Welcome back looters! After a week of being all pensive I wanted to write about something a little lighter. I just wanted to crack a pack, see what we found, and then see if we can make a fun little brew that might get a few of you excited. Once again, my guidelines for the deck are that I need to use as many cards from the pack as I can, that it needs to be standard legal, and it needs to be pretty budget conscious. Seems simple right? We’ll let’s see what we have found here today and what we can brew up.
What struck me about this pack is a pretty interesting uncommon. Ulvenwald Mysteries is a powerful card advantage engine that has served me very well in limited. The thought has occurred that it might be a decent addition to a constructed deck, so I immediately was intrigued by the possibilities of this card. This pack also had a pair of powerful werewolves in the Geier Reach Bandit and the Breakneck Rider that wants to push me into red. With a few other little role players in the pack playing some sort of R/G werewolves deck seems very playable and pretty interesting.
Ok, so I need to use the Sanguinary Mage, the Magmatic Chasm and the Stoic Builder, which are a little disappointing. The Magmatic Chasm is a useful way to push through some damage with a pile of aggressive werewolves. The mage is just filler but could be a relevant early play. I like the idea of the Stoic Builder because I could play a little fixing and see if I can’t get access to a third colour. If I slam a bunch of Warped Landscape or Evolving Wilds in the deck I could use them early to get the land drops I need, but in the latter stages I could get them back with the Builder and reuse them to splash a third colour for something like a Fevered Visions. That seems like a reach, but might be worth it. There really isn’t anything else in this pack that is on colour, but some of the white cards seem like useful combat tricks.
The rest of this deck is going to be mostly red and green werewolves like Duskwatch Recruiter and Hinterland Logger. My plan is to be pretty creature heavy as a way to trigger Ulvenwald Mysteries as often as possible for extra cards and for human tokens to help plug up the board the short term. Here’s the list.
I’m not going to lie, playing Fevered Visions is just pure greed in a deck like this, but I can’t help myself . The combination of a fixed Howling Mine and a Black Vise is too good to turn up and if I can create access to the mana then I see no reason why not. Also, with the sheer number of creature spells in this deck I am really interested in the Duskwatch Recruiter as a form of card advantage to be activated on my opponent’s turn. I’m not quite sure what the math works out to on hit hitting, but I feel like the odds are very high when over ⅓ of your deck is creature cards.
The deck feels unbelievably janky…and is totally something I am keen to build and run. However, there is a slight twist that I thought about that would be just hilarious. Has anyone else noticed that Ghirapur Aether Grid is still legal in Standard? So, how’s this for a little twist to this deck. You drop the two Howlpack Resurgence and the two Cult of the Waxing Moon and sub in four Ghirapur Aether Grid with an eye towards having your creatures die in combat and then using the Clue tokens to power up the Aether Grid as an alternative way to get the win? Honestly, how many creatures need to die before you’re leveraging those Clue tokens pretty handily? I would wager 4 to 6 creatures need to die, but let’s be real, many of these creatures are there to die in combat so I would be happy to see them perish in exchange for Clue Tokens that can be weaponized. Those tokens represent cards in the mid part of the game if I need to draw answers, but make for a hilarious win condition if you need to go that route. Here is version 2.0 of this list!
Now, neither of these lists are very competitive and would not be something I would trundle out to play with anything real on the line, but as a kitchen table deck this looks and feels like it is just hilarious. I’ve already started assembling the parts to piece together version 2.0 because I want the Aether Grid kill. I figure if you can get someone that way, even at a kitchen table, that you have unlocked some sort of achievement. The rest of the deck is essentially a massive pile of creatures that I want to turn sideways.
The one piece that is truly missing from this deck is access to a Moonmist effect that would allow me to flip my werewolves on command. However, the Moonmist werewolf deck is coming for an upcoming deck list as I update my Modern-legal werewolves deck from our first visit to Innistrad. It is shaping up to be a pretty fun update with some very fun new additions to help spice up the list.
Well that’s it for today. I’m pretty excited to try the Ghirapur aether grid version of this deck out in a couple of weeks when I sit down to play a few games with a friend of mine. I’m under no illusion that it is actually good, but I would love to get someone with clue tokens. If nothing else I hope these lists get you excited to build something for yourself. I suppose that is the reason I love to crack a pack one in a while…to see what new options can exist and what new and strange decks I can cobble together.
Thanks for stopping by and having a read. Be sure to stop by next time for another Casual Encounter.
@bgray8791 on Twitter
With the recent release of Shadows Over Innistrad, there’s been a lot of talk about the new Standard format, and how the changes will affect things moving forward. As someone who vastly prefers to play limited, a new set release means one thing to me: New Draft Format! I think WotC has done an incredible job with the limited design of this set as it’s both fun to draft and fun to play.
Last week, the very talented JP Vazquez cracked some packs and did a great job at outlining the general thought process that goes into pack 1 of drafts. He also touched on some more general thoughts on the format the week before, and I highly recommend reading both of those articles before continuing on here. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.
Great! Now that you’re caught up, I wanted to talk about an archetype that I’ve been having a lot of fun and success with so far, Green White. GW was one of the most aggressive archetypes in original Innistrad, (largely because of how busted Travel Preparations turned out to be), and I was excited to see that it continues to be quite powerful in SOI. Although there aren’t any absurd two-coloured cards rewarding you for being in GW this time around (insane mythics notwithstanding), I find that I am often pulled into these colours during the draft.
I have found that my GW decks have all been fairly aggressive with 15-17 creatures, between 4-6 removal spells, and the odd pump spell and/or equipment thrown in for good measure. The fact that both Green and White have efficient removal spells at common and uncommon is a large part of the reason why the deck is so good.
Let’s take a look at the kind of GW deck I’ve had success with.
This is by no means an ideal list, and you’ll notice that it is mostly commons with very few uncommons. GW decks can certainly be far more impressive, but I’ve found that even an unassuming collection of commons like this can be quite powerful. Let’s talk about what makes the deck work.
Mana curve is one of the more important parts of this kind of deck, and finding two-drop creatures is definitely a priority. I’ve found that most of the common two-drops are fairly interchangeable, with Hinterland Logger and Quilled Wolf slightly ahead of the others. It’s really important to be able to apply early pressure with this kind of deck, so make sure you have enough early plays to do so.
There are a few choice uncommons that really take the deck to the next level, and Veteran Cathar is right up there. Being a two-drop is great, and allowing you to use your mana to make combat a nightmare later on makes him incredibly good in GW. It is important to have a reasonable human count to make him great, although I’ve found that you tend to get them fairly easily.
You may have noticed that the lone five-drop seems a little out of place in my example deck, but I included it because I wanted to talk about how great this card is. Although I have definitely kept him in the sideboard while building, more and more I’ve found I’m running him maindeck, because he makes it so much harder for your opponent to race you. A 2/5 reach is hard to get by, and being able to fog for a turn is surprisingly relevant when you’re racing. They also tend to go reasonably late, so picking one up shouldn’t be too difficult.
Prey Upon was one of the great commons in original Innistrad, and its slightly more expensive one-sided cousin picks up that mantle proudly. Yes, it’s sorcery speed, yes it can be disrupted, and yes it requires you to have a creature in play, but Green decks and GW decks in particular don’t really care about any of those drawbacks. The fact that it costs two mana means that by the time your opponent has played something you want to bite, you can do that as well as playing a two or three-drop creature to keep up the pressure. You do need to be careful about when you get your Chomp Chomp on, but it generally isn’t that hard to wait until your opponent taps out to start biting things. Blue and Red decks in particular have quite a few ways to disrupt this card, so do keep that in mind. All that being said, any functional GW deck wants as many of these as it can get.
Although this card is technically card disadvantage as it requires two of your cards to deal with one of your opponent’s, it turns out that mana-efficient unconditional removal is quite strong despite the drawback. It’s obviously not really something you want to play on turn three, but most games you want to save your removal for something truly difficult to deal with, so the drawback actually encourages you to be smart with your removal. It also does a reasonable job of enabling delirium, and the fact that it exiles is occasionally quite relevant as there are several creatures that like to come back from the dead. It can also deal with problem enchantments or artifacts, which is a nice option to have (although not one I find that I use all that often). It is worth noting that you don’t want infinite of these because the drawback is real, but I’ve found that two seems to be the perfect number.
This card deserves its own section, and let me tell you why. In a deck that naturally ends up with 8+ humans, this card is the real deal. Turning your dorks into real threats is huge, and the vigilance means that if they’re not trading with your idiots than they’re not attacking either. The nice thing, in theory, is that this card should be mediocre in most other decks, which means that it should be fairly easy to pick up. In practice, I find that they disappear much earlier than they should, and I would recommend grabbing one when you can (although obviously not over removal.) Gryff’s Boon is another card that’s great in GW aggro, although being an uncommon makes it harder to pick up.
I’ve had a lot of fun with this kind of deck so far, and highly recommend giving it a shot. Your priorities should be removal, then the first True-Faith Censer/Gryff’s Boon, then two-drops, then other creatures. Also, be sure to say “Chomp Chomp” when you cast Rabid Bite for maximum value.
@Erickson_Dan on Twitter
Culminating one of the best spoiler seasons in recent memory, Wizards has finally unveiled the complete set for Shadows Over Innistrad (SOI), which can be found here. The set looks absolutely phenomenal. Powerful cards at all rarity levels and flavour that’s off the charts. I have a feeling this will be one of the most bought, most talked about sets since the original Innistrad.
As always, with the arrival of a new set comes a new season of events, starting with this weekend’s Shadows Over Innistrad Prerelease! What is a Prerelease? It’s an event that allows players to jump into the new set one weekend before its official launch date. You’ll be able to purchase, play with and take home cards from SOI before anyone who hasn’t attended a Prerelease event. For that one glorious week, you get to be the object of envy and ire of all your Magic-playing friends who didn’t go to a Prerelease as you brazenly brandish your sweet new loot in their faces. MOO HOO HA HA!
Ahem… I mean… provided that gloating’s your thing, of course.
Before you can let that power get to your head, though, you’ll have to attend a Shadows Over Innistrad Prerelease event at your friendly Local Game Store (LGS)! You can sign up for a Prerelease event in-store or even online (provided your store has a website which allows you to do so). Smaller stores may have a limited number of spaces available, so you’ll want to sign up as early as possible if you want to take part in an event.
Prereleases are fun, exciting, and much more casual than almost any other Magic tournaments. There will predictably be some more competitive players that will have laboured over the card gallery prior to arriving hoping for that competitive edge, but those players will fortunately be in the minority. Most players at a Prerelease will be reading the cards for the first time at the event and discovering the set the same way you are: By playing at the Shadows over Innistrad Prerelease.
Everyone will be reading everyone else’s cards, everyone will inevitably be making mistakes, and everyone will be helping each other out as they navigate this return to Innistrad. If you’ve ever wrestled with the desire to dive into a more competitive environment but were unsure of when or how to start, I cannot recommend Prereleases any more than I already am. You should absolutely attend one.
Fellow Bag of Loot contributor Kyle A Massa wrote an article on Monday with some useful Prerelease advice to keep in mind should you decide to attend one. I would highly recommend checking out his article before continuing here.
In addition to Kyle’s tips, here are a few things I have found to work for me. These tricks have aided me for most Limited events: From Prereleases to FNM Drafts to Grand Prix. Keep in mind, you don’t have to do any of these, but I’ve certainly found that doing a few – if not all – of them make events much more enjoyable and much less stressful.
I’ve gotten into the habit of bringing my own Basic lands to Limited events which are already sleeved and ready to go. Bringing your own Basics allows you to forgo joining the mad rush at the land station which often resembles a travelling tour group at an All You Can Eat buffet.
Almost every LGS will have a land station with Basic lands ready for players but believe it or not, I’ve been to a few that didn’t. I’ve also been to LGSs that ran out of a certain land type. One of the reasons stores will run out of Basic lands is that people often forget to return them at the end of an event. Those stores have to refill the land station and sometimes they simply run out of Basics (unless players donate lands to them). Not only does bringing your own Basics help your LGS, not needing to return your Basics at the end of the event is one less thing you’ll have to remember to do before leaving.
Having your Basics pre-sleeved also cuts down on sleeving time and allows you more time to read your new cards during deck building. I often see newer players frantically sleeving their decks during the first five minutes of round one because they took the entire allotment of time during deck-building to read all their cards, build their deck, and figure out their mana base. With your Basics pre-sleeved, you only need to sleeve 22-23 cards instead of 40 and it makes an enormous difference.
Having your own Basics can be a form of personal expression as well. I know a number of players love their full art Basic lands. You can sleeve those and play with them at the Prerelease! Personally, I’ve been using foil Basics as my go-to Limited Basics. Inevitably, I’ll end up playing someone who asks: “Are your Basics foil?” Why, yes, yes they are. Thank you for noticing.
As a rule of thumb, I carry 12 of each Basic which means 60 in total. I keep them in their own dedicated deckbox. While there have been times when I’ve needed more than 12 of one particular type of Basic land, those times have been few and far between.
I’ve been to Prerelease events with anywhere between 4 to 6 rounds plus the time it takes for deck building, (which is usually anywhere between 30-45 minutes). Roughly speaking, you’re looking at a 4-5 hour event. Some stores will hold up to six Prerelease events over the weekend. I’ve done six event marathon weekends before: They’re very tough… Especially if you forget to eat.
Some LGSs have in-store eateries you can purchase food from. Most don’t, so be sure to bring snacks with you or, at the very least, make sure you know where you can purchase food nearby. It is very easy to forget to eat when you’ve been concentrating on Magic for a few hours and getting lost in friendly discussions of new cards. Making sure you’re well fed is not only healthier, but will keep you fresh which will allow you to play better. Keep this in mind if you’re thinking of doing multiple Prerelease events, especially if those events are on the same day.
I would also highly recommend bringing water with you to keep yourself hydrated. Make sure your water bottle is distinctive enough to be easily identifiable in case you misplace it at the event. A good water bottle should be easy to carry and must be resealable. The last thing you want is to accidentally pour water all over your brand new cards or worse, the cards of those sitting around you.
Attending multiple prerelease events is a blast until they end and the adrenaline that’s been pushing you through the day comes crashing down. You will have been challenging yourself with complex lines of play and multiple convoluted calculations over numerous lengthy matches. When all is said and done, you will be exhausted.
With this in mind, try to make sure you’re well-rested before attending events. If you want to challenge yourself by participating in multiple events, that’s fine, but understand what you’re getting yourself into. You’re looking at somewhere between 8 to 10 hours of Magic per day.
Remember that you don’t have to do all the events. Nor do you have to finish all the events. After two losses, your chances to win prizes decreases tremendously, so if you’re tired and need to drop to get some rest, no one will fault you for it. I’ve seen players push themselves too hard to marathon through events and those players end up getting sick. Even worse, they’re miserable through the Prerelease, which is the exact opposite outcome you’re hoping for when attending.
Know yourself and your limits. If you’re getting to a point where you’re not having fun, don’t be afraid to turn it in for the day.
Those first few days playing with a new set is incredible and getting the chance to do so with a bunch of like-minded players is exhilarating. If you happen to be in the Montreal area, this is your friendly reminder that Three Kings Loot will be hosting their own Shadows over Innistrad Prerelease events this weekend! If you’re interested in attending one (or more!), you can preregister at the store or online here. As always, if you liked this article or have any questions, feel free to leave a comment in the Comments section below! I wish you all a wonderful Prerelease!
JP Vazquez – Optimum Jank
Shadows Over Innistrad (SOI) is right around the corner and I couldn’t be more excited. We’re almost through spoiler season and the set is already overflowing with fantastic cards. Diametrically opposed from Battle for Zendikar (BFZ) – the first set of the block immediately preceding it – SOI is poised to introduce powerful new cards for aggro, control, midrange and even combo archetypes across all formats. To top it off, the flavour of this set is absolutely phenomenal, as almost every card seems to tell it’s own story. There’s just so much to be excited for, the 2nd of April pre-release can’t arrive soon enough.
Spoiler season is a lot of different things to a lot of different players. The more competitive players are trying to deduce which cards will become format staples and help define or redefine deck archetypes. The Commander players are looking for new tricks to replace old cards in preexisting decks as well as looking forward to new legendary creatures. Collectors are eager to speculate on the next potential break out card.
Then there’s players like me: Players who look at the new cards and fantasize creating new, interesting and/or silly decks. Players who see one card and say: “I don’t know what deck that goes into yet, but I’m going to build it.” Players who want to play the game in a way that no one was expecting. With that in mind, I’d like to talk about a few new cards that I believe are particularly exciting to build around. They may not be the most powerful or expensive cards from the set, but they sure are cool.
I’m a huge fan of cards that callback to older cards. BFZ’s Zulaport Cutthroat being a callback to Avacyn Restored‘s Blood Artist, for example. With that in mind, I think my favourite card of the set spoiled thus far has to be Odric, Lunarch Marshal.
I returned to Magic right as the original Innistrad was being released. At that point, I was very much a casual kitchen table player: I was always looking for cheap, cool cards that I could throw into a deck to challenge my brother with. When I happened upon Concerted Effort, I couldn’t understand why this card was as financially cheap as it was. I loved anthem effects and the idea of my entire army growing in powers and abilities as more and more creatures joined my side of the battlefield was a mind-blowing concept.
I quickly learned why Concerted Effort wasn’t as powerful as I initially believed it to be. It was a turn 4 “Do Nothing” card: a term used for cards that don’t really do anything when they enter the battlefield when you critically need them to be doing something (especially on turn 4). What made Concerted Effort worse was that it required a critical mass of creatures to function optimally which made you susceptible to board wipes. Lastly, it was a “Win More” card: a term used for cards that only affect your game when you are already in an advantageous position against your opponent(s). Concerted Effort won’t help you bounce back if you’re behind on board state, lacking blockers and facing down your opponent’s mob of creatures. But if you were ahead? Oh boy, were you going to win big. Regardless of its faults, I loved the potential buried in Concerted Effort.
While still suffering from a few of the problems listed above, Odric, Lunarch Marshal does solve a number of them. He still requires a critical mass of creatures which in turn leads to potentially overextending your hand, meaning you will be putting sadness on the stack when your opponent plays their board wipe. That being said, he solves the problems of being a “Do Nothing” and/or “Win More” card. As a 3/3 creature himself, Odric advances your board state by being a creature that can attack or block rather than an enchantment that can do neither. His ability can also kick in the turn he comes into play if you play him pre-combat as opposed to Concerted Effort which only becomes relevant at the beginning of the next upkeep. The biggest drawback with Odric’s ability this time around is that it leaves your army very vulnerable during the first main phases of each turn.
Most pro players will tell you that Odric isn’t a great card. There’s too much set up required and there are too many drawbacks involved. All I can see is an incredibly fun card. In more casual environments, playing a White Weenie aggro deck with him being at the top end of my curve seems amazing. Prioritizing creatures with double abilities would be the key to building a solid Odric deck. Playing a Kytheon, Hero of Akros on turn 1 into Knight of Meadowgrain turn 2 into Misthoof Kirin turn 3 into Odric turn 4 will give your entire team First Strike, Lifelink, Flying, Vigilance and the ability to become Indestructible if Kytheon‘s ability is activated pre-combat. I don’t know about you, but that sounds absolutely devastating.
Keep in mind when building an Odric deck that I believe the most important ability to bestow unto your army is Flying. Archetype of Imagination in Born of the Gods Limited single-handedly won games by granting evasion to your entire team. Odric can endow evasion two turns earlier provided you have a creature with Flying somewhere in the first 3 turns. In Standard, I feel like Odric can top end a deck with Kytheon for Indestructible, Topplegeist for Flying, Consul’s Lieutenant or Knight of the White Orchid for First Strike, Hidden Dragonslayer for Lifelink, Topan Freeblade for Vigilance and Aven Sunstriker for Flying and Double Strike.
While we’re on the topic of critical masses and over-extensions, it’ll come as no surprise that I absolutely love “Lord” cards.
So named because older cards referred to them as such in the type line (rather than naming the actual creature type), “Lord” creatures refer to creatures that give a boost or bonus to creatures of a similar nature. In the above case, Elvish Champion provides a +1/+1 bonus and grants the Forestwalk ability to all Elf creatures.
While Dark Ascension provided us with more traditional style “Lord” creatures within the world of Innistrad, Shadows Over Innistrad is playing around with what a “Lord” creature can be. Instead of a static +1/+1 boost with an additional bonus, the “Lords” in SOI are synergistic with their favoured creature types in more innovative and interactive ways.
Of these “Lords,” Falkenrath Gorger seems like the most interesting while also the most difficult to build around. Taking advantage of discarding cards is not something that’s done often in Magic. Here is a “Lord” that wants you to build a deck that forces you to discard creatures, while at the same time, having enough mana to pay for the discarded creature’s converted mana cost. Presently, the only Vampire that can take full advantage of discarding cards is Vampire Hounds, a card originally printed in Exodus. If we look away from Vampires, though, Avaricious Dragon in Standard and Liliana of the Veil in Modern help us with discarding our own cards. Other cards I feel might work as a foundation for a discard/Madness decks are Pack Rat (I get a rat and a Vampire?! Sign me up!) and Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded. Will Falkenrath Gorger finally make Tibalt amazing?
No. No, he probably won’t… But it’ll make your games hilarious.
The “Lord” I’m most excited for is Silverfur Partisan. Aside from having a great name and stunning art by Izzy, Silverfur Partisan is a “Lord” for one of my favourite niche creature types: Wolf (which is ironic since, in real life, I’m terrified of dogs). Wolves are a neat little tribe in Magic with a lot of fun, older cards that can make use of a Wolf “Lord.”
Mayor of Avabruck // Howlpack Alpha is a more traditional style Wolf “Lord” that synergizes well alongside Silverfur Partisan. Master of the Wild Hunt also has synergy with both Mayor of Avabruck and Silverfur Partisan (although you’d have to find ways to protect Silverfur Partisan, as he would be forced to fight if you activated Master of the Wild Hunt‘s ability). Wren’s Run Packmaster and Wolf-Skull Shaman might lead you toward of a more Elf/Wolf tribal deck. Whichever deck you decide to build for yourself, don’t forget to include my favourite flavour combination: Enchanting a Silverfur Partisan with a Raised by Wolves. While it may not trigger his token making ability, giving Silverfur +3/+3 and two wolf buddies to back him up is pretty awesome.
That’s it for our first look at some of the neater cards of Shadows Over Innistrad. I hope you enjoyed it and that it inspired you to put together some fun decks you can play with your friends. As always, if you liked what you see here or have any questions, feel free to leave a comment in the Comments section below!
JP Vazquez – Optimum Jank