Tag: limited-strategy

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JP Vazquez JP Vazquez - April 28, 2016

A Look at Sealed Deck Construction

Optimum Jank – A Look at Sealed Deck Construction

IMAGE - SURGERY - Steven Belledin - Invasive Surgery

Vexing Variables

Draft may be Magic‘s most popular Limited format, but it is by no means the only one. Sealed is a Limited format which is played at Pre-releases, Launch events, PPTQs and Grands Prix. If you’ve ever contemplated playing Magic competitively, chances are, you’ll eventually find yourself staring down at a Sealed pool.

There are a lot of people that dislike Sealed tremendously because of its higher variance. The “luck factor” of opening a strong pool versus a weak one as well as the constraints of building a deck from a more haphazard pool of cards frustrates some. For others, that higher variance is exactly what excites them when playing the format. Making sense of the randomness presented to you in a Sealed pool can be a challenging and enjoyable puzzle to solve. Let’s take a look at the basics of Sealed Deck construction and go over a few strategies I’ve developed playing the format.

IMAGE - CLUES - Jaime Jones - Uncovered Clues

Precarious Possibilities

Sealed is a Limited format, which means you must build and play with a deck constructed from a limited supply of cards. Sealed is played by opening six booster packs and building an at minimum 40 card deck from the 90 cards you opened. You may only use the cards found in those six boosters (your Sealed pool) with the exception of Basic lands, of which you can have any number in your deck.

Typically, you’re looking to run a deck with 23 spells and 17 lands. If your deck happens to curve lower and be more aggressive, you might consider running 24 spells and 16 lands. Likewise, if your deck is more geared towards control with a number of cards on the higher end of your curve, it’s common to run 22 spells with 18 lands.

When building your Sealed deck, you’ll want to pay attention to your mana curve (or curve for short). Make sure that you have a good number of cards to play at each turn of the game. In most Sealed formats, the 2 converted mana cost (CMC) and 3CMC cards are typically the most important to consider when fine-tuning your deck. You want to have strong cards in those slots because those will allow you to respond to early game challenges while at the same time help you develop toward your late game. A common mistake for beginners is focusing on high mana cost bombs and stuffing as many as they can into their decks while ignoring or playing filler for their 2-3 drops.

The struggle players face when building a Sealed deck is narrowing down their 90 card pools to an optimal 22-24 cards. There is no “set method” or “definitive formula” for how to approach building a Sealed deck and knowing how to parse the information overload of a Sealed pool is a practiced skill. Each player may approach any one Sealed pool in completely different manners. That being said, there are a few steps you can take which can make things easier for you when constructing a deck.

IMAGE - SANCTUM - Adam Paquette - Jaces Sanctum

Overwhelming Options

Please note: The following are techniques that work for me when building my Sealed deck. They are by no means a definitive “How To” guide. If something I do works for you, feel free to use it. If it doesn’t, keep trying other methods, as it’s important to find what works for you!

1) SORT YOUR CARDS BY COLOUR

The first thing to do when opening your packs is to sort you cards into their correct colours. Typically, I’ll have 8 piles: White, Blue, Black, Red, Green, Multicoloured, Artifacts/Colourless, and Lands. Getting your cards into piles will give you a quick visualization of how many cards you have to play with in each colour.

 

2) FOR EACH COLOUR, SEPARATE YOUR CREATURE SPELLS AND CREATURE PRODUCERS FROM YOUR NON-CREATURE SPELLS

I’ll typically separate my creature spells and creature producers from my non-creature spells and lay them out on a curve – from 1CMC to 6+CMC.

What do I mean by creature producers? Some cards aren’t creature spells but they make creature tokens. Dance with Devils and Devil’s Playground from Shadows Over Innistrad are great examples of what I mean by creature producers. Dance with Devils is an Instant and Devil’s Playground is a Sorcery, but they make creature tokens. Spells such as those are added to my creature count.

I typically try to run 15 creatures and 8 non-creature spells plus or minus one or two depending on the deck I’m playing. If I notice I have a colour with a smaller pool of creatures, that might sway me away from playing the colour. For example, if I’ve got a small number of White or Green creatures – the two colours I tend to associate with having the strongest creatures overall – I might opt to set those colours aside unless the creatures in my pool are amazing. On the flip side, I would consider running Blue even if I have fewer Blue creatures because I tend to value Blue’s non-creature spells higher.

 

3) CONSIDER YOUR BOMBS

The strongest cards in your pool are what we call “Bombs”. After sorting by colour and type, take a look at what you feel are your biggest bombs. The trick here is not to force a colour just because you’ve got a powerful card in that colour. If you have the means of splashing an off-colour bomb, however, that’s an important factor to consider when deck building.

 

4) FIGURE OUT HOW YOU’LL GET TO THE CARDS YOU WANT TO DRAW

Also known as “having a game plan”. A lot of players will vaguely define this without actually explaining what this means.

You need to figure out what your deck is doing (i.e. does it have some sort of synergy, some sort of method of winning the game) and you need to figure out how you can get to the cards you want to draw. Bombs are amazing to have, but they’re useless if they’re stuck in your deck. When building your deck, you need to think about what you want to be doing until you have a way to draw into your bomb. Do you have enough early creatures to gum up the ground battles? Do you have a way to interact with fliers who try to go over the top? How can you break up a board stall? Can I draw cards to find my bombs? Can I filter cards? Search for cards? These are the questions you need to ask yourself.

Overlooking one of these factors can be detrimental when trying to build a solid deck. I once opened an incredibly strong pool, only to build a deck that didn’t have any answers to flying creatures. It was only after losing my first two rounds to stereotypical WU Skies decks that I realized I hadn’t factored in a strategy to deal with fliers when building the deck.

Most importantly, I firmly believe that getting to your bombs quicker in Sealed is far more important than having a synergistic deck. Removal is sparse and building a deck with strong synergies is more difficult to accomplish in Sealed. This means that building a deck that finds a way to get to bombs quicker is probably a better idea than focusing on building a deck with cute interactions that might not win you the game. My goal when playing Sealed is: Get to my bomb. Stall out until I can get to my bomb. Win the game. In that order.



5) KEEP THE BOARD CLEAR

Because synergistic strategies are more erratic in Sealed, if someone has built a deck with strong synergy or a strong interaction, it actually becomes exponentially more powerful. This means that if I see my opponent putting together pieces toward a strong interaction, my game plan shifts to disrupting it by any means necessary.

As with any format in Magic, removal is key. Try to pack in as much removal as possible into your deck. If you don’t have removal, throw in extra creatures or extra disruption. When building your deck, consider that your opponent will be building toward their plan and look at what cards you have that can be used to disrupt that plan.

 

6) K.I.S.S. – KEEP IT SIMPLE, STUPID

The biggest obstacle I see most players struggle with is over-complicating their decks. They run four colours when they would be fine with two. They run cards they know are great in Draft but aren’t as great in Sealed because they don’t have the synergy to go with it. They run a weaker colour over a stronger colour that they should have been playing because the stronger colour meant running one or two weak cards.

Don’t miss the forest for the trees. Do you have a solid creature count? Do you have bombs? Do you have removal? Can you get to them? That’s what you should be focusing on. Just because you may have to run a weak card in a strong colour doesn’t mean you have a bad deck. It just means you have a weaker card in a stronger deck. Here’s the secret: Everyone has weaker cards in their decks. It’s the nature of the format.

 

IMAGE - RESEARCH - Michael Sutfin - Compulsive Research

 

Careful Conclusion

Next week we’ll take a look at a Shadows Over Innistrad Sealed pool together. We’ll see if we can apply some of these strategies to that pool. If you have any question or comments, leave a comment in the Comments section below!

JP Vazquez – Optimum Jank

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Bruce Gray - March 13, 2015

Crack a Pack MTG Fate Reforged with Bruce #23 (4th)

Crack a Pack MTG Fate Reforged Booster

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!

 

Common

 

Uncommon

 

Rare

 

Land

 

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.

 

Top 5 cards

  1. Mardu Strike Leader
  2. Mistfire Adept
  3. Sandsteppe Outcast
  4. Marang River Prowler
  5. Douse in Gloom

 

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

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Bruce Gray - February 27, 2015

Crack a pack MTG Fate Reforged with Bruce #22 (3rd)

Fate Reforged Booster 3

Crack a pack MTG Fate Reforged with Bruce #22 (3rd)

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.

 

Commons

 

Uncommons

 

Rare

 

Land

 

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.

 

Top 5 cards

  1. Flamerush Rider
  2. Aven Surveyor
  3. Typhoid Rats
  4. Reality Shift
  5. Humble Defector

 

First 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

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Bruce Gray - February 11, 2015

Crack a pack MTG Fate Reforged with Bruce #21 (2nd )

Fate Reforged Booster - Crack a pack MTG

Crack a pack MTG Fate Reforged with Bruce #21  (2nd )

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.

 

Commons

 

 

Uncommons

 

Rare

 

Land

 

 

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.

 

Sultai Runemark. Please see my notes on Temur Runemark up above.  They are essentially identical for this card.

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.

 

Rakshasa’s Disdain.  No.  This is very poor conditional counter magic and not worth the card slot.  Go and grab a Cancel before you play this and hard counter that spell.

 

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.

 

 

Top 5 cards

 

  1. Yasova Dragonclaw
  2. Mistfire Adept
  3. Write into Being
  4. Whisperer of the Wilds
  5. Gurmag Angler

 

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

 

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Roy Anderson Roy Anderson - February 5, 2015

GP San Jose: The Sockymans’ Story (Day One)

Pearl Lake Ancient

GP San Jose: The Sockymans’ Story (Day One) – Team Sealed

By Roy Anderson – Sockymans

Hello my fellow looters! It’s Sockymans here with this week’s article, or should I say, articles. That’s right, this week is a two part series (As you probably saw from the title) about my adventures at Grand Prix San Jose. Now, I was only there for two days, Saturday and Sunday, so the article today will be about the first day of the main event.

To start off, man was I excited to see a Grand Prix so close to home. I was even more excited to see that the main event format was Team Sealed. To add even more excitement it was just a week after a new set release, therefore, it had a very new format! Now before I go into the actual day, I want to clarify some things people may not know.

 

Team sealed

So Team Sealed, what is it? It is a format you don’t see too often but if you have two friends that are also into Magic, I would highly recommend it. It works similar to regular sealed except you are on a team of three people. You start, just like in sealed, cracking your packs and building a deck. However, in Team Sealed, you have 12 packs between the three of you to build three decks. This gives you more options in each color, however, you must be able to figure out which team member gets which card. I will talk more about this when I describe my team’s pool. Another thing I want to note is that you must have every card in the sideboard of a certain player. You cannot have cards flowing between players sideboards so that is an important thing to decided as well. So when decks are built and round one starts, you are sat opposite another team. The way it works from there is each person plays against the person sitting opposite from them and whichever team has two of their members win their match, wins the round. During the games you are allowed to talk to your team and get advice about: plays, hands, and even sideboard options. If you make day two, after another Team Sealed round, you get to play team draft which is a whole other can of worms. Well, let us get to the meat and potatoes of the article!

Starting this story on a good note, we got to wake up at 6:30am. Now continuing this story with less sarcasm, we got there early very anxious for the event to start. There was a huge turnout for the main event which made competition fierce. In order to make day two, a team would need to not lose more than two rounds in a nine round tournament. My friends, John, Andy, and I, knew that would be tough but we were pumped and ready to go.

So they announced the start and we sat down. For those who have never played at competitive level  before, there is a step before you just crack packs and build decks. You first open a pool of cards and register every single one. Only after this is done, you pass your pool to someone else. This ended up being a good thing this time around as the pool we had to register was utter garbage. There were no strong archetypes, no strong reason to play any colors, no bombs, nothing. Bullet dodged. So we finally finish all of the boring stuff and we get our real pool. Our pool was much better. Lots of strong Fate Reforged, FRF, and Khans of Tarkir, KTK, cards with good pulls to multiple different archetypes. After some deliberation with my comrades we all settled on decks that were good and the decks we wanted to play. The end result was a very strong Abzan deck, a Sultai Control deck, and a mediocre R/W Aggro deck. We figured this divide of cards was decent at the time and we all were happy with the archetypes we had. I ended up with a personal favorite of mine, Sultai Control.

I won’t leave you hanging on the details, so here is the list I decided to run:

 

Abomination of Gudul – This creature was never too relevant for me and I think in FRF/KTK it is actually a bit worse. That being said, it was always a morph in the worst match-up and it did cycle through my deck quite a few times in the longer games

Pear Lake Ancient – This is just a very powerful game ending card. It only came out of my deck in extreme situations when my opponent’s deck was super fast. Even in the aggro matchup, it was good as a flash blocker.

Debilitating Injury – Super solid early game removal.  Even in FRF/KTK this remains an all-star.

Disowned Ancestor – This was mostly used to muck up the ground and keep me alive until I dropped Torrent Elemental or Pear Lake Ancient. I took this card out in control matches, however, I was not sad with this in the main deck.

Sultai Scavenger – A very solid mid-game flier. It was useful at getting past defenses. It was even a way to get Torrent Elemental into exile to use his ability. 10/10 would play again.

Archer’s Parapet – Same reasoning as Disowned Ancestor but I would have much rather had two of these. This never got boarded out as it is a supper good card.

Longshot Squad – This was in because I needed creatures, it was a Hill Giant with upside. I can’t complain about that.

Scout The Borders – Delve fuel, enough said.

Sultai Flayer – This was another all-star in my deck. The life gain was always very relevant and he has a nice body in the format. He definitely lifts bro.

Aven Surveyor – This card I was still on the fence on. Some games I was super impressed and others I was not so happy having him. First off, he was two blue which hurt in a three color deck with little fixing. My other concern was his body for his mana cost. Even if you didn’t need the bounce, which was never the case, he still died to every piece of removal and couldn’t trade with other fliers.

Enhanced Awareness – Can you hate anything with draw a card? It never seemed to end up in my hand when I needed it though. I kind of wish I had a treasure cruise along with this card.

Torrent Elemental – This card is bonkers. Using quadrant theory, this card was never bad at any point in the game. When you are ahead he wins the game almost immediately. When at parody he wins almost immediately, during setup he doesn’t serve much purpose but when behind he is even a flying blocker with a big butt.

Whisk Away – This was a card that was just okay in all my matches. I cast it and was reasonably happy with the results when I did. It was not a removal spell but it was quite the tempo swing.

Douse In Gloom – This card was awesome. I wrote about it quite a bit in my FRF pre-release article so I won’t cover it too much here. The only thing I want to say is that my opinion has not changed about this card. I am happy it exists.

Gurmag Angler – This is a new addition to the delve family and I think it is a pretty good one. It is had a huge body that not many other creatures can tangle with. It is also out of removal range for most of the removal spells in this format too unless your opponent is white. This guy also was a very common two for one as they would chump and use a removal spell.

Reach of Shadows – This card I was always happy with. Five mana, kill something other than morphs or manifests. Since the format is slower in general than formats in the past, five mana is very achievable to kill a big threat.

Rotting Mastodon – This should not have been in my deck. I never liked it much in KTK and it got worse. It was boarded out every game for something.

Sultai Emissary – This card made me happy to have, especially in the aggro mirror match-up. It is pretty much the black Jeskai Sage except he is card advantage with a card on the board. You are not even unhappy when you manifest a land. In my deck I ran 18 lands which meant if I could turn one into a creature and trade I was happy as a red player with a Lightning Bolt.

Whisperer of the Wilds – Since I had many five to seven drops this helped me ramp just a little bit. It was a bread and butter card. I was never happy with it but never sad.

Wildcall – This card I was unhappy with at the prerelease. Boy was I wrong. This is a very good card for any matchup. At the very worst it is two green for a 2/2 with possible upside. In most games, this card was the most flexible in my deck. On average it made a four to six power creature that would  become the biggest threat on the board. Sometimes, it would just manifest a land and I would be 100 percent happy with a six power land.

 

Sideboard Stratedy

There you have it, my GP SJ main event deck. Neither of my team mates were using blue so I got a lot of very powerful spells. I also had a good amount of very relevant sideboard choices against different matchups. Against aggro I could side in an extra Sultai Emissary, Despise, Force Away, and a few other low drops. Against a mid-ranged strategy, I would side in Disdainful Stroke, Despise, Tasigur’s Cruelty and a few other relevant creatures. Finally, against control, I would switch to a game of fighting for resources. I would take out some low cost removal and side in Disdainful Stroke, and Tasigur’s Cruelty. Now that our decks were completed, it was time to do what we came to do, play Magic and chew bubblegum! (You know the rest.)

 

Main Event

Round One

This round was the first of the tournament. My teammates and I, unofficially named “The Ainok Bond-kins,”  were ready to start on a good foot. My first round match was the mirror match and I felt pretty confident that I could win with my good resource advantage cards. Torrent Elemental helped pick me up a quick game one and I was feeling great. Andy was also winning his match. John, not so much, however, I was still happy. Game two I was not so fortunate. I ended up losing to flooding a bit and my opponent resolving a Treasure Cruise and slowly beating me out of the game. No big deal, I am on the play for game three. I look to see how my team is doing and they are both done. Turns out, we are one and one so this game three was the deciding game. The pressure was on.

Game three was a very long game. Lots of trades, draw spells, and board stalls. Finally, a line of play opened up that started to tip the scales in my favor. I resolved a Tasigur’s Cruelty delving away my Torrent Elemental. I was able to cast it tapped and I put my opponent in top deck mode. Turns out he didn’t draw anything but an Gurmag Angler. This turned out not to matter as I quickly untapped and started crashing in. Turned out that ended up winning me the game! My day was off to a good start.

 

Round Two

So, I don’t know if any of you here recognize the name, but my second round opponent was none other than Day9 and his friends Case and Tristan. First of all, it was awesome to be able to talk to him and he was a super nice guy, however, I was playing Case. So there is not much to talk about this round as there was one card that won every game that it came out. This resulted in my losing 1-2 which was a bummer. The card I speak of is Ojutai, Soul of Winter. This card is expensive, however, against a deck like mine, that was not a big problem. Had Case been playing my friend John, he may have won with his very aggressive deck. The two cards I had that could deal with that card was my two copies of Reach of Shadows. I also boarded in a Disdainful Stroke when I first saw the card. Unfortunately, game three, he played a Frontier Siege which, for a dragon deck, was pretty good. I never saw it so I was unable to board against it. Sadly, despite Andy winning. John lost another match and we were now 1-1.

 

Round Three

After pulling ourselves together, we went to face our next opponents. This time I was against my worst matchup: Aggro. This is when I also want to point out what I think the red MVP card in FRF is and that is: Goblin Heelcutter. This card wreaked havoc on my deck. I lost the first game and thanks to some good sideboard options and a good draw, I made it to game three. Sadly, he curved out really well despite a Debilitating Injury in my opening hand. Andy, who is a boss, was now 3-0 and our team was 1-2. John was getting creamed in mirror matches for the first three rounds.

 

Round Four

This was it, if we lose here, we have no chance of making day two. The record you needed to get to day two was at least 7-2. If we wanted that record, it would be a long rest of the day. We sit down against our next round opponents and they were also on the block. They seemed to be having a lot of fun and it was a fun match overall. It was another mirror match and this time, I knew how to board better. I was learning the matchups and changing my deck more and more each game. I boarded in both Tasigur’s Cruelties and Disdainful Stroke after winning game one. I lost game two and I knew I had to win in order to carry the team. I looked to my teammates and, to my surprise, they had won. Yay!  We had hung on for at least one more round.

 

Round Five

Another mirror match? At this point, I felt like my deck was advantaged in the mirror. I had a Pearl Lake Ancient, a good curve, good removal, and lots of ways to generate card advantage. This time, for the first time in the tournament, it was an easy 2-0. I looked over at Andy and finally, he dropped a game. I was worried as John’s deck was disadvantaged in yet another mirror. However, he had won his best of three and we were on to yet another match!. Awesome! 3-2

 

Round Six

I will be 100 % honest, I don’t even remember this round as the next one was so intense. The important part is we won yet again. We were all starting to realize that the dream was real for us! We were crawling back from a 1-2 record to end up sitting pretty at 4-2. We only had three rounds to go. Let’s move on.

 

Round Seven

At this point in the tournament, it was getting intense. Side events were closed down and everyone had been there for so long and come so far. We sat down against some very nice foreign players who made some great conversation. My matchup this time around was another aggro deck, which I dreaded seeing. This was different from other aggro decks I had faced. It was mostly red Mardu and boy was it fast. Game one I was obliterated despite having a removal heavy hand. Alright, on to game two. I made some needed side boarding and moved into game two. Notably, I brought in Despise and Tasigur’s Cruelty in order to kill dash cards. I also brought in my second Sultai Emissary which was good against his 3/1s and 4/1s. Through some good managing of resources and a timely Pearl Lake Ancient, I took game two. Sadly, my opponent came out of the gate swinging on turn two. Even with the removal in my hand, nothing prepared me for being hit by Kolaghan, the Storm’s Fury. Luckly, I was able to kill it and his other dash with Tasigur’s Cruelty, however, it was too late. I lost. As it turns out, both my allies bit the dust as well. Our dream had died.

All in all, we had a lot of fun at the GP San Jose main event. If you ever have a chance to play in any GP, I would highly recommend it.

I will have another article up later this week detailing my day two GP report. I hope you enjoyed this article. Let me know what you think and, if you were there, let me know what your record was and what you played.

For now, Happy Planeswalking!

 

By Roy Anderson

@Sockymans on Twitter

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Bruce Gray - January 30, 2015

Crack a pack MTG Fate Reforged with Bruce #20

Crack a pack MTG Fate Reforged

Crack a pack MTG Fate Reforged with Bruce 20

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.

 

Rare

 

Uncommons

 

Commons

 

 

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.

 

 

Top 5 Cards

  1. Crux of Fate
  2. Valorous Stance
  3. Sandsteppe Outcast
  4. Bathe In Dragonfire
  5. Douse in Gloom

 

First pick

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

 

 

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Bruce Gray - January 21, 2015

Fate Reforged Prerelease – Casual Encounters

Pilgrim of the Fires

Fate Reforged Prerelease

 By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters

Well, I hope everyone’s had a blast at their prerelease events over the weekend.  I have to admit, it was kind of weird format because we all opened so many Fate Reforged packs and very few Khans packs.  That was a weird choice by Wizards, but it seemed to work ok.  At one point I turned to someone else and said “hey…could you imagine doing this with 4 packs of Dragon’s Maze…that would have been unplayable.” By comparison, Fate Reforged prerelease worked, but there wasn’t the sort of variance that I would truly expect from the sealed format starting next weekend…but it was fun.  It wasn’t as grinding as Khans was and that increased explosiveness meant winners and losers were easier to pick…and you could tell if you were on the right path or not.

 

Two-Headed Giant

I played the Two-Headed Giant event on the Sunday evening with my brother.  The last time we played at the Khans prerelease we got thoroughly embarrassed and were pretty unimpressed with our results.  However, this time we held our own and were in the running until the very last match.  I’ll get to how that one got away on us in a bit, but we finished 3-2 and were relatively pleased with our results.

 

I opted to play Temur for this event and my brother decided he would play Mardu meaning we could bank on having some pretty solid creatures and a pair of aggressive decks…or so we thought.  I opened up my pool and I was legitimately shocked.  My Temur pool hardly had ANY playable 2 drops…and a very limited number of Morphs.  The three drops I had weren’t even in my Clan! What gives?  It wasn’t until I hit 4 on my curve that I started getting creatures that felt and played Temur-esque and that was a bad sign.  So, my curve was…how do you say…TERRIBLE with very few plays in the opening turns.  I was not impressed.  The only good news was that my brother had a much more aggressive build and could put some early pressure down to help bridge us to turn 5+ when my deck could roar to life. It wasn’t a great game plan, but it was the best we had with the pools we opened.

 

Round 1

In our first game we started off ok and I was holding up my end of the deal with some pretty reasonable removal to try and stave off the threats from our opponents.  I Burn Away Dromoka, cast Bathe in Dragonfire on another dragon and felt pretty good about things.  But then I drew three straight lands and completely flooded out and our opponents cast Shifting Loyalties on our Brutal Hordechief…which they then followed up with one of their own.  You can imagine things took a decidedly downward turn and we were dead shortly after.  We felt a little bummed.

 

Round 2

Game 2 our opponents had us on the ropes and pretty much dead on board until they misplayed. They had a Daghatar the Adamant on the board with his 4 counters and they cast Hunt the Weak on it to fight something of mine. Then they cast a second Hunt the Weak on Daghatar, but forgot that Daghatar had already been dealt some damage and this second round was going to be lethal.  Oops! With Daghatar dead because they goofed we went to town and my trio of Dragons (two Mindscour and one Destructor) went to work.  They shortly conceded and we evened our record at 1 and 1.

 

Round 3

The next game we came out much more quickly out of the gates, but the game turned when I had 7 mana and Temur Sabretooth on the board. The Sabretooth just stymied our opponents who just could not sequence a profitable attack by the potentially indestructible kitty.  To make matters worse, my ultra greedy deck was PACKED with value creatures to abuse with the Sabretooth.  When you are bouncing Aven Surveyor in order to give the Sabretooth indestructibility, eating their attacker, and then recasting the Surveyor to out tempo them, the opponents get sad…fast.  Oh, the Surveyor isn’t your style?  How about Bear’s Companion?  Hell yeah! It was undoubtedly our best game and the one where I was able to hold off and to play conservatively and eke out advantage with the cards in play and not rush to dump my hand on the table.  Suddenly we were 2-1 and feeling pretty good about ourselves.

 

Round 4

Then we had a bye because a team dropped leaving a weird number of teams and we just had a turn to sit.  Ok…3-1 it is…and in striking distance of a prize.

 

Final Round

The last game we were moving along ok…until we got caught with Tasigur’s Cruelty and it forced us to pitch two cards apiece.  Normally, this sort of card would be unplayable, but in Multiplayer it was devastating.  I also opted to discard a land and to hold on to some pricey spells.  Figures.  Next thing I know I’m stranded on 4 mana, can’t hit Burn Away, Aven Surveyor, or ANYTHING…and we die to some pumped up creatures.  Grrrr.  Oh well.  We had a shot and we blew it.

 

Here’s my decklist

 

Temur Frontier – Fate Reforged Sealed  prerelease

 

Hits

Some of the cards that shone in our matches were not the ones I was expecting.

 

Pilgrim of the Fires: The 7 mana golem was about our best friend all day.  Sure, he’s 7 mana and you don’t run him out there any too quickly, but the truth is, he likely wins just about any combat he ends up in.  And by 7 mana, your opponents have already fired off just about all their best removal that can handle this guy…so the NEED to rely on combat.  Well, with this guy being just a house we made short work of a number of opponents and were very impressed with him.

 

Temur Sabretooth:  This kitty can do some work.  The ability to be indestructible is very potent and can make combat a real nightmare.  What’s more, it is super fun to bounce value creatures and then reap the rewards all over again.  This one looks like the real deal and likely a real player in Limited.

 

Wild Slash: Premium Red removal…yeah…it’s good.  It did work all day long.

 

Aven Surveyor:  I know the guys on LR were pretty stoked for this card, and I like it too because it did do work…but I’m not convinced it is as super as people think it is.  5 mana is a big investment for a bounce effect, particularly when there are lots of powerful things to do at 5 mana.  It was a big tool in my deck as I was packing loads of bounce effects, but users must be wary because he’s expensive.

 

Bathe in Dragonfire:  Relatively inexpensive and useful removal to take out those nagging creatures.  This likely over performed a little for me because it took out all sorts of things including a number of Dragons of varying sizes and descriptions as well as pesky Morphs.  A good utility card.

 

Whisperer of the Wilds:  This guy was a star for me all day.  He’ll be good in Limited for sure, but could also be good in Constructed…once Caryatid rotates out.

 

Bust

Jesaki Infiltrator:  This guy was a bust. A  2/1 unblockable creature SOUNDED good, but then he immediately Manifests a buddy…and loses the Unblockability.  That’s kind of junk.  Tested this guy out once and was immediately underwhelmed.  Out he came and in went more burn.

 

Enhanced Awareness:  What I would have given for a Weave Fate…or Treasure Cruise…or just about ANYTHING.  This one is 5 mana…and it is an awkward one to jam.  I got it off once, but wasn’t hugely impressed.  Most of the time it was a 5 mana brick in my hand.  It feels far more situational than Jace’s Ingenuity or even Opportunity and in a format where there are likely to be lots of other things to do with your mana that isn’t good news.  As much as this COULD be good, it wasn’t. We’ll have to see if that trend continues.

 

Dragons:  The 6 mana 4/4 dragons are playable, but hardly scary.  I found the Mindscour Dragon cute because the Mill effect was handy.  The only catch is having to watch that you don’t mill someone with Delve cards because you’re fueling their Treasure Cruise.   I ran three of these just to see what they can do and while they are kind of neat, I wouldn’t hold my breath for them.

 

Runemarks: These are as awful as I feared they would be.  Most of them seemed totally unplayable and not at all what I was interested in doing…so they all got left behind in favour of actual cards that did stuff.

 

Well, guys…I feel like we’re coming to an end of my Fate Reforged prerelease experience. I’d love to hear about what you experienced and how you fared.  Let me know by leaving a comment or finding me on Twitter.

 

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

 

By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
 @bgray8791 on Twitter
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Roy Anderson Roy Anderson - January 20, 2015

Tales From the Prerelease: Fate Reforged sealed

Abzan Beastmaster - Fate Reforged sealed

Tales From the Prerelease: Fate Reforged sealed

By Roy Anderson

Hello, fellow looters and welcome to my first ever article written for The Bag of Loot and hopefully there will be many more to follow. I had a hard time deciding what I wanted to write about for my very first article. Should I start a column? Should I talk about Magic Online? Or maybe I should write an article about which removal spells would best work to finally dispose of Justin Bieber? Either way, I decided that since this is the first of my content for The Bag of Loot, I would write about another recent first. This first being my initial experience with Magic’s new set: Fate Reforged.

Who doesn’t love a good prerelease? Maybe people who like to be in bed by eight o’ clock on a Friday night, however, I don’t think anyone by that description is reading this article. Khan’s was such an amazing set and Wizards have been doing better and better with the events in general that I was extra juiced for this event. Looking back on the night, it did not let down my expectations at all.

Anyway, let’s begin our story around ten o’ clock Friday night. I always tend to show up early to make friends and participate in the only thing comparable to casting Magic Cards: Trading Magic Cards. Prereleases are some of the best times to trade for cards as few events bring such a big crowd to your Local Game Store (LGS), and more people means more cards. I am not going to spend too much time on trading, (as that is not why you are here) but some notable additions to my collection were: A foil Artifact Mutation, Rite of Replication, and plenty of sweet sweet foils. ( I have a problem ok.)

Finally, the clock strikes midnight. Magic time! Sultai Time! Sultime? Forgive me for the pun but, Sultai was the actual clan I decided to go with. I had no predisposition of the specific deck I wanted to play, however, I did get a card pool that was very well positioned for a leap into my favorite archetype. My favorite deck in Khans of Tarkir Limited is the four to five color control deck with a Sultai base. I always felt like it is a very strong deck and the new cards from Fate Reforged only gave the deck more tools. I will go over the specific new cards that I found to be helpful in this deck in a little bit. (At least the ones that I got to play with.) So without further ado, here was the deck list I ended up with and a little explanation of why I ran each card:

 

Five Color Death – Limited Fate Reforged sealed

 

Breaking it down

Abomination of Gudul x1- This is just a solid value morph that is also in the right colors. The deck I ran, due to having five colors, was 18 lands. This creature would help me filter through my deck during my land heavier draws which greatly helped out my decks consistency. It is also worth noting that it’s 3/4 body is very strong against a majority of Fate Reforged cards. I got more value out of blocking and flipping it than I thought I would. This flier also beats a lot of the smaller body fliers that got brought into the format by Fate Reforged.

Abzan Beastmaster x2 – This was a card that I really wanted to try and use because I am a big fan of low setup cost card draw engines. I had many occasions where this card would draw cards off himself as I was the control deck. I was very happy with this card even at the bottom end where I had to snap block him to trade with a morph. At the worst, in my deck it was still a one for one trade that stalls the game which is exactly what a control deck wants.

Atarka, World Render x1 – I only got to attack with this card once as it always acted as a lightning rod and immediately ate a kill spell every time I played it. The one time I attacked with it, I won the game by a landslide. Twelve flying damage a turn is no joke. Even if they manage to have a blocker, trample and double strike are a good combo.

Aven Surveyor x1 – This did not initially make the cut into my deck, however, it was about midway through the event that I re-read this card and kind of had a moment where I asked myself, “Why am I not playing this card?” It is an easy, slow-going, late game clock attached to a powerful tempo swing. I like it especially due to the fact that counters, heavy mana investment, and the rune mark cycle are very easy ways to get additional value out of using this card. Did I ever play this with a +1/+1 counter? No

Bathe in Dragonfire x2 – This kind of fell in the same boat where I had two in my pool and I wasn’t playing them. Boy was I stupid for not main decking these sooner in a control deck. Not much else to say about this card other than it kills a lot and is cheap.

Channel Harm x1 – Now this is an expensive but very effective trick that I can easily say fit the bill in my heavy control deck. In fact, this was my only white card. A majority of the time, it was only a one for one and a tempo swing, however, that ended up working out for my deck a majority of the time.

Debilitating Injury x1 – Cheap, efficient, solid removal in Khan’s limited, not much to really say about it.

Douse in Gloom x1 – This was one of the New Fate Reforged cards I happen to really like. Not only did this kill morphs, but there are a lot of new and existing two toughness cards that this made short work of. The additional effect of gain two life was also surprisingly relevant in a majority of my games. As the control deck, any amount of life gain helps carry you to the late game that much easier.

Enhanced Awareness x1 –  I was very happy with this card being in my deck. It filters through the top three cards in order to grab two or even all three if you have a land in your hand you want to pitch. This card does occupy a crowded slot mana wise, however, at instant speed, it offers flexibility.

Master the way x1 – Solid removal that replaces itself. Not much to say here. It is a little disappointing that it is a sorcery though as that reduces flexibility.

Monastery Flock x2 – This card served a few purposes in my deck. First, it is just a very flexible creature that could be an effective wall or a 2/2 beat down creature. Second, and most importantly, it almost always triggers Abzan Beastmaster which I was playing two of. This two card combo drew me more cards than I can count over the five rounds.

Reach of Shadows x1 – Probably one of the best single target removal spells in the format. It also lends itself to a flexible five drop slot which made it even better.

Ruthless Ripper x1  – This card was mainly used as an effective way to deal with threats on board. The two life did not really matter much, however, the deathtouch allowed this creature to trade up quite a few times as well as force my opponents to hold back attacks in fear.

Soulflayer x1  – This was one of the few real bombs in my deck. In my deck, it almost always ended up being a 4/4 flier for two black, due to my Monastery Flocks and other fliers, which as it turns out, is awesome! The best cast scenario in my deck was to have a Ruthless Ripper in my graveyard in order to give it deathtouch as well which allowed it to hold off anything in the air from attacking.

Sudden Reclamation x1 – Instant speed selective draw two, what is not to like? I found it surprisingly relevant at all stages of the game too. Early game, I wanted to fix my land drops and charge my delve engine. Late game, it got back my best creature and usually got back one of my tap lands to gain a life.

Sultai Soothsayer x1 – #Value and delve fodder on a creature with a body who will, nine times out of ten, trigger Abzan Beastmaster? Hop in! In all seriousness, I would play this card any time I am in Sultai colors because this card has a lot of value.

Swarm of Bloodflies x1 – This card was decent. It worked well with all my kill spells which gave my opponents a big clock. I was never supremely happy to cast this card however, it did pull its weight quite well though. WARNING: Manifesting this card will make you a sad panda.

Tasigur, the Golden Fang x1 – I played this card but found myself never caring to activate him. As far as I was concerned, this was a stronger Hooting Mandrills. This card may have some real power in constructed but in limited, this is by no means a super bomb heavy card.

Write into Being x2 – This card was mediocre for me, however, it felt like a necessary card to include. This card served a few purposes for my control deck. First, my deck had 18 land, therefore, most of the time I would manifest a land just to get more value from my deck. Second purpose of this card was draw fixing. What was essentially scry two ended up being very powerful whenever I cast it. Lastly, it was a way to add more creatures to my deck which only ran a limited number as a majority of cards were removal spells.

That was a big exhaustive, but that was my deck and I was very happy with it. In addition to the cards listed above, my sideboard was stacked with additional removal just in case it was needed which made me feel comfortable in every match-up. Speaking of match-up, I think it’s time for round one.

 

Round One

I was ready to play! Let’s do this! My first round opponent sits down and we start talking and he tells me that this is his first ever game of Magic. Oh boy, this means I have some work to do. There was really no challenge in this match-up due to his skill despite the raw power of his deck, however, I made sure he had as much fun and learned as much as he could. I wanted to walk away from that table with a new player among our ranks and that was job number one. Game one was short, and I tried to make it that way. Unknown to me until turn two, he kept a one land hand despite me explaining mulligan’s as I took one. I don’t think he quite understood the importance of them or of mana yet so I tried to end his suffering fast as he didn’t draw a single land. Game two was where he actually played a real game of magic. Despite the first game only lasting five minutes, this game took us to time. This was due to his slow play and need for explanation but I didn’t mind. I won in the end thanks to a well placed Channel Harm, the life gain from my lands and Douse in Gloom. War Flare and Ponyback Brigade did a number on my life total and always took him all the way with some help from me. At the end of it all, mission accomplished, he wasn’t a very vocal person and kind of quiet, however, by the time I left to turn in the match slip, he was smiling and in a good mood.

 

Round Two

My second round was an opponent from my LGS that is quite skilled. I have faced him in many finals so I was stoked for a good match. He was playing a very effective Temur aggro shell which I have seen be very effective in the past. Game one, my seven card hand had no land. Bleh…well, time to ship it. I was on the play so I was fine with it. Down to six cards and….another horrible hand with only one land. Five cards? Still only one land…. Well, four cards might be better? Still one land was all my deck seemed to want to give me so I played it. It went about as well as you expected with me hanging on as long as I did thanks to a Debilitating Injury. Game two I decided to play and I got a much better hand. I was trading removal spells for creatures and generally feeling good about my chances and then…the fire nation attacked. Not really, but he played Shaman of the Great Hunt which immediately allowed him to use that and his 3/3 to crash in for seven and gain a whole lot of upside. At this point in the game he was even able to activate the ferocious ability that turn. This is where I made a crucial mistake. I let it live another turn despite a kill spell residing in my hand. I decided to develop my board a little while longer which allowed another turn of smash for nine this time and draw two more cards. At this point all prior card advantage I had gained had been lost and we were back to being even. To top it off I was now bleeding to death. The game went on and I had actually stabilized through Abomination and Soulflayer which got flying. It got to the point where I had lethal on board and all he had was a 2/2 flier. Abomination was holding him back and I was sure I was going to win and this is where I made the game breaking mistake. I had Master the Way  and I saved it instead of cracking it off to kill the 2/2 while I was at two life. I was killed by a flipped Temur charger giving it trample into a Runemark and Dragon Scale Boon. Ouch.

 

Round Three

Opponent was a no show! Well, bright side was that one other person had a no show as well so we each took the win in our respective matches and played each other. He was piloting one of the most stacked Abzan decks I could have imagined. Two Falconers, two Battle Priests, premium removal and strong on-color rare cards. I ended up beating him two to zero however due to my strong removal suit. Let’s move on to round four!

 

Round Four

Imagine my opponents and my surprise when we both sit down and realize we had been playing each other for the last hour. He was my “third round” opponent. Well at least we both knew each other’s decks in and out because we also shared them with each other. In all honesty I was feeling great because I was the one who won. Game one was very difficult however, remember when I talked about attacking with Atarka once? Well it quickly ended the game. My opponent had so much removal, but had just used his Suspension Field on another mediocre creature. To my credit, I baited it out because I knew he had it. On to game two which technically never ended. We battled back and forth with removal and playing giant threats. Eventually, I was able to take control of the board and forced him to Crux of Fate during turns which caused me to win the match leaving me at 3-1. (Yay!)

 

Round Five

At this point it was five in the morning. My opponent wanted to go home and though the extra packs weren’t worth staying for. I win…technically.

 

In Summary

I do feel that 4-1 was the result I expected given how I was playing and the quality of my card pool. I just wish more matches were actual legitimate wins, but you go to prereleases to have fun right? Well, I had a boat load of fun despite having to wake up for work in the morning. I look forward to seeing Fate Reforged unfold as a format and continue to figure it out.

Thanks for reading guys! Feel free to comment below or message me your own fun prerelease stories or memories. See you next time!

 

By Roy Anderson
@Sockymans on Twitter

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