects are extremely powerful and I’m fairly certain that this will not change. The Zendikar Allies are going to love it. Plus, this version of Gideon looks to play quite well with the Kytheon/Gideon transform card from Magic Origins further adding to the appeal. There is no doubt that this card will be one to watch and might be a defining card once Battle for Zendikar arrives. I’m a big fan and can’t wait to see what happens with this new addition to the Planeswalker club.
One of the things that I am always on the look for are some hidden gems that you can use around the kitchen table to really spice up your casual games and to perhaps get a leg up on your friends. Sure, you could play all the hottest cards from the newest Standard legal set, but right now, as we approach rotation, you could find yourself some very budget friendly gems that could really add some appeal to your games.
Planeswalkers are a fun way to add a new dimension to your game and there are a couple out there that right now that are good value and can pack a pretty good punch. Jace, Architect of Thought and Kiora, the Crashing Wave represent strong cards that you can add to your decks and are extremely affordable right now. Both of these are hovering around $4 a card right here on Three Kings Loot and would be great value. Sure, these may not be the best cards ever printed, but they pack strong abilities, can win you a game if left unchecked, and can certainly be a big distraction if your opponents are intent on taking care of them. If you don’t believe me that they are good value, take a look at some other Planeswalkers that have recently been printed but rarely see eternal play. Tamiyo is about $19 a card. Domri and Ral Zarek are around $7. Garruk, Apex Predator weighs in at $8. Clearly, these two look to be a little on the inexpensive side right now and with Kiora rotating out shortly you could likely scoop her up quite cheaply.
A creature that has been supplanted by the mighty Siege Rhino has been the Reaper of the Wilds and at a mere $0.30 a card this solid 4/5 for 4 mana would be an addition to many a deck. Besides being a very sizeable body, Reaper packs 3 abilities! This one has clearly been forgotten about, but your kitchen table would be an ideal location for some revitalization.
After a brief foray into a Pro-Tour Chromanticore has largely vanished despite the fact that it is a super fun card that packs way too many abilities…and at less than $1.50 would be steal.
Herald of Torment has never really received much love, but I for one think that this little beauty is well worth the pick up. The casting cost is about right, the Bestow is very powerful, Black devotion LOVES this guy and he costs a mere $0.30. C’mon. If you rock Black around the kitchen table this guy needs to be one of your dudes.
We had been missing a genuine wrath effect for Black until we hit Khans block and got Crux of Fate and followed up with Languish in Magic Origins. However, for your Casual game, don’t forget Extinguish All Hope. In most environments this is good as any wrath you will ever need and while it does cost a little more Mana it’s also $0.25 meaning you could pick up some of these and still have pocket money left over to buy yourself a coffee . What’s even better, if you build your deck right to abuse this, this could become a beautiful one-sided wrath and really make your opponents curse you and your janky (but hilarious) 6 mana wrath spell.
That’s all for tonight folks, but thanks for stopping in. I’m super excited to see more of the Battle for Zendikar spoilers and glimpse the landscape of Magic for the upcoming autumn. Thanks, and have a great MTG day.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!
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
As with any Blue and White based control strategy we find a stock shell with this deck sporting a trio of Jace, Architect of Thought for draw and protection from creature swarms, a set of Sphinx’s Revelation to restock your hand with options and incidental lifegain to boot, a set of Supreme Verdict to deal with Aggro creature swarms, and a set of Detention Sphere which is able to answer most every other problem the deck may face. The meat of the deck comes from its planeswalkers, where we find the duo of the light and darkness alongside a pair of Jace options. First looking at the light we have Elspeth, Sun’s Champion as a primary win condition spitting out soldiers three at a time, while also able to sweep the board of all creatures with power greater then four and should she go ultimate will pump those soldiers of hers into veritable jet planes. Next plunging into darkness we find Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver who is especially powerful against creature decks to steal away their threats by milling away the top of the library and given enough support then dropping them into play. Then we have the two Jace, Architect of Thought integral to the deck surviving creature rush Aggro and grinding out card advantage, but also a singleton Memory Adept to work against Control strategies and mill them down to no library while you sit back playing a defensive role. The potatos of the deck come from a variety of Control staples of permission, removal and draw. The permission package is two-fold using the potent Thoughtseize to strip away their threats before they can play them while also providing you with very valuable information about what their plan is, and also a pair of Dissolve as the deck only real denial with a bonus Scry tacked on to help dig through your deck for more answers. As for removal this deck is chock full of including Supreme Verdict and Detention Sphere already mentioned, but also some spot removal with a trio of Devour Flesh to abolish that huge threat when the enemy doesn’t have a swarm present and a Doom Blade able to destroy anything in RG Monsters in a pinch. As for draw power the main tool lies in Revelation and Architect, but the deck also leans heavily on the eleven Temples for Scry to help filter draws into what is absolutely needed. We wrap up with the utility player Azorius Charm which can gain a few points of life with Soldiers if desperate, filters itself into a new draw when needed, and even bounces an attacking or blocking creature to the top of its owners library to set them back and save some life.
While it’s true we are on the verge of a new Standard format in a few weeks it is certain that UW Control will be a strategy to continue going forward. Normally I would also say that with the summer here and Magic in its dog days that it isn’t important what to play, but remember that the World Magic Cup Qualifers are coming up. If you like oppressive Control strategies then I would definitely recommend this deck for you but be sure to clue into the current meta as this is always a deck that needs to be tweeked and tuned for what’s current. And good luck chasing down that glory.
Other Spells (15)
Other Spells (11)