By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
Sir Mix-a-Lot would be proud of me. Perhaps not in the same way as his famous song, but I too admire a good back side. The bigger the better. Of course, when I’m talking about playing Magic I’m referring to the toughness of creature which is sometimes referred to as the creature’s “butt”. C’mon! What did you think I was talking about? Get your mind out of the gutter! Sheesh. Today I’ve got something a little off the wall that some of you might enjoy the next time you sit around the Kitchen table to battle it out. Let’s see what I’ve got on tap for you guys.
A couple of weeks ago I was playing a Theros Block sealed event on MTGO and opened up a busted pool. Elspeth, Ajani, Pain Seer, good removal in Black, solid creatures in Green…including a Scourge of Skola Vale. I ended up playing Abzan (also known as Junk) mostly for Elspeth and Ajani, however my deck was predominantly B/G. Yes, Elspeth and Ajani were amazing and they were the number one reason I won a number of my games. However, The Scourge of Skola Vale was my big hitter. The worst part was, when I put him in the deck I just imagined that he might be useful, but little did I know that he would be awesome.
The Scourge of Skola Vale is a rather janky rare from Born of the Gods that is 3 mana for a 0/0 Hydra that enters play with two +1/+1 counters on it and trample. Those stats are hardly overwhelming. However, tap Scourge of Skola Vale, sacrifice a creature, and at instant speed it can gain +x/+x counters where X is equal to the toughness of the creature that is sacrificed. That still hardly seems game breaking, but let me assure you, the ability can be very potent. The question is all a matter of timing. You declare a creature as being a blocker. That ensures that there actually is a block and you don’t get hit. Then, before damage is assigned, sacrifice your creature (particularly if it was going to die anyway) to the Scourge and boost the Scourge. In short order your Scourge of Skola vale is an unhealthy sized creature with Trample that no longer behaves like a 3 drop but more like a 6 or 7 drop.
The question remains, How do you maximize the number of counters you put on the Scourge of Skola Vale? Clearly you want to play things with high toughness , block with them, and sacrifice them to your Scourge. It seems simple, but the problem with most high toughness creatures is that they attack very poorly or not at all. What is a guy to do? Let’s see what I did.
The creature package is pretty straight forward. Elvish Mystic is going to be a big key to the game plan because it helps ramp you to some of the more expensive pieces in your deck. You really want to play one of these guys on Turn 1 to get you out of the gate quickly. On Turn 2 you really want to be playing an Archers’ Parapet to hold off any immediate threats and early drops that your opponent can get down and bash away with. Also, with 5 toughness, the Parapet is an ideal target to sacrifice to the Scourge. The curve is a little wonky because you don’t really want to play a Scourge on Turn 3 so you end up skipping and waiting to play a 5 drop. Nessian Asp or Pheres-Band Centaur are both really solid 5 drops. With either of these guys on board you can follow up with Scourge and still hold up mana for a Ranger’s Guile. It is pretty key to hold up the Ranger’s Guile the moment your opponent sees you tap out your Scourge is going to eat a removal spell. Ranger’s Guile pretty much laughs at targeted removal spells and ensures your Scourge survives. Sac just about ANY creature to your Scourge, protect it with a Ranger’s Guile and then rumble in for a huge pile of damage. Sound like fun? I thought so.
The other route this deck can take is a little different. You have a whole bunch of creatures that have been sacrificed and are in your graveyard thanks to your own Scourge and you are running out of ways to get through for damage. What can you do? Well, hello my old friend Nighthowler. Bestow this on just about anything with a whole bunch of creatures in the graveyard and you instantly have a menace requiring an immediate fix. The synergy between the Scourge and Nighthowler is unmistakable because as you power up the Scourge you are powering up future Nighthowlers. I love a good plan B!
The spells all exploit creatures with high toughness. Grim Contest is a neat take on the fight mechanic that will ensure that just about anything you fight will die thanks to the extremely high toughness stats on many of your creatures. Kin-Tree Invocation gives you yet another potent attacker so long as you have something sizable kicking around on the board. Fruit of the First Tree pairs really nicely in this sort of deck because if it is on a creature, sacrifice that creature (to Scourge no less) and then reap the benefits of gaining a whole pile of life, but more importantly, drawing a whole pile of cards. Green card draw is a little tricky to find and play, but the reward for using it like this is extremely high and could really dig you out of a jam.
There’s the deck. It isn’t very fancy, but it does take a bit of peculiar take on getting to your opponent. The best part is that the whole deck is really quite affordable. The rares are all $0.50 bulk rares, the other spells are also equally cheap and the mana base is ALL basics. Could it really get any cheaper ? Not really. There are lots of ways to upgrade the deck ranging from Scry lands and Life Gain lands in the mana base to Courser of Kruphix and Sylvan Caryatid in the creature package thanks to their versatility and high toughness. Also, some other potent creatures like Rotting Mastodon and Swarm of Bloodflies work well in this deck and could be added in as need be. There are also a number of other options available to you too that can help maintain this deck and help you to keep the cost down while still having a loads of fun.
This looks like something fun to take for a spin around a kitchen table. Will it have legs at a competitive event? No way. The curve is way off, the removal is suspect and is generally too slow. However, around the kitchen table with your pals this will get a giggle or two…until your Scourge of Skola Vale stomps a mud hole through one of your pals and then they will sit up and take notice. It’s cheap, is capable of some silly shenanigans and is totally unassuming from the outset. Time to play rope a dope and be crowned Kitchen Table Champ!
Thanks for taking the time to stop in here at Casual Encounters and Three Kings Loot. I hope you guys enjoy the deck and have a chance to go on out and give it a try. Until the next time, have yourselves a great MTG day and remember keep it fun, keep it safe…and keep it casual!
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
I have an admission. I have recently decided that I would dust off my old MTGO account and resurrect it. The intent behind me opening up my MTGO account again was ostensibly to get some more repetition at drafting. I’ve gone and started a few drafts and have fared reasonably well and opened up some very sweet cards. However, by the time I convert any rares into tickets the pool of residual cards is too poor to take on the Standard decks running around these days. However, they are perfect for building a perfectly reasonable Standard Pauper deck and that is exactly what I have done.
In the drafts I have played I seem to usually end up playing G/X meaning that my card pool has a fair amount of Green. That suits me just fine. So, I was browsing through my collection online and noticed I had a pretty reasonable U/G deck. The deck reminded me of a U/G Flash deck I built from RTR/Theros standard that I really liked to play and so I pieced it together. I have been running it against other home brews and decks that lack some of the firepower of full on Standard decks and have been faring reasonably well. It suggests the deck has a certain amount of play that can have it hang around with more robust builds and grab a win. Here’s the deck list.
This deck doesn’t really want to play on its own turn, like any Flash deck, but the reality is that the creature pool generally lacks a variety of common Flash creatures apart from the Cloaked Siren. The way this usually plays out is that you cast your creatures on your turn, and then at Instant speed bounce their stuff or get their critters when they block by pumping your creature. It can do some pretty mean things and set your opponent back with some sizable Tempo plays quite easily giving you an edge to resolve your threats, load them up, and smash face.
The creature package should really have MORE War-Wing Siren as they are just about the best card in this deck. The 1/3 flier with Heroic does an awful lot of work and can get very big very quickly. It becomes a 5/5 if you Bestow the Nyxborn Wolf on it. That’s a full on Dragon. It’s a 4/6 if you cast a Feral Invocation. There are plenty of ways to target this creature, meaning it can get out of control super quickly and really turn up the heat on your opposition.
The other piece that I wish I more of is the Pheres-Band Tromper. This guy is an all-star if you can give him flying with a Stratus Walk because every time he untaps he just gets bigger. Connect a few times with him and you will quickly erase any deficit.
Of the rest, the Centaur Courser are lacking in punch and other abilities, but in a deck where you need some fodder or just to keep some more pressure up, these guys make for good pals. Sedge Scorpion is the ideal first turn drop and trades with almost anything acting as a real deterrent. I really like the Scry on the Sigiled Starfish to help smooth out those rough patches. The last guy I want to talk about is the Nyxborn Wolf which is probably my favorite common from Born of the Gods. This innocuous Bestow creature really packs a mean punch at +3/+1. Suit up anything with this guy and you have an instant threat. I would happily trade the pair of Coursers for a pair of these guys to round out the deck, but I’m not quite there yet.
On the whole, the deck performs quite well against decks that are of a similar power level, which seems to make it an ideal casual brew where the focus is more on having fun than on winning every single time. There is no doubt this deck suffers from some inconsistency because of the lack of play sets and the relative high variance, but considering it is made up of spare parts it seems to overcome that. And of course, since we all like to win, even if we’re playing around the kitchen table, the fact that this can just about steal a win out of nowhere is also a nice treat.
If this is something that catches your fancy give it a try and let me know what you think. I think it’s fun and surprisingly tricky to balance out the need to go aggressive with the need to hold up your mana for tricks. There is no doubt this sort of strategy is not a full on aggro assault and so patient players are more likely to come out ahead. However, it is fun, interactive, cheap, and deceivingly powerful. Give it a whirl. I doubt you’ll be disappointed.
Thanks for reading and until next time keep it fun, keep it safe…keep it casual.
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
There are some people that only want to brew up top tier decks and if it isn’t first rate, then they don’t want to try and do anything else. However, I look at making up a new deck a bit as a creative experience. There are lots of people who paint or write or act but will never reach those upper echelons of the craft…but that doesn’t invalidate their creative efforts or lessen the pleasure they get from pouring their energy into their activity of choice. My creative activity of choice is making a new deck that is ostensibly only played around the kitchen table with my friends…and that is just fine. I will never join the ranks of the Pro Tour with any of my decks, but I will always enjoy the process of building a new fun deck to play with my friends. So, today I’m going to share my take on a fun Casual deck that I will be playing at our next Kitchen Table card night.
I’ve seen a number of pros talk about the power that can be harnessed with Goblinslide and Quiet Contemplation. These are very similar enchantments that reward you for casting non-creature spells and you can trigger them to have an additional effect. The effect is different, but both of them are 100% repeatable and impact the board enough that you could gain a pretty significant advantage. Both enchantments have been suitably potent that they have been used in a viable draft deck in the right circumstances.
With that in mind I set about building a deck that could exploit these two intriguing (and deceptively powerful) cards. But what sort of deck do you build around these cards? The obvious starting point would be a pile of Burn spells to eliminate threats and allow you to get the engine of the deck started. Burn out their creatures, tap the remaining ones, and make Goblins…seems simple enough. However, those Burn spells need to be quite efficient because you need additional mana available to trigger the Goblinslide or the Quiet Contemplation, so efficiently costed spells are key. However, the issue of card draw starts to emerge because unless you can burn out your opposition you are likely to run out of gas pretty quickly. So, there are a few interesting options that can be used to help with some additional card draw and preventing you from running on fumes. Let’s see what we’ve got:
Ok, well the creature package is pretty small, but the Windscouts, the Jeskai Elder, and the Riverwheel Aerialists all come with Prowess…meaning that they can often tussle with bigger creatures without much trouble. The Scaldkin are there as fairly useful fliers that can “Shock” something. It is hardly an earth shattering creature package but you do want a few critters to keep your opponent honest.
The Enchantments make this deck go because if you can start to trigger them regularly you can make extra Goblin tokens or tap down your opponent. That is basically the whole premise of the deck anyway, so ideally I want to see one (or both) of these in my opening hand anyway.
The instants and sorceries are the fun part because they are burn, card draw, or just plain old Trumpet Blast to help your little Goblins punch through for a pile of damage. The newest treat for this deck is Collateral Damage which suits this deck perfectly. Can you imagine casting Lightning Strike, dealing three damage to your opponent, triggering Goblinslide for a mana, and then casting Collateral Damage for an additional three damage, sacrificing the Goblin token you just made…and then activate Goblinslide a second time and STILL having a Goblin Token on the table? That feels very achievable…and 6 points of direct damage is nothing to sniff at. Sure, it feels a little clunky but it just might get the job done around the Kitchen Table.
The deck hardly looks over powering, but for a deck packing no rare cards it feels like it could do some pretty powerful and hilarious stuff. Who doesn’t want to flood the board with a load of Goblins and over run your opponent? Seems like it might be legit little deck. It also meets most of my key components…it is a) inexpensive to build b) uses spare parts that I have in some my boxes and c) looks like it could be a load of fun. Sounds like a win to me!
Well, that’s all for today…thanks very much for taking the time to read!
Until next folks…have a great MTG day.
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter
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
Folks, I have to admit, it has been a long time since I sat down and set about to brewing up some new decks. With the excitement that Khans has provided I have been engrossed watching the new top tier Standard decks take shape and getting primed for the draft format. This means I have not spent nearly enough time brewing my own wonky concoctions for fun…but that has finally changed. I sat down and put together some new decks that I want to share with you for your next casual game. Will these EVER win you anything at a Constructed event? Not a chance. But around a kitchen table they are loads of fun and well worth the time to put them together.
The impetus this time was that my friends and I had our casual night a couple of weeks ago and we agreed to play Hobo. For those who are new here on Three Kings Loot, Hobo is basically the name my friends and I gave to playing decks with no rares or mythics…just commons and uncommons. This is often called Peasant, but we thought the name was lame and preferred the name Hobo. This particular time the extra restriction we set was that all the cards needed to be from Khans or M15 in an effort to force us to play new cards.
Most people brewed heavily with Khans because many of the cards are just more powerful than what we find in M15. However, I decided to go the other route for one of the two decks I put together. I figured that many of the M15 uncommons would be unplayed, giving me the chance to surprise my opponents and come at them with a bit of a curve ball. The first card I wanted to brew with was Brood Keeper. I really feel like the potential upside of this card has largely gone unexplored and I wanted to do something with it. Well, the deck was a mess and I affectionately called it “4 colour mess”…and it was terrible. I’m not even going to bother to post the list because I took it apart so quickly, but it did lead me to attempt number 2 on the Brood Keeper deck. Here is what I’ve got.
The plan behind the deck is dead simple. Cast a Brood keeper and then hit it with an aura or two in order to produce the Dragon token it makes. The token (a 2/2 flying dragon with Firebreathing) is a real card…Furnace Whelp was an uncommon in M13. Dragon Whelp has been a thing since the beginning of Magic…and Brood Keeper just produces them as value. Wow. That’s mildly insane. Everything else in the deck is designed to help you get there. Heliod’s Pilgrim allows you to fetch up an aura if you don’t have one in hand. Sightless Brawler can be used to Bestow it on the Brood keeper or play it as a dude. Bladetusk Boar and Eagle of the Watch give you suitable targets to cast auras on if you don’t have a Brood Keeper and both come with a form of evasion. The auras are cheap and many cantrip for more cards or have some other upside to them being in the deck. It isn’t a fancy deck, but the curve is low, Brood Keeper is most certainly a thing, and it feels like a much more reliable build than a 4 colour mess.
The other deck I ran was an unadulterated Sultai deck. I feel like the Delve mechanic has been breaking formats since Khans hit the shelves and I wanted in on the plan. The deck wants to dump a ton of cards in the graveyard and then do broken things with the extra resources. At Hobo night the deck fared quite well because it just could make more use of its resources than many of the other decks. I mean, Treasure Cruise for 1 blue mana (+ a bunch of cards in the exile pile) is pretty solid card advantage and leaves you wide open to cast any spells you picked up when you drew off the top. It proved to be a very potent combination and left many opponents unable to handle the relatively potent spells that I could follow up with. Here’s the deck list.
Essentially I’m not paying the full casting cost for all my most powerful spells on account of the Delve mechanic or the Convoke mechanic. Satyr Wayfinder and Sultai Soothsayer dump cards in my yard that I will then turn around and Delve to cast something else…and then in the next breath tap them to pay the Convoke cost of the Feral Incarnation I want to play. It really was kind of disgusting and a couple of opponents just looked on, in bewilderment, as I paid the Convoke cost of Feral Invocation and then in the next turn played Overwhelm meaning that things got crazy fast. It was a fun build and one well worth keeping together and fixing up to make it more…I’m not sure…spicy?!. Ok, more spicy.
The last deck I have for you is an update of an R/W heroic deck that I was running several months ago and I wrote about here on Three Kings Loot. I like the deck, but with Standard rotating I wanted to freshen the deck up somewhat. My build around piece was Preeminent Captain and the ability to play soldiers without paying their mana cost. The deck is full of soldiers and combat tricks to protect the creatures or to trigger Heroic and get in there for big damage. Here’s what I’ve got.
The game plan is to play my Preeminent Captains, protect them with a Gods Willing or Feat of Resistance and attack to drop another soldier card from my hand for free. Since I can play the creatures for free I can use my mana to play the tricks in my hand to make combat miserable. The addition of the Refuge lands from Khans has been a neat twist and really enabled the playing of Ajani’s Pridemate, which is a terrific card. Play it for free and have it pile on counters each time you gain a life is a nice boost. Dragon-Style Twins and Fabled Hero are just the sort of hammer you really need should things start to get out of control and can seal up a win in short order if you can fire off a few tricks. Along that same vein, Flying Crane Technique really serves the same role to just snatch a win out of nowhere by making your team Double Strikers with Flying. Oh, and the Ainok Bond-kin is a terrifying little creature because this deck can pile up +1/+1 counters very quickly…making the Bon-kin super useful to give my team First Strike and just make combat totally miserable. Will this deck wow the world at the neck Standard event? No. But it is a lot of fun, particularly if you can get the Captain on-line to play creatures for free. And it isn’t even that expensive to build! Nice value!
Well, there we have it, three new brews to share with you guys. These may not be Standard worthy, but they have given me plenty of enjoyment around a Kitchen table and letting me to do some pretty silly things. The best part, many of the decks I have here are relatively kind to your wallet, which is always a secondary consideration when playing Magic. No one likes to be broke, so why not try to keep the costs of playing this hobby down a bit.
So, until next time, keep it fun, keep it safe…keep it casual.By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters @bgray8791 on Twitter
Well, we’re back to school and back to the grind. For some this is the worst time of the year because it signals the start of the boring and mundane for yet another year. For others it is a time of excitement as things start all over again with fresh beginnings and fresh options. For those of us who play Magic, the specter of rotation and the imminent arrival of Khans means there is lots of buzz in the air. The end of September can’t come fast enough!
This isn’t an spoiler article because we are hard at work here at Three Kings Loot prepping our review, but we’ve got good stuff on the burner. However, with Khans being on the horizon and Constructed being in a bit of holding pattern until the rotation, I thought this would be a perfect chance to highlight some casual decks I’ve been rocking, some relatively inexpensive and fun decks to liven up your Casual games. These are all 60 card decks that are perfectly viable in a duel situation, but are better suited to playing a multiplayer setting. Let’s see what I’ve been brewing.
The first deck is my take on what can only be called a Modern Mono-Green Devotion deck. A number of months ago I posted a decklist for a budget Mono-Green Devotion deck here on Three Kings Loot. It has done reasonably well for me since then, but decks are like living organisms that change and evolve and this deck is no different. With cards like Chord of Calling, Genesis Hydra, Hydra Broodmaster there are yet more powerful options to sink a ton of mana, there is no reason not to change a few cards to do a few more powerful things. However, the addition of a card from an older set is REALLY what I wanted to add to the deck…and that was Craterhoof Behemoth. This just smacks of being the best thing you can do to dump a ton of mana either by hard casting it, Chord of Calling for it, or Genesis Hydra for about a billion and grabbing it too. Here’s the list.
I was rocking this is in a 4 person free-for all game and was in the driver seat. My opponents had allowed me to resolve a number of creatures, a Voyaging Satyr and a Nykthos. I had all the tools needed to start going off and just needed some huge mana sinks. Sure enough, up comes a Polukranos and we’re off to the races. I cast “Big Polly” and get set to Monstrosity him…but sadly have to target the stupid Biovisionary in the stupid combo deck my pal was playing, a Fleetfeather Cockatrice because I had no flying defence, and some other random creature. Stupid Cockatrice and the Deathough ability. Oh well. I get my turn back and top deck… Hydra Broodmaster! OK! So, cast it, and then set up the Monstrosity…and make 10 10/10 Hydra Tokens! OH YEAH! Let the beat down plan begin. I start smashing stuff around and just making a wreck of the board. Then, out of nowhere, my buddy slams a second a Biovisionary, casts Polymorphist Jest, and turns his mana dorks into Biovisionaries…and we all lose. Damn it! Lesson learned…kill the stupid combo deck…no matter how durdly the combo is.
Next, I shuffled up my Mono-Red Goblins deck. I have no real expectation that Mono-Red Goblins will fare well in a multi-player game. They are far too fragile and just not suited to trying to fight a number of opponents. However, things are going my way. I land a Foundry Street Denizen, Legion Loyalist, and then…KRENKO! Oh yeah. A couple of Krenko activations later and I have a ton of goblins, had just smacked one opponent for 20 points of damage and was in good shape to start taking the game over. Everything changed with one card…Scouring Sands…and wipes out all the Goblin Token…and I get thumped. Ok…I know Goblins are fragile, but it is a terrible feeling to have your board wiped out by Scouring Sands because NOBODY plays Scouring Sands. However, I lost to Scouring Sands and I wanted to cry (well, not really).
The last deck today is one that is clearly a Casual build because it is such a silly concept and packs such a ridiculous mana base there is no way to describe it. Here’s the list and I’ll talk about it afterwards.
This deck plays on the interaction between Kor Skyfisher and Spark Trooper. Most opponents won’t bother to block what amounts to a Ball Lightning because they know that it will be sacrificed at the end of the turn. Sure, they eat 6 but they are banking on the creature no longer being a threat. However, during your second main phase if you can cast the Kor Skyfisher you can return the Spark Trooper and re-use it. Once I established that interaction it became a matter of digging up a host of creatures who a) return stuff to my hand to be re-used or b) have good enter the battlefield triggers. Now, this is a very mana hungry deck so playing it in a duel is suspect, but in a slower multiplayer game it is just perfect.
Well, I shuffled it up and suggested a couple of minor adjustments to our game. I suggested that we all play at the same time and play with a Howling Mine effect. The Howling Mine is hardly earth shattering, but the “everyone plays at the same time” is…interesting. It makes resolving spells really tricky, but boy was it fun! So, we had 1 player eliminated leaving 3 of us still playing. It was a tricky situation but I decided to throw caution to the wind and swing to take out the opponent to my right. The whole team went and was delivering somewhere up to 35 points of damage…but in the process the opponent to my left hit me. All the while, the opponent to my right wound up and lashed out with Nefarox with some ridiculous amount of Exalted triggers caving in the guy to my left. So, all in one turn all three of us just straight up die ending the game in a weird finale. It was a fun variant and something we will do again, but most definitely not the way to play every single time.
All three of these decks would fall into a pretty budget friendly category and highlight how you can make some fun decks with just a pile of funny cards and do some damage at your next Casual Night. The Mono-Green deck is probably the most pricey of the decks on this list, but the cards on it can totally be substituted for and can revert back to the Budget deck list I had previously. However, the new twists on it could make for a fun deck because of the powerful things you can do with the crazy amount of mana that can be generated. The UWR Skyfisher deck is pretty unreliable because of the wonky mana base and the fact that half the plays in the deck set you back, but when it works…dear LORD…does it work. And Goblins…well…they’re Goblins and will always be funny. When they work, they work awesome. When they fall flat on their face, they fall flat on their face hard.
There we have it, three fun builds, three fun games, and some random feel bad stories about how to lose a game despite being in a dominant position. I’m not sure what lesson to draw from the last two apart from perhaps playing the politics game a little more, but regardless of the lessons learned it was fun. It was refreshing to sit down and just sling some card board and relax with some friends with nothing on the line. I’ll have to make a point of playing this way more often just to keep things fresh.
Thanks for reading again this week…and until next time keep it fun, keep it safe…keep it casual.
by Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters @bgray8791 on Twitter
Here’s a situation we all face in this game. Magic is a collectible card game. As such, you are always collecting the cards and looking for the next card you want and need to add to your collection. Some of those cards you want for a new deck, others you want because of the cool art, or because they are foils, and other cards are just cool to collect. Along the way you accumulate all sorts of other cards. Many of these cards are commons and uncommons that seem to multiply in short order. Others are chase rare cards that you REALLY want to add to your collection. Others are still rare, but aren’t very good…in fact, many of them are terrible. These are called Bulk rares. They are called “Bulk” because you can find them in the “bulk” bin at your LGS (Local Game Shop) and just sitting there doing nothing.
What to do with these bulk rares? For many they sit in a binder and just…be. They don’t get played. They hardly get LOOKED at. They just sit in their sleeve. No one will actually trade for them. Few stores will take them off your hands with their buylist. No…these are truly cast away cards. Even commons get more of a lease on life with Pauper formats. However, Bulk rares just sit and do NOTHING.
Well, this is where I come along. I’m always looking for some way to brew up a new deck without costing myself much in the way of money. Let’s be real here…I have BOXES of stuff that I’m not playing. That’s thousands of cards that are just sitting there and not getting played. Surely, somewhere in amongst all those cards there are 60 cards that I can eke out into a deck. Well, today I think I’ve managed to make it work…and surprise…I think I even found a way to slide in a couple of M15 beauties. I call this Casual Masterpiece…American Bulk (rares)…BEHOLD!
This deck is actually very simple in terms of game plan. Play a dude…suit him up with Bestow creatures. Smash. There are some of the best Bestow creatures in Hopeful Eidolon, Everflame Eidolon, Ghostbalde Eidolon and Thassa’s and Purphoros’s Emissaries that can all make combat just miserable. Fencing Ace is another unheralded critter with Double-strike that can just make an opponent cry if he gets suited up. The Ordeals have long been good, and Purphoros’s ordeal is a perfect fit. No, generally the game plan is very straight forward and not unlike the plan from many a Draft deck, however, mix in some bulk rares for variety’s sake and we can make for a spicy game with some interesting twists and turns.
The first piece of wonky deck-tech is Daxos. This guy is so close to being good…he can let you play your opponents cards, has a form of quasi evasion and a 2/2 for 3 mana is just a shade under the curve meaning he’s playable…sort of…but just not quite. However, suit him up with a Bestow creature and suddenly he becomes far more interesting and more of a nuisance. He can outclass 2 drops meaning your opponent will need to block with multiple creatures (which always feels bad) or have you start nabbing stuff off the top of their deck. Perhaps it says something about the sort of player I am, but I really, really, REALLY enjoy beating up my opponent with their own creatures and spells.
The second piece of truly bizarre deck choice is Fated Retribution. 7 mana board wipes are completely unplayable in 60 card decks right? Well, I for one am willing to give this one another lease of life. It’s actually a very powerful spell, and at Instant speed could really be back breaking. I’m willing to give this a try and see whether or not it can cut it.
Perplexing Chimera is another odd choice, but there’s no mistaking that the ability to switch owners of a spell is intriguing and the fact that it sits there as a threat, waiting to de-rail a spell is enough for me. I think this is a very funny card and really can shake things up as your opponent attempts to play around it.
Silent Sentinel is yet another odd choice but when you consider the context of the deck it quickly becomes apparent why he’s in this little build. Whenever he attacks you get to return an enchantment from your graveyard to your hand. This is quite a powerful ability when the bulk of the creatures in the deck are enchantment creatures. A 4/6 flier is also pretty handy even though he’s a greedy mana sync, but as a one of is quite reasonable.
Boonweaver Giant and Spectra Ward are my latest discoveries. This pair from M15 just scream “PUT ME IN AN ENCHANTMENT DECK!”. So I did. The absolute best part about this combo is that if you cast Boonweaver Giant you can tutor up Spectra Ward from almost ANYWHERE! Graveyard? Sure thing. How about in my hand? No Sweat! What about in my library? Go nuts! Then, once you get Boonweaver all paired up with Spectra Ward you have a 6/6 creature with protection from basically everything. It’s actually gross. Now people say “but it costs 7 mana!”…and I simply respond “it sure does…but when I’m digging up a 5 mana aura to attach to it, it’s like I’m casting 12 mana worth of spells and really only spending 7. That’s a bargain if I’ve ever heard one”. Besides, there are very few things that actually outclass a 6/6 creature with protection from EVERYTHING, 7 mana or not.
The last piece of truly bizarre deck-tech is the choice to run Pyxis of Pandemonium. This is usually a terrible card and something that you don’t really want to play…unless you’re simply using it as disruption to throw your opponent off their game plan. Many decks are developed to play a certain way and with a large number of Scry abilities want to set up their draw steps very carefully to maximize each and every time they draw. However, slide this card into your deck and just start screwing with their scrying and exile the top card of their library. You have no idea what you just exiled from their deck, but I bet they probably wanted it. As for this deck, with 28 permanents and 24 lands you don’t really care what gets exiled because when you sacrifice the Pyxis you’re reasonably assured to get most of it back. Besides, you’re playing a souped up draft deck with some bulk rares…who CARES what you exile…it can likely be replaced by something. I just think this card makes for a hilarious random game and just puts such a monkey wrench in the game plan of so many decks that I just need to find it a slot.
How does this deck fair? Well, as it is fairly experimental I haven’t had a chance to play it against too many people. I had one of my friends stop by to play one evening and the deck fared very well. The life gain that can be achieved by Bestowing a Hopeful Eidolon on something can really push a game and make it very difficult to dispatch this deck. Attach the Eidolon to something with Double Strike and things get even better. Also, the flexibility of having Bestow creatures actually lowers the curve where you can get out and play a number of smaller threats early and then later in the game, as you draw others, allows you to suit up one as you ready for the kill. Sea God’s Revenge is just a blow out waiting to happen and Voyage’s End is just a very versatile way of holding off an aggressive opponent. Is it a finely polished deck ready to take down a PTQ? No way…but as a cheap and fun casual brew I think it fits the bill and can do some funny things to keep things interesting.
Well, there we have yet another funny Casual Brew for you to test out at home. Give it a whirl…I’d love to know if you have the same success I’ve had. Also, go ahead and flip through that binder and see if there are any bulk rares you can use to spice up a deck. No one said that every deck you make HAS to be tier 1 competitive ready…sometimes brewing fun Casual decks like this can be just as fun.
Well thanks for reading and until next time, keep it fun, keep it safe…keep it casual.
by Bruce Gray – Casual Encouters @bgray8791
by Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
Since I started writing for Three Kings Loot back in February I’ve highlighted a fair number of decks. The one thing that most of these decks have in common is that I would describe them all as being “budget” decks. This means that I am interested in trying to find a relatively inexpensive way to build a deck that is still powerful and presents a number of problems for my opponents. These decks aren’t usually Tier 1 competitive decks, but they can surprise someone who underestimates what the deck can do. Today, I’m going to showcase some budget substitutions that will allow you to build your own budget deck and help you to keep your cost down. We’ll look at land, creatures, and lastly other spells in an effort to briefly touch on all the key elements of your very own budget deck.
If you routinely stop by here on The Bag of Loot you know that I have a thing for land. Basically Magic is entirely dependent on the land you draw. I don’t care how many awesome spells you have in your library, if you don’t have the land to cast them you are likely sunk (unless you’re playing Legacy/Vintage in which it seems possible to play with no land). Without access to the correct land it doesn’t matter what spells you have, you’re likely to lose. As a result, this is one of the few areas where you really can’t skimp too much. You can use things like Guildgates and Life Gain lands from Zendikar if you aren’t fussy on format, but most people want to play Standard. If you want to play Standard you need the lands. It becomes even MORE apparent in the realm of Modern where Fetches and such are super expensive. Bottom line, unless you play Casually and you and your friends don’t mind you mixing in different things, you’re probably on the hook for having the “right” land for your deck. Temples. Shocks. Mana Confluence. Nykthos. Guildgates. Pain Lands. There is a large variety of lands available, some more expensive than others, but if you want to play you need to get the right ones for you and your deck and cheaping out and just running basics just won’t cut it usually.
While you can’t cut corners on your land, you most certainly can make up ground with the suite of creatures you opt to run. Basically, at almost each and every converted mana cost along the curve you can run a variety of choices. Now, the creatures that are very expensive in a given format are expensive because they are the optimal creature for that converted mana cost in that colour. That doesn’t mean that alternatives don’t exist. These alternatives are typically much cheaper and can help keep your cost down. Don’t believe me? Let’s look at a few examples.
Let’s start with Stormbreath Dragon. 4/4 flying for 5 mana and has haste, protection from white, and a Monstrosity ability. There’s no doubt this is a premium creature and well worth the $15 a card you’ll pay as a single. However, there are other options available to you if you really wanted to run a creature at the 5 spot that was more inexpensive. Hypersonic Dragon is the same 4/4 with haste and 5 mana (although a blue and red are part of its casting) meaning it could fit the bill. Scourge of Valkas from M14 fits those stats pretty well too and is still a dragon. Both of these options are red, can fill the same hole in your deck and cost you significantly less in terms of money to pick up.
Blood Baron of Vizkopa is another 5 mana creature, this one is 4/4 with protection from white and black, lifelink, and can trigger some ridiculous bonus if you have enough life, or your opponent is running low on life. Some other options at 5 cmc are Serra Angel (which is unexciting, but still perfectly viable), Keepsake Gorgon, and Celestial Archon. These are all very playable at five and are even in Black and White so they can hold a spot in your deck. Don’t let me fool you…Blood Baron is the optimal choice, but if you’re budget is tight, these guys are viable options.
Polukranos a 4 mana for 5/5 hydra with a ridiculous Monstrosity ability. This one is tough to replace because 5/5 for 4 mana AND has an ability is pretty ridiculous. However, there are a few options available like Deadbridge Goliath. This is probably the closest from a statistical standpoint, and isn’t a bad card and makes a suitable alternative. If you can splash another colour, Reaper of the Wilds is another solid option and much cheaper as well. A 4/5 for 4 mana is pretty close and the abilities on it make it a tricky critter to deal with…and costs a fraction of what Polukranos costs.
Soldier of the Pantheon– The aggro decks out there are not immune from having some pricey cards too. Soldier of the Pantheon is a $2 card that is a 2/1 for 1 mana. There is no doubt that they are an optimal 1 drop to kick start your beatdown with an aggro deck, but $8 for four 1 mana creatures leaves me scratching my head and my wallet empty. You could opt instead to run Favoured Hoplite or Satyr Hoplite, both 1 drops that can lead the beat down band wagon for you in place of the Soldier. They need a little more work than the Soldier, but with their Heroic triggers might give you a bigger beat stick with which to bring the pain. If you really wanted the 2/1 for 1 you can instead turn to RTR block and grab the Dryad Militant as an inexpensive option.
Boon Satyr – This super awesome 4/2 for 3 mana is a staple in Green decks, but can also Bestow for a very reasonable 5 mana…oh…and has flash. There is really nothing else that approaches this level of versatility, explosive damage, and just being down right nasty to play against. No wonder it’s $1.50 a card. However, you could run Feral Invocation if you were looking for the Flash aura effect. If you wanted the Flash effect on a creature, Briarpack Alpha probably comes closest as a 3/3 for 4 mana and a fun Enter the Battlefield trigger.
Brimaz, King of Oreskos– King Kitty is a huge threat at 3 mana and the abilities packed on him are just full on value…no wonder he’s $20 a card. However, if you wanted a card with just about as much devastating punch, Fabled Hero runs you about a $1 and packs double strike and heroic. Things can get out of control very quickly with our Hero…and the extra money you saved will bring a smile to your face as well.
Now, these are just some suggestions for substitutes in your deck to help keep the cost down. All the substitutions have significant drawbacks compared to the optimal creatures in the deck. I fully admit that a Serra Angel doesn’t stack up with Blood Baron very well, and that Fabled Hero is a poor substitute for King Kitty. However, if you’re wallet can’t handle the $80 to pick up a playset of Brimaz, Fabled Hero can do in a pinch.
Spells are a little tougher to replace. The super expensive spells and staples of a format are that way because they don’t have a substitute…or at least not exactly. The thing is spells don’t leave behind a body that can be utilized after they have been cast, so you need the impact of the spell itself to be pretty terrific. However, there are a few options for some of the spells.
Thoughtseize– This Legacy playable piece of hand disruption just crushes decks by stripping away all the most important pieces of your opponent’s hand. It really is crippling…and it is going to be in rotation for another 14 months! Yikes. However, at $20 a card is a little steep. Duress is probably the closest option and is regularly reprinted. It is a little more limited in terms of what it hits, but let’s be honest, you are almost always going to take an instant or sorcery spell from your opponent because you can find other answers in your deck to deal with creatures and planeswalkers. So, Duress is a reasonable substitute. Brain Maggot is another possible route, and it even gives you a body. Sin Collector is the last option, but for 3 mana is significantly slower and not as optimal.
Supreme Verdict- Premium 4 mana wrath effects are always key to a control player’s strategy. Supreme Verdict really has no equal because it also can’t be countered…meaning that you hit it and your opponent cries every time as they watch their board disappear. However, at $8 a card this can burn a hole pretty quickly in your wallet. The only REAL option is Planar Cleansing…but it’s a 6 mana sorcery…which feels kind of yucky. Fated Retribution is another option…but it’s 7 mana (although thankfully at instant speed). These can do in a pinch if you really want to play the control game, but you may have to alter you game strategy because you’ll need to get to at least 6 mana to have either of those spells come online.
Sphinx’s Revelation- Ok, there is no equal to this card. Mass card draw AND life gain is a Control player’s dream come true. However, the most important piece is always the card draw because it gives you access to more resources. Divination is the cleanest way to get access to some of the card drawing power of Sphinx’s Revelation, but Jace’s Ingenuity from M15 will be another option that draws 3 cards for 5 mana at least at instant speed meaning you can jam it on your opponent’s turn. After that, you can play poorer spells like Inspiration, or the more expensive Opportunity, but you’re still longing to get a Sphinx’s Revelation and run it.
Hero’s Downfall- Instant speed spot removal of creatures AND Planeswalkers is huge. However, Black has lots of good removal right now ranging from Ultimate Price to Bile Blight to Doom blade. This means that Black decks should have no issue dealing with creatures…pick your removal spell of choice and go to work. Planeswalkers are tougher, but you can always resort to fighting them directly which always gives you at least one option.
Planeswalkers- I have no substitute for a Planeswalker. Honestly, they represent 3 (or 4) potential different spells and abilities that you just can’t replace in your deck. You can try but prioritizing which of the abilities are most pertinent to you and your deck and substituting for cards that recreate that effect, but you still need to pay for it while the Planeswalker can replicate that effect for free turn after turn. No, there’s no real option to playing these guys if you want to emulate a Tier 1 deck, but lots of decks can also run just fine without a Planeswalker (just look at Mono-Black Devotion decks that typically run no Planeswalkers).
Well, there we have some options to help limit the damage done to your bank account while still allowing you to play and have fun with some solid decks. Of course the options available go up significantly when you start shifting formats from Standard to Modern, but so do the price tags on the optimal cards. I hope this was helpful to you guys and that it gives you a few options to go out and brew some of your own decks using some of these alternative pieces.
Thanks for reading and until next time Keep it fun, keep it safe…keep it casual.
Bruce Gray @bgray8791