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.
Being a budget brewer is usually a tough proposition. The mana base for most decks is usually so prohibitively expensive that it is very difficult to make a deck for a reasonable cost. However, the beauty part with Khans of Tarkir is the inclusion of the Refuge Lands. These inexpensive, common lands are super important to helping to keep the cost of your deck in line. Since they are also in all 10 colour pairs, it makes for an opportunity to really build some interesting decks without breaking the bank.
One of the most interesting mechanics that came out of Khans has been Delve. It has allowed Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time to see play in virtually every format because the reduction in cost created by the Delve mechanic is hilarious and disgusting all at once. I wanted to take my own stab at a Sultai deck powered by Delve and the common cycle of Refuge lands to provide a budget conscious deck that is capable of some ridiculous game states and power. Let’s see what I’ve got cooking.
The lands cover off your bases as well as possible. Opulent Palace ensures access to all three colours and run about a $1 a card. The other Refuge lands are all pretty inexpensive additions as well and the basics fill out the land requirements for this deck relatively effectively and cheaply. Nice deal. This land base runs you under $10 bucks but still gives you access to the colours you need!
The creature package isn’t as large as I usually run, but the ones that I do run are important.
Let’s start with the 3 Satyr Wayfinders in this list. These little guys are ridiculously useful because they fill your yard for your Delve spells and fetch you land. The best part with the Wayfinder is that if you hit ANY land card you can pick it, not just basics. In a deck running so few basics and so many dual and tri coloured land that distinction is huge. At roughly a dime a card these are cheap, effective, and very useful.
Nyx Weaver is a vital part of the deck because it also helps to fill your yard, and by consequence power out those Delve spells even faster. However, sac this little guy and regrow that important resource you just milled away. Nothing is funnier than recasting that Villainous Wealth you just burned, getting your Kiora or Jace back, or finding that blocker you need to try and stem the tide. Also, at a mere $0.40 a card they are a bargain for something so useful.
Sagu Mauler: Why not? He’s huge, hard to handle, and requires an immediate answer or you die to the ridiculous 6/6 trampler with Hexproof. Also, at $0.50 a card he’s a steal.
Chasm Skulker: This is legitimately an experiment. I feel like this card could be very good, particularly with the amount of cards I can draw off things like Treasure Cruise, Dig and Interpret the Signs. He produces value if he gets killed and is otherwise just a growing bomb to dismantle your opponent. He’s also very cheap, meaning he also helps keep the cost of the deck down.
Rakshasa Vizier: Honestly, a pair of feels fine in this deck to reap the ridiculous benefits of Delving away loads of cards and making a huge behemoth. Also, a 4/4 for 5 is just fine base stats anyway. Oh, and it’s cheap…so…Budget Brew away.
Necropolis Fiend: This is the big finisher in this deck. A 4/5 with Flying is pretty awesome…but the ability to repeatedly take care of creatures with its tap ability is huge. The casting cost has no real bearing because of the ridiculous Delve potential with this deck meaning it can hit the table without much trouble and at $0.30 a card you can’t go wrong.
With all the budget cards we’ve played in the lands and creatures there is lots of room to splash around with fancy spells.
Jace, the Living Guildpact: Did anyone notice that Jace’s new first ability jives with Delve incredibly well? I haven’t seen him in any lists at all so far and I’m wondering why not? His second ability is very relevant as well and totally protects you or him if used properly. Yes, his ultimate might curtail your plan somewhat, but wrecking your opponent’s hand and you drawing 7 is ridiculous. This could be the best $4 card in the deck.
Kiora, The Crashing Wave: Wow, has the value of Kiora plummeted recently. What was once a $20 card is now $8.50…and she’s amazing for this deck. Her first ability is very useful because she nullifies their best creature every turn. The second ability is amazing to draw yet MORE cards and then dump extra land to ramp to Dig, Villainous Wealth, or Necropolis Fiend. Her ultimate is an inevitable win condition. She’s pretty sweet.
Villainous Wealth: I want a full playset of these guys because I think this card could be the real deal. It’s an absolute game breaking spell. Yes, it’s greedy, yes it’s expensive…but you only need to hit one and the game just about ends on the spot because it attacks them on an axis that they likely aren’t expecting. Look at the deck…it looks like it wants to beat down with the Vizier, the Mauler, or the Fiends, but one of these for 6 or 7 totally changes the perception of the game. Add in the fact that it is about $0.50 a card as well and you have a budget all-star.
Dig Through Time: Well, this let’s you assemble EXACTLY that piece you were missing. What more needs to be said. It is an awesome card. It is not cheap at $7.50 to $15 a card…but it is well worth it.
Interpret the Signs: I have to admit, I stumbled across this and love it. With all the very high casting costs in this deck you can hit this for 6, 7, 8 or even 9 cards without much trouble! That’s bonkers. And at a mere $0.15 a card is just perfect mass card draw for this sort of deck.
Sultai Charm: Ummm…Removal. Nuff said.
Scout the Borders: This acts as card filtering AND as a ritual type effect because it dumps itself and 4 more cards in your yard…meaning that you are most of the way to casting Treasure Cruise by turn 3 and turning things up to high gear. You don’t need too many of them, but a pair seems like the right number.
If you are really keen on playing this deck it would be mighty easy to get a few more pricey treats for this deck. Currently the price tag for this deck is running somewhere shy of $75…but there are lots of pricey treats to sub in that will drive the price tag way up.
The obvious place to start is with 4 Polluted Delta. That’s $80 in Delta’s. Sure, they thin your deck, feed your Delve and are generally pretty useful, they are hardly key lynch pins in the strategy. That said, I would love to have a playset of these guys to rock in the deck.
Yavimaya Coast and some more Scry Temples might also be considerations for this deck help improve the mana situation. I’m less convinced on these guys, but the added value of the free scry or more untapped lands might be really helpful.
I would be prepared to entertain a discussion about NOT running the Dig Through Time, not because it is a bad card, but because Interpret the Signs might be the better spell. This deck is usually looking for just mass card draw and Interpret the Signs is a sleeper pickup that could be insane. I would need to test both options.
I could TOTALLY make a case to sub out the Viziers for a pair of Sidisi…and with her bring in a couple of Whip of Erebos as well and emulate the Sidisi Whip decks out there. There is no doubt that it would be a powered down version, because it lacks the Hornet Queen or the Soul of Innistrad, but it could be pretty potent.
There are a number of treats from Fate Reforged that I might be prepared to try out in this deck but there aren’t an over-abundance of them. I would be willing to splash around with Temporal Trespass because any time you can grab an extra turn it seems busted. Also, Torrent Elemental can totally be game breaking because of its ridiculous ability AND the fact that it can be cast from exile if you Delved it away. While the rest of the Sultai cards look interesting they don’t really do what this deck wants to do and so these will be about the only things I would be looking to experiment with.
You can’t afford to be too cautious with this deck. As much as this deck wants to get to the later stages of the game to try and use more of its resources, you are in a race, not with your opponent, but with yourself. The fact remains that you could be in real danger of decking yourself without much effort, so once you get a foothold and can leverage out some heavy hitters you need to make good and close out the game. Your graveyard is absolutely a resource that is there to be utilized so don’t hesitate, but you need to be mindful of how quickly you burn through your cards. Otherwise, the deck is super fun and able to do some truly ridiculous things and accelerate to get to some mighty powerful spells.
So, if you are looking for something pretty fringe to try at a FNM, or just kicking around with your buddies around the Kitchen table, this sort of Budget Sultai brew might be right down your alley.
Thanks for reading…and as always keep it fun, keep it safe…keep it casual.
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters @bgray8791 on Twitter
WotC announced this week the latest of Duel Decks Elspeth vs Kiora released sometime this year. Two very exciting Planeswalker, I’m guessing that Elspeth deck will be a Mono-White (or Boros) and Simic for Kiora’s. There’s a good chance these Walkers will continue seeing play, so this is a good way to pick them up with extra value, you got love Wizards for that. I’m looking forward to see the decklists and new art! Here’s the latest sneak peak, although I expect there will be better pics from Wizards this week. Enjoy!
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
Grand Prix Manchester Champion – Theros Block Constructed on June 1st 2014
Winner of ‘the other’ Theros Block Constructed tournament was Fabrizio Anteri playing a powerful BUG Midrange deck. This deck is the flip side of the Elspeth, Sun’s Champion coin and as such runs the means to beat it rather then join it. As was proven at Pro Tour Journey into Nyx that the battle lines were drawn with the majority taking sides between either Elspeth and Prognostic Sphinx then jamming in the formats Green acceleration package.
In this format the most commonly played cards it turns out are a pair of Green mana accelerants which most likely are going to become the dynamic duo come the next Standard season. This decks ideal opening lies with a turn one Scry land into a turn two Sylvan Caryatid followed by a turn three Courser of Kruphix before making your land drop. That provides the deck with the possibility of rushing out that early five drop which is where the deck plays into. The main avenue of attack lies in the Prognostic Sphinx which was discovered to be the main foil to Elspeth as it not only will fly over her ground forces but also is able to skirt her destroy creatures ability by virtue of being not too powerful. There is also additional beatdown provided by Reaper of the Wilds which sports great stats as a 4/5 for four mana able to protect itself if necessary, but also provides some added bonus with a Scry whenever another creature dies. A pair of planeswalkers are included with Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver doing a lot of heavy lifting by not only milling away possible threats and answers from the opponent but also stealing some of those threats away, and Kiora, the Crashing Wave which can add extra draw and acceleration, lock down a particularly troublesome creature or even ‘Call the Kraken’ if allowed to build up enough loyalty. As this deck chose the Midrange route instead of Control the only disruption in the deck is provided from a set of Thoughtseize to not only strip them of their most bothersome card but also provide you with all the information about their plans so you are able to set yourself up properly. Then we have the removal suite which is as robust as they come. Centering around the formats best there is a full set of Hero’s Downfall to rid the board of creatures or planeswalkers alike, a trio of the pseudo-sweeper in Silence the Believers which can often hit two or three necessary targets, a pair of Bile Blight that is extremely good at taking care of an army of Elspeth tokens, and a misers Unravel the Æther to deal with any troublesome artifacts or enchantments including Gods as they are shuffled back into the library. A solitary Read the Bones provides the deck just a tiny bit of draw power to help dig for the cards it needs.
We had on one side of the Theros Block coin the RG Elspeth deck and other White based decks like Patrick Chapin’s winning Junk Midrange running the powerful planeswalker Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. But the flip side of that coin has the decks which were able to figure out its natural enemy was Prognostic Sphinx. That second pillar which emerged in the format was BUG Control which used the Sphinx to attack into Elspeth through her natural defense, ramp up quickly with the staple Green creatures and dipped into Black for efficient removal. This is definitely going to be a player at Grand Prix Manchester.
It is no surprise to see that as a Green deck the creature package starts with both staples of the format in Sylvan Caryatid and Courser of Kruphix there to help ramp quickly into an early Sphinx or getting multiple planeswalkers out. The only other creature is Prognostic Sphinx who’s main goal is to fly over defenders to beatdown Elspeth and conveniently skirts her destroy ability, not to mention is already able to protect itself well with its Hexproof granting ability. Moving into planeswalkers there is first Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver that while there is a low threat density in the deck from creatures can often steal one of the opponents fatties to bring down the beats upon them. The other is Kiora, the Crashing Wave who plus is able to lockdown the biggest threat on the other side of the board, can do a fantastic impersonation of Explore, and realistically will be able to create an emblem to ‘Free the Kraken’ if you can offer he a bit of protection. The title is a bit misleading as it does not play a big permission role as a Control deck but more of a board control through removal which is why there is only the misers copy of Dissolve in the main deck. As far as removal though there’s a full set of Hero’s Downfall to smash either creatures or planeswalkers, the pseudo-sweeper Silence the Believers to banish at times two or three nuisance creatures, Bile Blight which is an excellent way to rid the board of an overwhelming amount of Soldier Tokens or any other creature they have out in multiples, and also Unravel the Æther which will save you from enchantment or artifact alike especially an Indestructible god that’s ruining your day. It wouldn’t be right for a Control deck running Black to not include some discard and for that we have a full set of Thoughtseize to not only strip away the opponents most relevant threat but also to provide you with some extremely valuable information about their game plan.
It’s going to be very interesting to see what configuration of this powerful deck emerges as the most dominant. I’m sure we will see some tweaks shake out to mold to the expected meta. As three different copies were able to make the top 8 at Pro Tour Journey into Nyx I would be surprised if it doesn’t show itself in Manchester. Definitely going forward into the next Standard season this is well positioned to be a powerplayer there as well.
What’s Kraken Players and Playettes?
The first official spoiler from Born of the Gods, the second set of the Theros block, has finally been released. Players who’ve been playing Duels of the Planeswalkers on consoles or PC are already familiar with Kiora. Her decks are always blue and green to ramp, draw, tempo and drop big fatties. Keeping with the spirit let’s check out how her three abilities mesh with her Duels identity.
The +1 allows you to prevent an opponents permanent from dealing any damage but in return all damage dealt to it is reduced to zero. This can be used defensively as tempo against a faster aggro deck, turning one of your opponents creatures into basically an indestructible walls that can attack but deals no damage. The aggressive use is to target the most relevant of your opponents blockers. When you run out of targets you can always target a land.
The -1 ability is Explore, the best green sorcery from Worldwake in the Zendikar block. This card was very popular in decks based off Primeval Titan like RUG, Valikut RG or one of my personal favorites UG Turbo Land that let you ramp to Time Warps and Emrakul (what! what!). Anyways this ain’t no Prime Time, but Explore on a stick is relevant and ideas be brewing. Gives new meaning to “Two Explores…”
The -5 ability is an emblem that allows you to drop a 9/9 Kraken at the end of your end step. Seeing as you cannot remove emblems yet, this leaves your opponent having to deal with a 9/9 Kraken at your door every turn! Sign me up here!
Alright WOTC this Planeswalker is going to be fun to brew with over the holidays. Thanks for the Christmas present.