Hi everyone and welcome back to Casual Encounters. Today I am going to do something that I haven’t done in a little while. I have fairly regularly cracked a pack and gone through what I would be looking at if I were starting a draft, but today I’m going to crack that pack and look at for the ART. I call it my Art Draft and today I’ll be busting open a pack of Dragons of Tarkir. Let’s not waste any time, let’s get down to business and see what is in the pack!
Have you ever really looked at the art on Qarsi Sadist? Have you? It is pretty amazing art on a card that is very marginal. The act of sacrificing the man on the altar is pretty detailed, but it is the masks of the guys pinning him down that are pretty chilling. These would be the type of ornate masks I would expect to find right out of some horror movie and are frightening while beautiful. However, look closer. Who’s is that in the background? Yeah, that is Silumgar. I don’t think I’ve ever actually noticed because my eyes get pulled to the masks in gold and the white shroud on the victim, but therehe is lurking in the background. That’s crazy neat. I may not be a big fan of the card, but I’m on board when it comes to this card in terms of art.
Sabretooth Outrider is a fine piece of art where the art is essentially exactly what you were expecting. You get a big cat, plenty off red on account of the colour of the card and generally a pretty predictable card. Heck, I can even account for the first strike because of the lances they are carrying. This is just fine on a card that is also just fine, but no one is getting excited. The white in the background is kind of whitewashing the whole piece, the art is reasonably predictable, and nothing remarkable really stands out. This is just fine, but nothing more.
Champion of Arashin is a little more interesting. The hound in the foreground is very interesting and highly detailed if you look at the armor he’s wearing. The background is also pretty interesting with the other hounds joining the battle as well. However, the real winner here is the fact that they sneak Dromoka into the background breathing a big gout of flame. This is more my style.
Atarka Beastbreaker looks pretty bland to me. Sure, he’s pretty jacked but that is hardly noteworthy. The colors and contrasts are once again kind of washed out and there really isn’t much happening. By comparison, the Champion of Arashin is on the midst of a battle, while this guy is coming home dragging supper behind him. This really isn’t anything super cool even if the card is a fine little card for a draft deck.
Mystic Meditation offers us far more in terms of visual eye candy. The colors are a little sharper and the detail feels like it is just a notch above what we’ve seen done in the other cards. Look at the dragons above the figure in the center and tell me those aren’t detailed portrayals of dragons. The gold steamers coming down from the ceiling look to be floating, further capturing the moment that looks like “mystic meditation” so that the art truly matches the card. I think the aspect that really pulls me into this card is the quote from Narset in the flavor text. I’m a huge fan of this fairly simple card draw spell because the art totally appeals to me.
Butcher’s Glee is one of my favorite combat tricks in the set and art is almost as good. That little goblin just looks so funny coming lunging at you brandishing that huge machete. The big toothy smile says all I need to know about this goblin and what it is feeling. I also really like that the action shot is up close. The close up perspective adds an emotional dimension that reinforces the panic for the card, much like you might feel if you are the one trying to cast this. You don’t want to have this spell fizzle so the sense of panic is real. The flavor text is also pretty neat as we get to know a little bit more about the the little goblin Kneecleaver. I’m just a fan on the whole and feel like the emotion in the card art matches the emotions I feel as I play the card.
Ojutai Interceptor is one of those card that had me excited when the set dropped because I like the art, but I’m less thrilled with it now. Sure, the morph like cloud behind the bird is pretty cool looking but there really isn’t much else to look at. There is a monastery appearing faintly in the background, but even that can not save this card. The bird in the foreground just doesn’t look like much because even the colors are a little muted. Sadly, this one has slipped down my list of card art preference and is much lower than it was a few months ago.
Herald of Dromoka has a lot more of what I like. The foreground is a highly detailed character in mid action which is a good start. The background is very interesting as well with a pile of soldiers leaving the temple on the left hand side of the card frame. They are clearly in a rush because the fortress is under assault. The right hand side of the card frame is a huge Dragon trying to bbq the fortress. My only real complaint with this card is the horn. It just looks so ridiculous right there in the middle of the card. I think the piece of art would have been more powerful with a different horn, but they were looking for a common thread to tie this to the Abzan from Khans of Tarkir. However, I still feel like it looks a little silly and detracts from the rest of the cool art.
Segmented Krotiq is a pretty gross looking centipede but it’s the sheer size of that thing is what’s so neat. Underneath the Krotiq is a monastery of sorts and it is absolutely dwarfed by the size of this gigantic creepy crawley. While I appreciate the proportions of the bug, I’m not hugely enamoured by the art and wouldn’t be putting this super high on my list.
Tail Slash is one of my favorite removal spells from the set but I can’t say the same for the art. The portrayal of the dragon doesn’t seem to match with the images we’ve seen elsewhere in the set. It feels like this has been pulled out of a book on dinosaurs because it looks like a brontosaurus with wings rather than an honest to goodness dragon. Apparently this dragon also got a 2-for-1 out this deal based on the two guys being launched in nearly identical positions. No, I can’t get behind this art even if the spell is very solid removal.
Echoes of the Kin Tree looks like it is a poster for the Hobbit. The relative positioning of the figures in the foreground look like they have been taken right out a movie. Their uniforms are dull to start with and dulled further as our eyes are pulled to the ghostly figure in the background. The art does a good job of conveying the significance of the card because it becomes clear that spirits are supporting the living warriors of the Dromoka brood. The best part for me is the flavour text about the human warriors maintaining their tradition of worshiping the Kin Tree despite Anafenza being executed. This card is reasonable and the art is pretty, but the positioning of the characters on the card feels very cliche.
Dromoka’s Gift is much cooler. I think what appeals to me is the vantage point as you look up, past the soldier being rewarded, up at the face of Dromoka. This feels like the moment is pretty momentous and should be something to take note of. Sadly, the card itself doesn’t match the grandiose art, but we aren’t here to quibble about spells are we. Based solely on the art, this is something that I like and enjoy seeing. If only the spell itself was slightly better.
Self-Inflicted Wound is a grisly card if I’ve ever seen one. Our eyes are drawn to the man in the foreground and the anguish he is experiencing as he fights against himself to try and prevent harm. However, what is interesting is the combination of the corpse in the lower right of the card frame in purple mist and the pair of matching purple cloaked wraiths in the background in the top left. This man clearly has no hope and The Reaper is clearly coming for him. This is chilling and grisly art to say the least and something that is interesting to examine more closely.
Clone Legion is pretty cool simply because of the mirror factor that has matching forces on each side. This feels like a flavor success in the truest sense of the word because the art and name show almost exactly what the card says it does. When art, name and card all match life for the players is made easy and things make sense. When either the card art or the name don’t match, players get confused. Don’t believe me? Check out a card like Tormented Soul or Orchard Spirit which clearly floats because it is a spirit or wraith. It can’t be blocked except by a creature with flying. However, they themselves don’t fly. That’s something that newer players don’t always remember because both of them LOOK like they should be flying. Well, Clone Legion is a win because if you look at the name and look at the art you can get a really good sense for what the card does.
My first pick is going to be the creepy art on Qarsi Sadist. The detail in the masks and the fact that Silumgar is lurking in the background pushes this over the top for me in this pack. This wasn’t the best art pack I’ve ever opened, but there certainly were some pretty reasonable choices. I always like looking at the art on these cards and this was fun today.
Thanks for stopping in to have a read! Have yourself a great MTG day!
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
Hey MTGers. I’m back and going to open up a pack of Dragons of Tarkir and have a look at what might be first pick in this pack if I was going to be sitting down to draft. I will also be including a brief tournament report of my most recent draft in order to try and glean some further insight from my results. Let’s get at it!
This pack is very pedestrian and unexciting, but that makes it a good tool to use to help improve card selection and evaluation. The rare is actually something I rather like in Haven of the Spirit Dragon. I’m not overly jazzed about taking it first because it isn’t going to scare anyone, but it is an interesting option to pull and just have in case I happen to see a dragon or two later in the draft. The ability to use this as a Splash land to try and cast a Dragonlord, or even their Fate Reforged variants is very enticing.
The next one that catches my eye is Skywise Teachings. This is similar to Goblinslide in many ways, except that it is more expensive to cast, pricier to activate and requires a fair bit of build around to make it really good. With all those drawbacks, if you can build the deck for it you Skywise Teachings can spit out much valuable tokens. 2/2 Fliers are very relevant and can quickly close out a game. I would entertain this, but I would be very unlikely to select it first because it does require going all in in order to make it work. If this wheels around the table I might take a stab at it and see if the deck is open or not.
Atarka Pummeler is a very serviceable creature that grants your team a form of quasi evasion one you reach Formidable. This looks underwhelming, but in the R/G deck it could be very solid. The activation cost is very expensive and that is fundamentally why I wouldn’t be taking this too early. It’s not a first pick, but it could be a solid pick up.
Deadly Wanderings is just a no. Not a chance. 5 mana for an enchantment that only works if I have 1 creature on the board is just not interesting. I can’t conceive of a game state where I would actually want to play this. By the time I hit 5 mana I had better have more than one creature on the board or I’m likely getting steam rolled pretty hard. No thanks. I’ll pass.
Twin Bolt is very solid early removal. It’s flexible, inexpensive, and in a solid colour. I’m not sure how happy I would be to first pick this, but I would be pulling it forward to see if other cards were better.
Of the remaining commons, I like Sidisi’s Faithful, but I won’t be picking it first. The rest is almost entirely filler and not the least bit interesting until you are in a clearly defined colour pair and looking to fill out your deck.
It only really comes down to Haven vs Twin Bolt. Spike-y players might just grab the removal spell and move on, but there is part of me that is prepared to speculate a little with my first pick and roll the dice with the Dragon land. It is colourless, fits in any deck, and generally could be used to cast big beefy fliers (even the less exciting 6 mana ones from Fate Reforged). I think my first choice here is Haven, but this is something that could be debated very easily and even as I sit here typing I am not 100% convinced.
I got my second chance to have a go at Dragons in a draft the other night and wanted to share a few of my experiences that I would like to help take into lessons moving forward.
I ended up going a very disappointing 0-3 in my draft, but I wasn’t disheartened. Do you ever have those nights where you draft a solid deck, but you struggle to finish people off? That was me. I had a very solid R/G deck that had suitable amounts of removal, sizeable creatures and some fun combat tricks. However, what the deck was lacking was a genuine bomb. All the packs I opened had very poor bulk rare cards and I didn’t see any super powerful bombs that I could punch into this deck to close the deal. The best I could do was a Myth Realized (that I splashed but was largely ineffective) and a Frontier Siege that I opted to pass in favour of a Temur Sabretooth. As a result, the most common result was for me to stall out my opponent only to run out of answers and not have something to deal with their bomb in response.
Match 1– Played a player showing Jund colours. He had pulled Den Protector and I saw Flatten a number of times. Game 1 was very grindy and lasted 25 minutes but eventually my defenses caved. In game 2 I got back in the game and had my Lightning Berserker deal an astonishing 11 points of damage. I finally burned him out with Sarkhan’s Rage to even the match 1-1. In game 3 I had to mulligan down to 5. At 5 cards I was looking at 2 lands and decided that a mediocre 5 was better than dropping to 4 cards, so I kept. However, I didn’t draw another land at all and was crushed under a wave of creatures. Boo…I was 0-1 but feeling good about my chances.
Match 2– Played an opponent showing Bant colours and got blown out in game one by a well-timed Dromoka’s Command and a bunch of fliers. Game 2 was more of the same and was dead in short order. Yuck. 0-2 and not really enthused.
Match 3– Opponent was playing Esper. I got out to a good start but a couple of quick removal spells took care of most of my pressure. We both stalled a bit and built out our boards for a bit and were in a stalemate. This is where the lack of a bomb hurt me because he cast Dragonlord Silumgar, took my Temur Sabretooth, and the rest was academic. Game 2 was very similar and we stalled out pretty good. I was likely slightly ahead, but I had a tough time gaining any advantage profitably without taking a pile of damage on the crack back. Temur Sabretooth was on board and playing good D. I was eyeing up casting Pinion Feast on his Abzan Skycaptain thinking that I could handle the counters landing on his Jeskai Sage, but I’m glad I held off. The next turn he cast Silumgar again and I immediately Feasted it. Thank goodness. It still didn’t help me much as I got pecked at by some fliers and eventually couldn’t answer the flying creatures.
0-3 and a little disappointed, but I didn’t feel like I mis-played my cards. Sometimes mistakes cost you games. Sometimes your opponents have better decks. However, there are a few things I’ve learned from this.
Like I said, I felt the deck was solid. I knew I was a little light on creatures, but with a pair of Formless Nurturing I figured I was ok on that front. I liked my removal package and felt it was quite solid considering my colours. The only problem was the lack of a genuine bomb to seal a game. Sigh. Oh well. Next time I end up drafting this sort of deck I will need to be sure to pack more creatures and fewer spells to give this sort of underpowered deck a better fighting chance.
Thanks for stopping by to read. I hope you guys have a great MTG day and stop by for some more Casual Encounters soon!
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
Wow. It has been a while since I last cracked a pack for my own blog. The last time I posted one was March 10th! Yikes. Since then Dragons of Tarkir has become a thing and NOW Modern Masters 2015 is hitting the shelves (like TODAY). I guess that sort of makes Dragons of Tarkir old news, but I still enjoy the set. So, I’m going to open up a pack and have a look and see what I would take if I was sitting down to start a draft. Let’s take a look at the pack.
This is a very interesting pack. It has some solid playables, the uncommons seem strong, and an intriguing rare card. Let’s start with the rare and move from there. Volcanic Vision is a fascinating card to open up. My first gut reaction was “No Way”. The 7 mana is extremely steep and the fact that it returns a Sorcery or Instant to my hand is hardly exciting. However, I sat and thought about the card for a long while and I feel like my first reaction might have been way off.
The text on the card reads “Return an Instant or Sorcery from your graveyard to your hand. Volcanic Vision deals damage equal to that card’s converted mana cost to each creature your opponents controls. Exile Volcanic Vision”. The key word here is EACH. You could conceivably have this behave like a one sided sweeper, provided you have a suitable target in your graveyard. Herein lies the problem. The conditional nature of the spell, that you need a good target to get good value, is crucial and a major stumbling block for the card. Most times you have things like Roast, Twin Bolt, Wild Slash, or even Bathe in Dragonfire as suitable targets, but I’m not thrilled by those. Each of those spells deal a couple of points of damage, wipe out a couple of “bears”, but I’ve invested a huge amount of mana in this silly spell. The return just might be marginal or I open myself to being blown out by a 2 mana Negate. Also, the typical Red burn spells or cheap enough that they won’t handle the big threats that MUST be answered meaning that my 7 mana hasn’t done enough to win me the game. So, I keep thinking, these Burn spells CAN’T be the intended target of Volcanic Vision and there must be a better target worth playing.
The real payoff for playing Volcanic Vision is buying back something like a Fierce Invocation, a Pyrotechnics, or a Sarkhan’s Rage. All of these spells have a converted mana cost of 5 mana and that essentially burns out all the creatures your opponent is likely to be using. Now, all of these are plausible options to be able to pick up, and the one sided wrath-esque effect is pretty terrific, but that feels like a lot of things that need to line up just right for this to work.
If you take Volcanic Vision it is very much a speculative sort of pick and one you are hoping pays off in the end. The power level of this card is extremely high because it could wipe out everything your opponent has on the battlefield, but in that same vein it could sit in your hand. In addition to the raw damage being dealt by Volcanic Vision, you are full on getting your instant/sorcery spell back and can recast it all over again. The potential to generate massive card advantage off the torching of a bunch of creatures your opponent controls and getting a card back is pretty insane and might be worth the risk.
I would look at this and think seriously about it. I think it would garner some consideration because the power level is so high, but this is a very speculative first pick and contingent on having some other cards to play into it in order to generate maximum value.
The next card that gets my eye is Swift Warkite. 6 mana for 4/4 flier that gets me back a card from the graveyard is nothing to take lightly. My issue with this as a first pick is that it is a gold card meaning that there is a higher chance I can’t play it. I’m not going to rule it out, but I’m not excited to pick a gold card first because it just forces me to be so much more inflexible if I intend on playing it.
Salt Road Ambushers is essentially a Hill Giant that also packs a powerful ability and the ability to come into play as a Megamorph. The raw stats make it quite playable, and the Morph cost is hardly outrageous either. However, the real payoff is whether you can make the extra ability that grants +1/+1 counters to creatures as they flip up an actually relevant line of text. The question is how many Morphs are you going to be able to grab? How many creatures can you Manifest? If you are sold on the Morph/Manifest style deck then this would be an amazing first pick and a real engine to help your Morphs outclass the opponent very quickly. However, Megamorphs are slightly less prevalent than they were in Khans of Tarkir and typically more expensive meaning that you might only ever get to flip 1 or 2 Morphs in a game. That sort of return is hardly overwhelming, but it is nice to think that you could make it work.
Strongarm Monk comes with a form of super Prowess and that might entice some people to jump on board. I’m not a big fan and I feel like for his raw stats that I’m getting short changed. Also, I’m not keen to need to pack my deck full of non-creature spells in order to get this sort of bonus. I feel like this sort of bonus is at odds with the need to play creatures in my draft deck in order to get work done and that finding enough good non-creature spells is a little tricky. I can see the value, but this would not be something that catches my eye much.
Coat with Venom is a fine combat trick. Not a first pick, but a fine combat trick.
Anticipate plays along really nicely with Strongarm Monk but I don’t think that deck manipulation is so important that I need to take this first. No, this will be a much later pick if I find myself in blue.
Kolaghan Aspirant is a fine 2 drop by is also not a first pick. Moving on.
Enduring Victory highlights the ongoing cost increase for removal spells. This acts just like Divine Verdict, but now we’ve added an extra mana to the casting cost in order to justify Bolster 2. Don’t get me wrong, the Bolster is nothing to sneeze at and you’ll run the removal spell, but I do miss having more access to efficient removal.
Epic Confrontation would actually be something that catches my eye because it is a very efficient and powerful removal spell. The +1/+2 it grants really pushes the power level on the card and allows creatures to punch out of their regular “weight class”. As much as it would be strange, I would have this pulled to the front and give it a hard look to be first pick.
Of the remaining cards, Tormenting Voice, Keeper of the Lens, Reckless Imp, Elusive Spellfist, and Conifer Strider, exactly none of them would even get a look for first pick. I would rather speculate on the 7 mana rare or the over costed super-prowess Monk than try these on for size. So, that sums up what I think of this group.
My first pick would be Volcanic Vision. I would be prepared to speculate on my first pick with something that behaves like a pseudo asymmetrical board wipe knowing that I’m not married to that card or that colour. However, I know that I need to be on the lookout for useful instants and sorceries in order to get maximum value for this card.
Thanks for taking the time to stop by. What you would be taking from this pack? Would you be trying the Volcanic Vision? The Warkite? Epic Confrontation? Leave me a comment down below and let me know what you think!
Have yourself a great MTG day.
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
This week on Uncharted Realms we got to see what happened to Sarkhan after he saved Ugin and blinked out of existence. No, he did not just cease to exist, as some had predicted. No, Sarkhan is alive and well and he has been whisked back to his own time to find Tarkir is the same…but also wildly different.
The largest single difference is the fact that the Dragons are no longer extinct. In fact they are alive and well and wrecking house on Tarkir. However, the dragons are now in the process of fighting each other. We witness such an exchange when the first herd of Dragons that Sarkhan meets on Tarkir 2.0 (likely from the Temur) are attacked by dragons that are from the Mardu…or whatever is left of them. We’ve got some Dragon on Dragon crime here folks…and that’s awesome!
However, for Sarkhan, he lands in amidst the Mardu and meets people that in the previous timeline were people he was familiar with…namely Ankle Shanker and Zurgo. However, these two no longer remember him. Can you imagine, meeting people that you know and suddenly they are no longer the same people? It must be awfully disconcerting and must have left Sarkhan reeling. Furthermore, Zurgo was his nemesis…and now he doesn’t even remember who Sarkhan is, let alone that they should be enemies. Further to that, Zurgo is no longer the Khan and it becomes clear that the social order has changed dramatically because the word “khan” is not something to tossed around lightly. Clearly Kolaghan and the dragons are in charge and there is no longer a Khan at all.
The same has happened to the Jeskai because Narset is no longer the Khan there, but Taigam (who used to be Sultai if I keep things straight) is now in charge with Ojutai ruling over the territory and Narset is no where to be found. Clearly all of Sarkhan’s world is crumbling because the people he came to rely on, expect, and trust have changed. While his intended goal of saving Ugin and the dragons succeeded, the other pieces are starting to look like they are falling apart. That isn’t good news because it leaves Sarkhan in a very precarious position and with a lot of learning to do in very short order.
What do I find interesting about this? There will be people who critique the fact that Sarkhan still exists despite having altered the timeline so significantly. I’m totally prepared to wash that on the grounds that Sarkhan, being a Planeswalker and having a spark, is largely removed from the ebb and flow of the normal timeline. Come on folks, the guy can jump plane to plane…what’s a little time travel after all?
No, what I find interesting is really the disappearance of Narset. The fact that she is no longer with the Jeskai means that she a) alive and b) likely very different. In my mind this clearly means we’ll be seeing Narset as a Planeswalker. That isn’t really shocking, but it does appear like it might be more and more likely. I am hoping she is full on Jeskai coloured because a three coloured Planeswalker would be amazing. I would not be surprised if one of her abilities is a similar card draw ability like Chandra. It feels like it is an interesting, but not yet broken, design space for Red to use and Narset might be the perfect Planeswalker for it.
Also, Zurgo looks to be getting a reprinting, but he looks like he might get downsized in terms of power because his Helmsmasher variant is a house in Limited. Zurgo Bellstriker? Could he be used to summon Dragon Tokens to the defence of his clan? That would be a thought.
Oh, and did anyone else catch the Vial of Dragonfire reference? Reknowned Weaponsmith might be useful to dig up the Vial in this set because from what was described it sure looked like a fun way to burn out something. It sort of feels like one of those artifacts that you might equip and trigger to deal a large amount of damage (I’d start at 5 and consider moving up to as high as 7)…something akin to Vial of Poison. Because it is a vial it is unlikely to be something you can get multiple uses out of, but in some environments just the threat of activation is enough of a deterrent to hold people off. That would make him far more useful than the creator of Heart Piercer Bow in Khans which is a totally underwhelming artifact.
The last piece that crossed my mind was whether or not the dragons had remained unchanged in the 1280 years since Sarkhan saved Ugin? Are the elder Legendary dragons of each brood still alive or do they have some sort of natural life expectancy? Have any NEW dragon factions and brood emerged? We only got 5 allied coloured dragons in Fate Reforged so there is a chance that we see 5 enemy coloured dragons emerge in this set. Personally, I think that would be awesome if we started to see some rivals emerging and new social re-ordering with humans and humanoids who nor aligned with any of the clans siding with these Renegade dragons. Perhaps that’s wishing more of a story than can jammed into one set as the last act, but I can dream.
Well, that’s all for me today. Thanks for reading and stopping in here at Casual Encounters. Have yourself a great MTG day.
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter
The third installment to the Tarkir block is right around the corner. Prereleases, launches and Game Days at Local gaming stores (LGS) all around the world will be packing up with followers of different broods of Dragons. Tons of Dragons of Tarkir promos will be given away at LGS everywhere. We’ve seen some of the Dragonlords and Regents the new dragon cycles in Dragons of Tarkir spoiler gallery. Now let’s take a look at all the promos.
[still waiting on alternate art]