Hi again everyone and welcome back to another Casual Encounter! With Battle for Zendikar being out and now legal in Standard, there has been an explosion of decks being built. Brewers of all stripes have sat down and put their thoughts together to make a pile of sweet new decks. I have been in the process of building some of my own new decks, but instead of eyeing playing tier 1 Standard decks I’m looking to build decks to play casually. I’ve always had some unspoken guidelines that I’ve kept in mind when building these decks, but I’ve never actually sat down and laid them all out in front of me. Today I have compiled my personal top ten commandments for building my casual decks and will share them with you. At the end, if you have any others that you feel should be added or things that don’t work for you, leave a message or send me a tweet and let me know!
Let’s clear up a few things before we get started. When I say “casual” I’m talking about any time you just sit down with a buddy or two on a Saturday night and just jam a few games. You are playing Magic, but not with an express interest in winning (although winning is fun). You are looking to enjoy the company of your friends and have games of Magic where something interesting, surprising, or intriguing happens. So, if your deck is too powerful, or too weak, your experience is just not going to be as good because you will either dominate or get run over and your games will run out of steam. Neither experience lends itself to fun game play. So, when trying to build a deck I try to follow as many of these rules as I can. Without further ado let’s check out The Ten Commandments of Casual Deck Construction.
10) Thou shalt build a deck that is good…but not too good. Playing the oppressive tournament winning deck is no fun for your friends. It’s ok to have this built and to play it once in a while, but if this is your go-to deck you will quickly find that your friends lose interest or don’t like to play against that deck. Pull it out and play a game or two with your scary good tournament deck, but then put it back in your deck box and grab something else.
9) Thou shalt look for synergy over raw power. Synergistic decks are always more fun and can be deceivingly powerful. Once you get the momentum going you are hard to derail and can be capable of some pretty explosive things. One such example of a synergistic deck that is perfect for Casual play are Simic decks featuring the Evolve mechanic and lots of +1/+1 counters. The Simic deck can be slow to get going, but once you get that Zegana or Master Biomancer up to speed your deck gets hard to handle. Decks featuring somewhat obscure or tricky combos like Sanguine Bond/Exquisite Blood are other great examples of where synergy can totally take over a game, but the deck doesn’t need to ruin the experience for everyone..
8) Thou shalt play those janky bulk rares. Those terrible, unplayable cards can give you much joy and give everyone a good laugh because no one thought they would see play…ever. I’m looking at you Felhide Spiritbinder and Blessed Reincarnation. These sorts of cards can do powerful things if you are prepared to actually play them…sometimes with unintended consequences…and that always makes for great stories. Don’t be gun shy, just run’em. You’ll see.
7) Thou shalt remember that commons and uncommons are your friends. Most Casual players have boxes of commons and uncommons that just sort of sit around and don’t do very much. However, these very playable cards can be leveraged into good value during a game if you are committed to running them. A couple of recent examples are the uncommons from Fate Reforged like Elite Scaleguard, Temur Sabretooth, and Mistfire Adept that can be very powerful but often get overlooked in constructed in favor of just more raw power. Kitchen Table Magic is the perfect place for these to flourish.
6) Thou shalt play an imperfect mana base and that is okay. Really, it’s O-K. No one expects you to have all the most current dual lands / fetch lands / creature lands / make rainbows & skittles fly out of their back side lands. Plus it is way cheaper. WAY cheaper !!!
5) Thou shalt play seven mana (or bigger) spells and not even blink twice. I think this is self explanatory.
4) Thou shalt play expensive, but useful creature destruction. We all know how removal has changed over time. Long gone are Terror, Dark Banishing, Swords to Plowshares and Path to Exile. Instead we get much more conditional removal that is either slower (at sorcery speed), more narrow (like Ultimate Price) or just plain expensive like Spiteful Blow & Pinion Feast that tack on an extra effect. There is actually an incentive to play these less mana efficient cards outside of Limited when you head on to the Casual game. The extra ability (that usually makes the spell so expensive to cast) actually can help your deck do what it wants to do. I always use the example of Spiteful Blow in a deck with a fair amount of land destruction because now you get a 2 for 1 out of this spell that plays into the theme of your deck. Pinion Feast is fine removal in a deck looking to leverage lots of +1/+1 counters. Would I be clambering to play a full playset of these things? No. But there is a place for 1 or 2 of the more unusual spells. Besides to play a million copies of Hero’s Downfall is expensive and not fun.
3) Thou shalt play unusual artifacts. Hello Pixis of Pandemonium.
2) Thou shalt play answers to a little of everything. Since you really don’t get a chance to sideboard you need to play an answer to most sorts of things. Creature destruction obviously, but artifact and enchantment removal are key too. You can slide in some counter spells. No opponent wants to be locked out of the game on account of counter magic, but they do have their place. This takes up more card slots and increases your variance, but variance can make for fun game states with someone having the surprise answer in hand that can swing the whole game around.
1) Thou shalt remember that it is just a game and that you are paying for fun.
Notice I don’t say you can’t play this, that, or the other thing. Anything goes. Provided that your deck is mindful of things like your opponents and having a fun and interactive game, you can play that Ugin or Karn. You can go all aggro if you want, but maybe not quite as aggro as the winning deck at the last big tournament. You can do anything you like, but remember that you are playing for fun. Giving some consideration to the other players will help make your experience far more enjoyable for everyone.
Here’s an example of a deck I have built that fits many of these rules and would be an excellent example of a good casual deck:
So, let’s look at the number of commandments I’ve hit on with this list. It’s not just rares (#10), relies mostly on synergy (#9), plays a couple of janky rares (Foul Renewal for sure)(#8), has lots of commons and uncommons (#7), the mana base is a long way from being flashy or perfect (#6), and answers to a range of things (#2). That’s quite the number of goals that I’ve met and I have no doubt that the deck would fare just fine in a match with some friends. I’ve been toying around with this in the play rooms on MTGO and have seen some reasonable success by giving as good as it gets. More importantly, no one is going to look at this deck and just balk. It’s respectable, has a chance to win every time, and is looking to interact and make the game fun for everyone. It’s not a fancy deck, but it showcases many of the ideas I have been trying to illustrate.
Have I missed anything? Is there anything on my list you don’t agree with? Let me know. There are loads of people out there who play casually and I would love to hear what other people do as they sit down to make up their decks. So, leave me a message or fire me a tweet and let know.
Thanks very much for stopping by for a read. Until next time have yourself a great MTG day and I’ll talk to you guys next time!
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter
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!
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Fate Reforged pre-release will introduce special promo ‘Time Shifted Cards’. During the event you get to pick your Tarkir Clan and will also receive a special ‘Ugin’s Fate” booster pack which contains a Token, a Land card and certain amount of ‘Time Shifted Cards’ from a pool of 40 holo foil stamped cards with alternate art which demonstrates how the plane of Tarkir has changed. The PAX Australia panel showcased three of these cards.