One of my favorite things about playing Magic is that with over 20 years of cards available there are many options and obscure cards that are available to help fill out a deck. Sure, in some formats your choices are limited, but when you play casually you have countless options. The only catch is that the very best cards are super expensive and hard to come by, and then may not even help you win. However there are plenty of perfectly viable cards that cost a fraction of the money that often perform just as well as their more expensive cousins. Today I’m going to share a list of some very useful cards that are currently super cheap that should help in keeping your casual brews under budget and yet still fun to play.
I’m going start with some cards from Theros because it is a much-maligned set that many overlook for being able to offer anything interesting. I think this perception is a little misplaced for the simple inclusion of the Scry Lands. These are likely one of the most balanced land cycles I have come across and have a huge amount of utility in Casual games. They help fix your mana, but come into play tapped which is a fair trade off. This is certainly a drawback but they also allow you to Scry 1, which is hugely beneficial. That simple Scry 1 can allow you to help smooth out your draws in the early, mid, or late game and all the while helping to ensure that you are able to produce both colours of mana. The design itself is so clean that it really is remarkable and the ability seems so minor, but yet can be so crucial. To make matters better you can use all sorts of cards to eke extra value out of them like perhaps playing one of the Ravnica “bounce” lands, or a Kor Skyfisher. Furthermore, since essentially everything from Theros was so widely printed, the prices on these have fallen to precipitously-low levels. Many of these are available on Three Kings Loot for between $0.99 (CDN) and $2.99 (CDN) making them very modestly-priced and a real solid pickup.
Prognostic Sphinx is another very solid card for your Casual games as a 3/5 flier with Hexproof if you discard a card. A 3/5 Flying body that is able to protect itself quite inexpensively is a very solid addition and this could see plenty of play in many decks, particularly some sort of Grixis-coloured deck with a number of Madness-themed cards, but it can see application in any deck playing Blue. The real asset is the Scry 3 that is triggered when it attacks. This can really generate some significant value and make your deck operate extremely smoothly because Scry 3 offers you tons of control over the top of your deck. To make matters better, we are talking about essentially a bulk Rare at $0.49 (CDN) meaning that he costs you less that a cup of coffee. I call that some good value.
Another very sweet addition to Casual decks playing White is a little common from M15. M15 was largely a poor set with only a few truly interesting cards that might still see play, but Heliod’s Pilgrim is a tremendous little find. In my 4+ years playing MTG again I have seen plenty of games won on the back of a terrible Aura that people just can’t remove or interact with profitably. Well, if you have a casual deck with a potent aura hidden somewhere, Heliod’s Pilgrim acts like the ideal tutor. It it even leaves behind a body making it a very useful Tutor on a stick and an upgrade over Idyllic Tutor (that runs a very pricey $19.99). It is no Enlightened Tutor, but Enlightened Tutor is a $15 card while you can get the Pilgrim for a cool $0.20 (CDN). A bargain basement pickup if there ever was one.
There are a number of other totally innocuous cards from Eldritch Moon and that are well-worth keeping an eye on. The first is Grapple with the Past which can serve as an extremely versatile and potent “Regrowth” type effect. We have seen time and time again that self mill strategies can be extremely potent and in the Commander 2015 product there was a B/G Meren of Clan Nel Toth deck that looked to exploit its graveyard for extensive value. However, many of the Self-Mill cards recently printed reveal a certain number of cards and you select the required card, if it is among the revealed cards, and put it in your hand. (e.g. Mulch or Grisly Salvage). However, Grapple with the Past goes into a much different range in that after you dump the cards in your yard you can select a creature or a land card from your graveyard, not just from the cards that were revealed. Meaning, that as a late game play, once your yard has been filled up, you get to cherry pick the very best thing your graveyard has to offer. Now, the original version of this sort effect is Regrowth and was last reprinted in a regular set in Revised (but it has been printed in a number of supplemental products recently) and can be found available for anywhere between $1.15 and $9 (CDN) depending on your version. Grapple with the Past is a little more limited but can be found for a mere $0.37 at Three Kings Loot to help keep the old pocket book in check. In a world with many “value” creatures Grapple with the Past is a very effective option and is a considerable discount over some of the alternatives.
Another card to keep your eye on is Splendid Reclamation. I think everyone is aware that this card has the potential to be truly broken given the right circumstances. Personally I have been truly astounded to find myself in a situation in numerous decks where I have either purposefully or inadvertently discarded, milled, or generally had lands destroyed and end up in my graveyard. Splendid Reclamation does an amazing job of getting you all those lands back and essentially acting as a gigantic ramp spell. To my mind it is at its best in a self-milling strategy, but I could make a case for it in plenty of other situations as well. However, once you start to see a bunch of lands end up in your graveyard, this is the perfect way to jump from having 4-8 land to having something like 10-12 lands in a single spell. While you may not win the game on the spot on account of Splendid Reclamation, the truth is that you are now in a much more advantageous position because you have the ability to cast far more spells. Add in the fact that this recently-printed rare is languishing at a mere $1.25(CDN) and you’re talking about a real bargain for something that could result in you having the upper hand at your next casual game.
The final card that I have for you all is yet another common, but this time from Kaladesh. I have to say that I was astounded to find this card looking at me in my pre-release kit because I always figure this sort of effect is printed at uncommon or higher. However, for a mere 3 mana (2 generic and a Black) you get a Fortuitous Find, a modal card to allow you to potentially regrow TWO targets. The obvious first mode is to regrow a creature, that is very easy to predict, however the option to get back a potential artifact could be a hugely powerful play in the late game. I can well imagine a situation where you have landed an early piece of equipment or a strong Artifact creature (think a Gearhulk) and it gets destroyed by a well timed piece of artifact hate. To have the chance to regrow both your best creature target AND an artifact is potentially backbreaking. We all know that in many casual games your opponent can likely deal with your best threats the first time, but it is the ability to recur that threat a number of times that is truly the key asset and Fortuitous Find is a super cost-effective way to add that element of recursion to your deck.
Well, those are a few things to add a little versatility and to make you a little more resilient when you start losing threats to the removal of your opponents. There are plenty of great cards to help players of any budget, so I encourage you to go out and try a broad range of cards and see if you too can’t find a few highly effective budget options to help bring some versatility to your decks. By all means, if you find something fun and inexpensive share that with me here because I’d love to hear about a sweet new (or old) tech out there to spice up my next Casual game.
As always, thanks for stopping to read and be sure to stop in again next time for another Casual Encounter.
*Editor’s note: As with any discussion about prices, it’s important to remember that they’re always subject to change.
Ah, the prerelease. The first time we get to play with those shiny new cards. It’s also one of the few times of the year that we get to play Sealed deck (which may or may not be an exciting prospect, depending on your tastes.) Eh, whatever––just hope for a bomb.
If you’ve never been to a prerelease before or just want a refresher, here are some quick tips, tricks, and suggestions for having a good time!
You’ve probably already checked out the spoiler, but it never hurts to go a little deeper. Consider the strengths of the colors, the possible synergies, the cards you’d be thrilled to open and the cards you’d rather not see. For instance, if you made a vampire deck, it might help to consider a hypothetical ratio of discard enablers to madness spells. This helps for faster and better deck construction.
Sealed deck, more so than draft, is a bomb driven format. A bomb is basically a card that, if unanswered, will win you the game by itself. Think Archangel Avacyn, Arlinn Kord, Sigarda, Heron’s Grace–those kinds of cards.
A word of warning: don’t be deceived by rarity. Despite the above examples, a rare (or even a mythic rare) does not a bomb make. Altered Ego is a great example. Sure, it’s a big, splashy spell with a unique effect, and it’s rare. But is it the kind of card that’s going to win you the game all by itself? Eh, probably not.
I see a lot of new players showing up for prereleases, which is outstanding. I think it’s because prereleases are generally a little less intimidating than, say, Modern tournaments. People are usually pretty laid back about the whole thing.
That said, I still see experienced players being totally unforgiving at prereleases. They just roll the new players and then walk away.
Am I saying that you should let the new player win? No, absolutely not. You paid good money to play, so you absolutely have the right to play hard and win. Furthermore, if you let the inexperienced player win, they’re not really learning how to play and they’re not getting any better.
However, if you notice that your opponent made a huge mistake in games one and two, you can definitely try to give a little advice. A lot of new players will appreciate it. You can say something like, “Hey, I’ve found that this works pretty well,” or, “I tried doing this and I love it.” Sometimes it’s tough to give advice without sounding like a know-it-all, but it can make a huge difference.
Maybe this is just a pet peeve, but packaging always seems to gravitate toward the middle of the table, where it clumps and turns into a gigantic mess for the store owners to clean up. You might say, “Who cares? They can just throw it out.” And sure, they can. But remember that these people are giving you a place to play Magic every week, and that they work long hours for not a whole lot.
Do them a favor. Show your appreciation by walking to the trash can and throwing out the wrappers. It’s not that hard.
I think this one’s pretty self-explanatory. Magic is the best game there is––but it’s still just a game. Just go and have some fun. If you win, you win, and if you lose, you lose. The most important part is having a good time.
Have any amazing prerelease stories? Did you flip your Westvale Abbey into Ormendahl? Did you make a successful investigate deck? Did you kill someone with Triskaidekaphobia? Tell us your prerelease story in the comments below!
by Bruce Gray
This is going to be a bit of a departure for me. Usually I spit out some new janky brews, or crack a pack and check out the art. Today I am going to focus on how we, as players, treat each other when we play and why we can’t avoid being salty when we lose. I’m not going to propose any great solutions, but I hope to provide a little food for thought and perhaps urge each of us to be just a little kinder when we sit down to play. I think a little Magic the Gathering etiquette is order.
In one of the many online forums that I routinely check out I came across the story of a player out at his local LGS on the weekend. They were playing in a Standard tournament of some sorts and he was playing Dark Jeskai, one of the premiere decks of the format right now. His opponent was on some sort of a home brew and took game 1. However, the player on the Dark Jeskai deck side boarded correctly for the match-up and won games 2 and 3. At the the end of the match the losing player said some hurtful things and really demonstrated their “salt”. Now, for those new to Magic, “salt” is the common term given to being particularly unhappy and/or grouchy about the eventual outcome of the game. It could be anything from some sour comments, refusing to shake hands, telling your opponent that they were lucky, insults, to name a few.
Now, I hardly know the player who was insulted at the end of the match but I felt like the story proved to be a very interesting exchange if only because it seemed so unwarranted. Sure, we’ve all been a little salty at times, but the exchange recounted by this player seemed like it crossed the line and it got me thinking. Why DO we say such things to each other?
The simple answer is because we are emotional creatures. Humans are defined by our emotions and how we choose to control them. Some people cry when they get emotional. Others get angry. Yet more laugh. Other people do all three, or do none and do something totally different. But we as humans all have emotions and we use these emotions to help us when we act. We can funnel those emotions into energy and heightened states of alertness. We can use those emotions to help us better understand the grief of our family and friends in times of great turmoil. Our emotions can be hugely powerful and immensely useful to us and one of the most important elements in each of our personalities.
However, to claim that we say mean and hurtful things to each other simply on account of our emotions does not do us enough credit. We can control our emotions and harness those powers when it suits us. Heck, as a teacher, I spend a good portion of my day helping young people channel their emotions to help with their learning and to learn how to treat each other in a respectful way. So, I refuse to accept that we let our emotions get the better of us when we play Magic when all day we keep those emotions in check while at school, at work, and even at play. So, what is different about playing Magic that we see and experience such negative sportsmanship?
My personal belief is that people get so emotionally and intellectually invested in Magic that they lose their filter and ability to control their emotions. The process of building a deck, any deck, and then taking it out to play against others is an intensely cerebral activity. We all like to think of ourselves as clever and that we have found that secret mix to make our prized deck that champion deck. Because it is so intensely cerebral and an environment where you essentially pit your wits against theirs there is a strong element of pride inherent in any match. When your deck fails to allow you to conquer the problem at hand, namely defeating your opponent, you feel betrayed and deeply wounded. And the closer you perceive the match up, the more the wound hurts.
So, after we’ve got the cerebral and intellectual component of Magic out of the way there are a few other factors that can push a player towards engaging in some pretty unsavoury behaviour. Once you sprinkle in a little competition, some variance, and more than a healthy dose of stress in a tournament things can really get out of control. The combination of all these elements, along with the intellectual challenge of the game, and suddenly you have a very volatile situation that is just ripe for some salty exchanges. Now, we have heard horror stories from sports where many of these same factors can impact the participants, but the one thing missing from Magic is the adrenaline rush from an athletic pursuit can produce. However, even without the massive adrenaline rush Magic has many of the same elements to produce some really nasty exchanges. If you’ve been around this game long enough you have probably experienced some.
Now, as someone who is on the receiving end of one of these exchanges you have a couple of options. You could take the bait and engage in the same salty behaviour right back. However, name calling and insulting one another has never been a very good solution to solving anything. You need to recognize that your opponent is experiencing a mix of all these variables all at once and isn’t controlling his or her emotions very well at the moment. By not reacting to the exchange or by letting your opponent know that it really isn’t necessary to take this in the direction they are taking it would allow the exchange to end as soon as possible. Perhaps having a chance to speak with them later might yield better results, particularly if you are in a smaller environment like an LGS. If you feel very strongly about it you could speak to a member of the judge staff or store owner and see if they can help. You might find that the player in question is guilty of this regularly and steps can be taken to address.
The long and the short of it is that you need to treat that disrespect with the respect that the person deserves regardless of how they are behaving at the moment. That’s hard. I know. I spent 20 years refereeing ultra competitive hockey and to have people yell obscenities in my face day in and day out was tough to take, but sinking to their level helps exactly no one. Treating their disrespect with respect does not make it ok to engage in salty behaviour and you are not endorsing it, but what you are doing is not making a bad situation worse. It goes against all our instincts to sit there and take it and try to be reasonable, but in the long run it is ultimately what is going to make this ugly situation come to a conclusion more quickly and let you get back on with trying to enjoy your Magic experience that day.
I like to believe that most people are inherently reasonable and that if we ask those reasonable people to try and reflect on their actions they will usually come around. If you are one of those people who tends to get on the salty side I am going to ask that you keep a few things in mind before you say something. I am going to ask that you remember that Magic is ultimately a game. It is played for fun. Sure, there are times when the stakes are higher, but at its core Magic is a game designed to be fun for both players. If you feel like you need to say something that is going to be insulting or derogatory towards your opponent remember that they are a human being, just like you, and they have feelings and may not be appreciative of whatever hurtful comment you are about to make. If you have said something that is hurtful or intended to hurt them then you are in the process of ruining their experience and their fun, something that you have absolutely no right to do. Go outside, vent to your friends, take a walk down to the corner store and buy a bottle of water, but don’t sit there and ruin their event too. I know, it’s so tempting to say something and try and stick it to them. Those competitive juices make you want to get that last word in edgewise, but the effect on your opponent, and Magic as a whole, can be very negative. Sure, maybe they slough it off, but maybe they can’t. You owe it to them to bite your tongue and move on.
Of course at the end of the day you can only control your own actions. If you run into someone who is a little salty it is your own actions that will dictate how the exchange will be in the end. You will ultimately come out ahead if you let them say what they want and then let them move on. If they can’t hurt you because you have your own “shields” up then they can’t touch you and it is easy to treat that disrespect with respect. Don’t give them the satisfaction of being hurt by that thing they just said. Should they be behaving like that? No. Not a chance. But by not taking the bait you have only made the situation worse. No, bite your tongue and don’t let “that guy” spoil your fun.
Thanks for taking the time to stop in and have a read. Like I said at the start, I don’t really have an answer or an ultimate solution. However, hopefully if even one player reads this and takes pause to reconsider what they say when they play then I have helped a little bit. It’s no fun to have someone get all salty with you and no one should really have to put up with it. Let’s see if we can all help make our MTG communities a little bit better for everyone. Let’s show a little Magic the Gathering etiquette amongst our colleagues and fellow players.
Take care and be sure to stop by next time for another Casual Encounter.
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter