Tag: optimum-jank

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JP Vazquez JP Vazquez - June 17, 2016

Eternal Cards For the Casual Player

Optimum Jank – Eternal Cards For the Casual Player

 

IMAGE - CRYPT - Matt Stewart - Mana Crypt

 

The Best of The Rest

 

Eternal Masters is finally here and there’s a lot to be excited for. Everyone is ready to play the Booster Pack Lottery hoping to open any of the set’s marque cards. And what a lottery it is, with the possibilities of opening Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Karakas, Wasteland and Mana Crypt.

 

CARD - Mana Crypt OldCARD - Mana Crypt New


Mana Crypt is a particular interesting story: It has only ever seen two unconventional printings before this one. It was initially redeemable through a mail-in coupon offer in the old line of Magic novels and its only other printing was a Judge Programme promotional card. This is the first time that players will be able to play with Mana Crypt in an actual non-Cube Magic set. As you can imagine, its extreme rarity combined with its popular demand means that it caries a pretty hefty price tag. A price tag players are hoping will come down with this fantastic new printing.

 

What does that mean for you, the Casual Magic player? Is Mana Crypt a card you should play? The answer is unequivocally yes, because fast mana in Magic is pretty broken. But is it the card you can afford? Is it a card you need? Do you really need to oppressively crush your friends in casual games with powerful cards like the Crypt?

 

The strongest aspect of Eternal Masters is that it is truly offering something for everyone. In this article, I’d like to highlight a number of cheaper but nevertheless interesting and exciting reprints you can pick up. These certainly won’t be close to the most powerful cards in the set, but they’re all fun cards to build around and definitely worth considering when brewing.

 

IMAGE - ELVES - Kev Walker - Llanowar Elves

 

Anything but Common

 

Our first card in the spotlight is Elvish Vanguard. With its only other printing as a Rare way back in Onslaught, Elvish Vanguard has been downgraded to a measly Common in Eternal Masters, which will simply crush its current price of $3 USD.

 

CARD - Vanguard Old CARD - Vanguard New

 

Elvish Vanguard is a pretty fun card because it is an Elf version of another fan favourite: Champion of the Parish (which grows larger whenever a Human enters the battlefield). The advantage of Champion is its lower mana cost (W vs Elvish Vanguard’s 1G) meaning it has the capability to start swinging on turn 2 for two points of damage. What I like about the Vanguard, however, is that Elves tend to “go wide” faster than almost any other tribe in Magic. While it is not uncommon to have a 6/6 Champion of the Parish with a few Humans backing it up by turn six, it isn’t outside the realm of possibility to have a 12/12 Elvish Vanguard with a ridiculous amount of Elves backing it up by turn six.

 

Are there more broken things one can do with Elves? Absolutely. Elves are so powerful that one can build competition worthy decks in Pauper, Legacy and sometimes even Modern. The number of broken combos one can power out with Elves certainly overshadows a pump/boost plan with Elvish Vanguard, but the tactic is still a fun one and something that you can certainly build around to challenge your friends with.

 

What I like most about Elvish Vanguard is the possibility of his being a double edged sword. Unlike Champion of the Parish which only looks for Humans that enter under your control, Elvish Vanguard grows whenever any Elf enters the battlefield. This means that if your opponents are playing Elves as well, he’ll get bigger whenever they play an Elf spell… which sounds great! They play Elves and my Vanguard gets bigger?! Sign me up! Well, remember: If your opponent is playing a Vanguard as well, their Vanguard will benefit from your Elves too. Something to keep in mind during the Vanguard mirror matches.

 

As a final incentive, this is the first time this card has been printed in the new M15 border and sports some fantastic new art by Steve Prescott (which I unfortunately could not find at a higher resolution). If nothing else, this is a fun and modernly beautiful addition to consider in any type of tribal Cube, Pauper or Commander deck.

 

IMAGE - BURNING - Raymond Swanland - Burning Vengeance

 

Once Again for the Second Time

 

One of my favourite Uncommons found in Eternal Masters is Burning Vengeance. I returned to Magic when New Phyrexia hit shelves and remember the excitement for the original Innistrad, the set immediately following New Phyrexia. Innistrad was the first set I ever attempted to play Sealed with, but I was still unsure about drafting at that time. I unfortunately missed out on drafting what has since been refereed to as one of the best Draft environments of all time. Even though I never had the chance to play an optimal Burning Vengeance Draft deck, I did open a Sealed pool with two Burning Vengeance and effectively went all-in on the card.

 

It. Was. Glorious.

 

CARD - Burning Vengeance

 

If you’ve never played with Burning Vengeance, it is extremely fun and challenging. It requires a solid understanding of your deck and an ability to quickly evaluate multiple lines of play. Constantly evaluating the cards in your hand and the cards in your graveyard and the best way with which to sequence your next few moves makes for very exciting Magic games.

 

I’m not sure how easy Burning Vengeance will come together in an Eternal Masters draft, but it’s definitely worth a try if you can open it early pack 1.


In terms of casual games, Burning Vengeance works fantastically well with Secrets of the Dead; drawing cards for doing what you already want to be doing is great value. Eternal Masters already pairs Burning Vengeance with Flashback and Retrace, two mechanics that allow you to cast cards from your graveyard. Outside of Eternal Masters, there are a handful of cards that grant Flashback or pseudo-Flashback to cards in your graveyard such as Past in Flames, Snapcaster Mage, Toshiro Umezawa and Goblin Dark-Dwellers. Another neat deck for Burning Vengeance is the Zombie Vengeance deck. There are a surprising number of Zombies that can be cast from your graveyard such as Gravecrawler, Risen Executioner, Scourge of Nel Toth and Skaab Ruinator; all of which will trigger Burning Vengeance or Secrets of the Dead when doing so.

 

IMAGE - HONDEN - Jim Nelson - Honden of Nights Reach

 

Come Honden

 

Last but not least, I want to mention the Honden cycle of cards.

 

CARD - HondenW CARD - HondenU CARD - HondenB CARD - HondenR CARD - HondenG

 

The Honden cycle was originally printed in Champions of Kamigawa and has been a staple in many Cubes. The cycle produces a bonus during your upkeep that is multiplied by the number of Honden you control. Controlling one of each Honden would net you 10 life, allow you to draw 5 cards, force your opponent to discard 5 cards, do 5 damage to a target creature or player and put 5 1/1 Spirit tokens onto your side of the battlefield during your upkeep.

 

So… That’s fun.

 

Casually speaking, the Honden cycle is a fantastic addition to any Cube that already has a 5 colour theme. For example, I once played a Cube with a 5 colour Allies theme and adding the Honden to that Cube would have given drafters an extra incentive to go deeper into the particularly daunting territory of drafting a 5 colour deck.

 

When drafting Honden in Eternal Masters, I would highly suggest focusing on Honden of Night’s Reach and Honden of Infinite Rage. They are, in my opinion, the most powerful of the five, despite Honden of Seeing Winds providing straight card advantage. The reasons why I feel Red and Black’s Honden are stronger is that they are the cheapest in casting cost and they actively affect your opponent’s game plan as quickly as possible. Honden of Infinite Rage takes care of early creatures and chump blockers and Honden of Night’s Reach forces your opponents to discard at every one of your turns, preventing your opponents from holding answers and providing you with card advantage quickly.

 

IMAGE - BBE - Raymond Swanland - Bloodbraid Elf

 

To Eternity, And Beyond

 

That’s it for this week’s look at Eternal Masters. My only regret is not having more space to talk about all the other cool cards that permeate this set. There are so many neat cards at all rarity levels being reprinted that I could probably write five more articles and still not be able to cover them all. Hopefully this small look at some of the niftier build around cards will excite you enough to take a look at the set and pick up some of the other offering found therein. Did you find this article helpful and informative? Leave a comment in the Comments section below!

JP

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JP Vazquez JP Vazquez - June 3, 2016

Upcoming Events at Three Kings Loot

Optimum Jank- Upcoming Events at Three Kings Loot

 

IMAGE - SCRYING - Christine Choi - Sylvan Scrying

 

Come One, Come All

If you’re in the Montreal area this summer, Three Kings Loot (3KL) will be hosting a variety of Magic events for the casual and competitive alike. There are a number of upcoming tournaments in various formats that merit mentioning here and I figured I’d do an article to cover those events. If these events sound interesting to you, you should definitely come down to check them out.

 

tkl_magic_banner_final

Juvenile Diabetes Research Fundraiser

On Saturday, 4th June and Sunday, 5th June, 3KL will host a fund raising tournament for the Junior Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). Founded in 1970, the JDRF is a major charitable organization dedicated to funding research toward ending Type 1 diabetes (T1D) as well as trying to improve the lives of those that suffer from T1D.

Each event costs $40 CAD, of which $12 CAD will go directly to the JDRF. Both events will be Shadows Over Innistrad Sealed events, meaning you’ll be getting 6 boosters of SOI to crack open and build a deck with. If you’ve never played a Sealed tournament before – or even if you have – this will be an excellent opportunity to practice all the deck construction strategies covered in my recent three part series on Sealed deck construction.

Two SOI booster packs will be added to the prize pool per player. Sounds fine, but that sort of seems par for the course, doesn’t it? That’s why 3KL is adding an Oath of the Gatewatch booster box, a 2015 Commander deck and an Intro deck to the prize pool as well. That’s what we in the Magic community call “value”. This is a great opportunity to play some Sealed Magic while helping a fantastic cause and possibly walking home with a booster box of a recent Standard set! Seems like a win-win all around for everyone.

 

Eternal Masters Banner

 

Eternal Masters Drafts

Eternal Masters (EMA) drops next weekend on Friday, 10th June and 3KL will be hosting a draft of the hotly anticipated new format that same night!

The draft environment looks to be quite challenging and exciting and is something you won’t want to miss. If you’d like to know more about Eternal Masters, you can check out our article highlighting the set here and preview the entire set of cards here.

There are a lot of amazing cards to be opened and Friday’s draft is a perfect opportunity to do so. If you’re unavailable on Friday, have no fear! 3KL will be hosting a second Eternal Masters draft the following week on Thursday 16th June.

Remember! Eternal Masters is a limited release product, meaning there will be very low quantities of product available. This means that unfortunately there won’t be many opportunities to draft this set, so be sure to take advantage of these drafts while you can! The price to draft EMA will be $50 CAD for three booster packs or $5 CAD to participate if you bring your own EMA packs.

 

FNM Banner

Friday Night Magic

The best night of the week is getting even better. Three Kings Loot announced a complete overhaul of their Friday Night Magic events for the summer months and will be offering something for almost every type of Magic player!

The kick off to 3KL’s revamped Friday Night Magic will be absolutely free Standard events starting at 6PM. Standard is quite diverse at the moment and many players are looking to get extra practice time for upcoming GP events or the upcoming World Magic Cup Qualifier in Montreal on 18th June. This is now the perfect time to bring your Standard decks to FNM to challenge fellow competitors.

If Standard isn’t your cup of tea, 3KL is hosting Modern events starting at 7PM. Modern is the fastest rising Constructed format in Magic with more and more players in Canada (and North America in general) favouring the deeper complexity and challenging intricacies found in Modern. FaceToFace Games’ Tournament Series have been increasing in popularity across the country and the large majority of those tournaments are Modern. For $5 CAD – with all entry fees added to the prize pool – you can practice piloting your Modern decks at 3KL!

Last but not least, there’s the 8PM Draft. For $15 CAD, players can draft the newest Standard set at FNM. If you’re late to one of the events or if you’ve 0-2 scrubbed out of the Standard event or if not enough players show up to fire one of the earlier events or if you simply prefer Draft over all the other offerings, you can still play Magic by joining the 8PM Draft.

I don’t know what would happen if you tried to play all three events at the same time, though. Most likely the universe will divide itself by zero, so let’s not try that, okay?

Best of all, each event gives you a chance to win a shiny, new Friday Night Magic promo card, which happens to be Sylvan Scrying this month, featuring fantastic new art by Christine Choi.

There truly is something for every type of Magic player at Three Kings Loot’s new FNM, so be sure to check it out! Bring your friends!

 

IMAGE - FIREBOLT - Chris Rallis - Firebolt

The Multiverse is Your Oyster

These are just a few of the fun events and excellent opportunities to play Magic this summer. Let’s be honest, wouldn’t we all much rather be slinging spells in a nice air conditioned store than be stuck outside in the blistering summer heat? Did you find this article helpful and informative? Leave a comment in the Comments section below! And hopefully I’ll be seeing you at one of these events!

JP

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JP Vazquez JP Vazquez - May 27, 2016

Drafting Eternal Masters and Other Possibilities

Optimum Jank – Eternal Masters and You!

IMAGE - CONTROL - Terese Nielsen - Control Magic

 

Waiting for Eternity

Summer is here and Wizards is releasing their newest limited release summer set. Since 2013, the fine folks of Wizards of the Coast have been perfecting their draft-focused Masters series. These sets contain no new cards and instead are comprised entirely of reprints from earlier Magic sets. Modern Masters and its sequel Modern Masters 2015 were two standalone draft sets tangentially created as a gateway for Wizards to introduce more Modern staples into the market. In between the Modern Masters sets, the online-only Vintage Masters premiered in 2014 on Magic‘s online client Magic the Gathering Online (or MTGO), this time geared toward the online Vintage community.

2016 brings us the newest foray in the Masters line: Eternal Masters. Comprised once again entirely of cards reprinted from past sets, the idea here is to create a new outlet for Magic‘s numerous (as the name suggests) Eternal formats such as Vintage, Legacy and Pauper, as well as the defacto eternal format Commander.

What does this mean for you, The Casual Player? Is this something you should be excited for? How will these cards impact your playgroup or gaming experience? Are these cards needed for your collection? Let’s take a look at a few ways Eternal Masters might be of interest to you.

IMAGE - GAMBLE - Winona Nelson - Gamble

 

To Draft or Not to Draft

Drafting Eternal Masters is certainly going to be a unique and challenging experience. The cards found in this set may look new with their shiny M15-style fonts, holofoil stamps, and borders, but the majority of these cards are very, very old, harkening back to the early years of Magic. In many ways, Eternal Masters feels like a love letter to the collectible card game’s unpolished beginnings.

Eternal Masters is designed with draft as its primary focus but it will feel very different from most Standard draft sets. Cards will be at the same time obviously more powerful and deceptively more powerful than more recent offerings. Synergies and strategies won’t be as immediately evident as they are with today’s Standard sets. This is due to the level of complexity of older cards being different from the level of complexity of more modern cards. If you’re planning to draft Eternal Masters as a first foray into drafting, be prepared for a much more complicated game of Magic. Taking the time to study the full spoiler once it is released is highly recommended.

The manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) for a pack of Eternal Masters is $10 USD; much higher than an MSRP $4 USD Standard pack. This means drafting Eternal Masters will cost you at least three times as much as a regular draft. The reason for this is because of the numerous older, costlier, and harder to find cards being reprinted coupled with it being a limited release set. The people drafting this set will most likely have the money to invest in drafting it and will be prepared to win. It will very likely attract a much more competitive crowd so be prepared. When the buy-ins are higher and the value of the cards are greater, the stakes will increase and the desire to win will be much stronger than your typical Friday Night Magic draft. I wouldn’t recommend drafting this set if it is your first time drafting unless, of course, a more complex, challenging and competitive environment is exactly what you’re looking for.

One last thing to keep in mind when drafting Eternal Masters: There will always be a small chance of opening incredibly valuable packs containing multiple highly sought after and expensive cards within one pack (e.g. a regular Jace, the Mind Sculptor and a premium foil Jace, the Mind Sculptor in the same pack). For some people, especially those on a more frugal budget, Rule 2.10 of the Magic Tournament Rules is as follows:

“Players who drop during limited events own the cards that they correctly have in their possession at that time. This includes any unopened or partially drafted boosters.”

If you’d like to keep your money cards instead of passing them, you are legally allowed to drop from a draft to keep your cards. Different stores may have different procedures for handling a situation such as this, ranging from continuing the draft with 7 people or simply allowing a player to buy a new pack and continue the draft or, more unfortunately and disappointingly, by preventing that player from returning to the store. If you’re concerned about your store’s policy on dropping from a draft, remember to ask what their policy might be before signing up as it may influence your decision to draft. What is important to remember is that you have a legal right to drop from your draft with your cards if you choose to do so.

IMAGE - ANIMATE - Bastien L. Deharme - Animate Dead

 

The Best of the Rest

Not interested in drafting Eternal Masters but are still intrigued by all these shiny old cards? There are other reasons to be excited about this new release.

Eternal Masters will help increase accessibility and reduce the costs of staple cards for a number of formats including, but not limited to:

 

COMMANDER

Arguably the most popular multiplayer format in Magic, Commander players are excited to get their hands on new printings of a number of cards popular in the format including (but certainly not limited to) Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Mystical Tutor, Vampiric Tutor, and Natural Order.

The greatest boon of the Commander format is necessitating only one copy of a card for your 100 card deck. If you’ve been holding off buying a particularly expensive card, the increase in format staples provided by Eternal Masters might be the perfect time to commit to your purchase as these cards will decrease in price in the short term. If you’ve been having a tough time finding a particular card at your local store(s), now is the time to check again.

Many of these older cards are being reprinted not only in the new M15-style border, but for the first time in premium foil printings as well. Cards such as Toxic Deluge and Gamble have never seen foil printings while other cards such as Argothian Enchantress, Force of Will and Dualcaster Mage have only seen expensive Judge Promo printings. If you’re the type of player that loves blinding your opponents with shiny pimped-out decks, this set is the set for you.

 

CUBE

Cube players are always excited whenever a new set is released and Eternal Masters is no different. The big draw here for Cube players are cards printed for the first time in the modern M15-style borders as well as a plethora of cards with beautiful new art.

Cube is by far my favourite format and there are a number of cards I’m excited to see reprinted with incredible new art such as Animate Dead, Enlightened Tutor, Sneak Attack, and Maelstrom Wanderer. Cube is a format in which you create your own draft environment by assembling an at-minimum 360 card “set” using any cards you choose from across Magic‘s rich history. Cube is something we will be delving deeper into at a later date, so look forward to that.

The most enjoyable aspect of Cube is that it is as much a form of expression of the Cube builder as it is a fantastic format to play. If you’re looking to create a more unique visual experience for your cube or would like to further develop archetypes in your cube with cards that were previously unattainable due to scarcity, Eternal Masters looks to help players like you.

 

PAUPER

Lastly, Pauper players are the real winners in Eternal Masters. Pauper is a Commons-only format, however, a card is legal if it has been printed at Common at any point in Magic‘s history. This means that while much needed Pauper reprints such as Hydroblast and Pyroblast might be Uncommon in Eternal Masters, they are both still legal in Pauper because they were printed at Common in Ice Age.

Eternal Masters has a slew of cards that Pauper players have been clamoring for reprints. There are a number of Common cards that have a surprisingly large price tag attached to them – mostly due to scarcity in printings – and reducing the prices of cards for what should be the cheapest format in Magic is exactly what Pauper players were hoping for.

If you’ve ever been interested in Magic‘s cheapest and fanatically-growing format, this will be the best time to jump in.

 

IMAGE - TIMBER- Yohann Schepacz - Timberwatch Elf

 

Eternally Yours

I really hope I was able to impart enough reasons why Eternal Masters might be interesting to you, The Casual Player. There’s a lot of different styles of Magic to be played and explored and Eternal Masters is the newest gateway into those formats. Did you find this article helpful and informative? Leave a comment in the Comments section below! And don’t forget, Three Kings Loot has Eternal Masters on sale here and will be hosting Eternal Masters drafts on Friday, 10th June and Thursday 16th June! If you’re in the area, be sure to check it out!

JP Vazquez – Optimum Jank

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JP Vazquez JP Vazquez - May 13, 2016

Practicing Sealed Deck Construction Part 2

Optimum Jank – Practicing Sealed Deck Construction Part 2

 

IMAGE - SORIN - Eric Deschamps - Sorin Grim Nemesis

 

Last Time on Optimum Jank

Two weeks ago, we took a look at Magic‘s Sealed Deck format and went over some basic techniques when constructing a Sealed deck. Last week, we opened six packs of Shadows Over Innistrad and applied some of the initial techniques we learned in the first article to begin building a Sealed deck from the pool of cards we opened.

This week, we’ll continue to use the guidelines presented in the first article to see if we can finalize a solid deck from this challenging pool.

IMAGE - SOULS - Marco Nelor - Soul Swallower

Bombs Away

Now that we’ve organized our cards by colours and types, let’s review our bombs and our removal in each colour. This will give us a stronger idea of where our deck should be heading.

 

WHITE

BOMBS

None

 

REMOVAL

There’s really not a lot to work with here. I like Pious Evangel and think of it as a strong card but it’s not enough on its own to merit playing White. Our only hard removal here is Puncturing Light and it’s conditional at that: It won’t be helping us at all in the late game. Our strength in White, as mentioned in the previous article, lie in our combat tricks and enchantments: Expose Evil, Survive the Night and Tenacity as well as Gryff’s Boon and Hope Against Hope can be great cards in the right decks. That being said, this pool of White cards doesn’t have an end game nor a way to strongly interact with our opponent’s board. I feel we should set White aside as suboptimal.

 

BLUE

BOMBS

None

 

REMOVAL

None

 

Ouch. On paper, Blue looks even worse than White does. None of these cards are game winning bombs. None of these cards act as hard removal. We should probably just set Blue aside as suboptimal and move on, right?

Hold on a second. I’ll admit, Blue may initially look bad. If we look closer at the cards, however, there’s a bit of a control game hidden in our pool. I particularly like our two copies of Stitched Mangler and our two copies of Uninvited Geist. The Manglers are stronger than they look and can stall our opponent while the Geists can become very aggressive if they manage to transform into Unimpeded Tresspassers. Another thing we can’t overlook is our fliers: Niblis of Dusk, Stitchwing Skaab and Stormrider Spirit all provide solid air support, both offensively and defensively.

As with White, we have no hard removal here. What we do have, though, is plenty of ways to draw cards. Ongoing Investigation is incredibly strong by turning damage into card advantage. Vessel of Paramnesia replaces itself. Jace’s Scrutiny is a fine combat trick that also replaces itself. Catalog draws us cards and enables Madness. Pieces of the Puzzle can look for removal and fuel our graveyard. Even though I previously mentioned I’m not crazy about Gone Missing, it can still remove a permanent from our opponent’s board temporarily, slowing them down and allowing us to Investigate. As I mentioned last time, I like to play my bombs, draw into my bombs and win the game, in that order. Blue can allow us to do all that. It may not be ideal but I’m not giving up on Blue just yet.

 

BLACK

 

BOMBS

 

REMOVAL

Fantastic. I’ve added Tooth Collector to our removal because there’s a surprising number of X/1s in the format. Furthermore, a Delirious Tooth Collector will warp combat math. He’s strong enough to be listed there.

Markov Dreadknight is the very definition of a bomb. He’s a big flying creature that can get bigger and enable Madness, one of the set’s main mechanics. Cards like Dreadknight are exactly what we’re looking for when we talk about bombs.

Last week, we also saw that our Black creatures were strong and our two Merciless Resolves can help us draw into our bombs and removal. Black is still at the top of my list of colours to play.

 

RED

 

BOMBS

 

REMOVAL

Devils’ Playground is very strong but as far as bombs go, it’s certainly on the weaker side. I’m happy running it, but I’m not happy that this is one of our strongest cards. I would have much rather opened something like Flameblade Angel. In all honesty, I feel the strongest cards in our Red pool are the two Breakneck Riders. 3/3 for 3 with massive upside? We absolutely want to run those.

Our removal is very good, if very conditional. Dual Shot is fantastic in the early game, not so much late game. Inner Struggle sometimes ends up being a dead card when you face down creatures with unfavourable non-square stats (creatures where the power and toughness aren’t equal). The rest of our Red pool isn’t fantastic either, so I’m apprehensive about it but I think we’ll keep it as a possible final colour.

 

GREEN

BOMBS

 

REMOVAL

None

 

Soul Swallower can be very difficult for our opponents to deal with… if we can enable Delirium. Unfortunately, that doesn’t look like a strong strategy in our Green pool on its own. Green’s complete lack of removal here is another strike against it. We really wanted a Rabid Bite or at the very least a Moonlight Hunt, especially since we have a few Wolves and Werewolves in Red and Green.

As I mentioned last week, Green’s early aggression looks great, but I’m not sure it’s enough for us to want to run it, especially since our finishing bomb is conditionally dependent on us filling our yard. I think I’m comfortable setting Green aside as suboptimal.

 

MULTICOLOURED – ARTIFACTS – LANDS

 

Multicoloured

 

Artifacts

None

 

Lands

None

 

Oh yeah. Forgot we have that Sorin guy. Hopefully all this fixing we’ve got can help us run him.

So we’re down to Black being strong, Red being okay, Blue being okay and White and Green are out. Let see what each of these decks would look like.

 

IMAGE - SINISTER - Zack Stella - Sinister Concoction

 

Deck Deconstruction

BLACK – RED

 

I feel like this would be our strongest build for Black-Red and it’s pretty good. Six pieces of removal plus Tooth Collector. Merciless Resolve draws us into our bombs and Breakneck Rider makes our aggressive starts that much stronger.

What I don’t like are those two Hulking Devils. I guess they’re okay if we’re on the offensive, but they trade down too easily with their horrible 2 toughness. The other thing I don’t like is that four of five of our 1 and 2 drop creatures have 1 power. If we’re trying to be aggressive, we sure can get stonewalled by creatures with big butts pretty quickly. We also fold to fliers and control decks. If they have any way of preventing us from attacking, our Neck Breakers end up doing nothing.

The reasons to play Black-Red are our removal and our late game. Markov Dreadknight and Devils’ Playground coupled with 6 pieces of removal seems really good.

 

BLUE – RED

 

I don’t know if I’m sold with this build either. We only have three pieces of hard removal and two pieces of tempo removal with Gone Missing. The card draw is nice, but it’s not great.

The obvious problem here is our creatures. We’ve got a tower instead of a curve. A 1 drop, two 2 drops, 2 four drops, one 5 and one 6 drop… EIGHT 3 drops. This means our games won’t really start until turn 3 and we’ve got to hope we don’t get stuck on mana. I’m sure an argument could be made to cut one of the 3 drops and add the Lamplighter of Selhoff. Lamplighter is a solid card that works nicely with our Stitched Manglers and Stitchwing Skaab, but I wasn’t convinced it was enough to warrant running it in the main deck. I would definitely bring it in if I felt I needed stronger defence.

I do feel our Unimpeded Trespassers combo very well with our Neck Breakers, but that requires a lot of set up to get there. Overall, another okay build.

 

BLUE – BLACK ( splashing white)

Now this is a deck! First off, let’s address the obvious questions: How can we run Sorin, Grim Nemesis and why in this deck and not the others? The answer is the same reason we’re running Ongoing Investigation here and not in the Blue-Red build: Our land fixing. Port Town taps for White or Blue meaning I’m comfortable running Sorin with Port Town and an additional Plains for the splash. Likewise, Ongoing Investigation is great on it’s own, but it’s better when we can run Foul Orchard to splash Green for the activation cost. The key with these two splashes are a matter of timing: Ongoing Investigation is fine in the early game and once we draw our Foul Orchard for the Green, it gets better for the late game. Likewise, we’re okay running Sorin on the 1 Port Town, 1 Plains splash because he’s a 6 drop. We don’t need Sorin in our early game and with the amount of card draw we have, the chances of us finding our W lands in the late game are very good.

This deck isn’t running as much removal as the Black-Red version, but I feel the removal here was the most impactful half of the Black-Red build. With the addition of Sorin’s -X ability which removes a creature and gains us life, I’m pretty confident with our ways of interacting with our opponent’s board.

Running Niblis of Dusk, Crow of Dark Tiding, Stitchwing Skaab, and Markov Dreadknight as our air support in the main deck, I’m perfectly content moving Stormrider Spirit to the sideboard and running Lamplighter of Selhoff main to combo with our Stitched Manglers, Crow of Dark Tiding, Stitchwing Skaab and even the zombie created by Ghoulcaller’s Accomplice when he finds himself in the graveyard.

I also like Magnifying Glass here. It helps us ramp to our late game cards quicker, helps us with our mana sinks in the late game and allows us to draw more cards if we end up stalling in the mid-late game.

Overall, I like the balance of card draw, bombs and air support and that Blue-Black gives us our deepest sideboard when compared to the other combinations. Had I opened this pool at a Sealed event, this is most likely the deck I would have run.

IMAGE - LAMP - Clint Cearley - Lamplighter of Selhoff

Our Fate is Sealed

That wraps up our three part look at Sealed deck construction! I hope you had as much fun with it as I had. It was certainly more challenging to write then I originally anticipated, but I’m glad I was able to share these tips with all of you. I would love to hear your thoughts on the series and what your feelings may be on the final deck choice. Would you have also run the Blue-Black version? Would you have opted for the Black-Red or Blue-Red? Perhaps something else entirely? Leave a comment in the Comments section below!

JP Vazquez – Optimum Jank

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JP Vazquez JP Vazquez - April 28, 2016

A Look at Sealed Deck Construction

Optimum Jank – A Look at Sealed Deck Construction

IMAGE - SURGERY - Steven Belledin - Invasive Surgery

Vexing Variables

Draft may be Magic‘s most popular Limited format, but it is by no means the only one. Sealed is a Limited format which is played at Pre-releases, Launch events, PPTQs and Grands Prix. If you’ve ever contemplated playing Magic competitively, chances are, you’ll eventually find yourself staring down at a Sealed pool.

There are a lot of people that dislike Sealed tremendously because of its higher variance. The “luck factor” of opening a strong pool versus a weak one as well as the constraints of building a deck from a more haphazard pool of cards frustrates some. For others, that higher variance is exactly what excites them when playing the format. Making sense of the randomness presented to you in a Sealed pool can be a challenging and enjoyable puzzle to solve. Let’s take a look at the basics of Sealed Deck construction and go over a few strategies I’ve developed playing the format.

IMAGE - CLUES - Jaime Jones - Uncovered Clues

Precarious Possibilities

Sealed is a Limited format, which means you must build and play with a deck constructed from a limited supply of cards. Sealed is played by opening six booster packs and building an at minimum 40 card deck from the 90 cards you opened. You may only use the cards found in those six boosters (your Sealed pool) with the exception of Basic lands, of which you can have any number in your deck.

Typically, you’re looking to run a deck with 23 spells and 17 lands. If your deck happens to curve lower and be more aggressive, you might consider running 24 spells and 16 lands. Likewise, if your deck is more geared towards control with a number of cards on the higher end of your curve, it’s common to run 22 spells with 18 lands.

When building your Sealed deck, you’ll want to pay attention to your mana curve (or curve for short). Make sure that you have a good number of cards to play at each turn of the game. In most Sealed formats, the 2 converted mana cost (CMC) and 3CMC cards are typically the most important to consider when fine-tuning your deck. You want to have strong cards in those slots because those will allow you to respond to early game challenges while at the same time help you develop toward your late game. A common mistake for beginners is focusing on high mana cost bombs and stuffing as many as they can into their decks while ignoring or playing filler for their 2-3 drops.

The struggle players face when building a Sealed deck is narrowing down their 90 card pools to an optimal 22-24 cards. There is no “set method” or “definitive formula” for how to approach building a Sealed deck and knowing how to parse the information overload of a Sealed pool is a practiced skill. Each player may approach any one Sealed pool in completely different manners. That being said, there are a few steps you can take which can make things easier for you when constructing a deck.

IMAGE - SANCTUM - Adam Paquette - Jaces Sanctum

Overwhelming Options

Please note: The following are techniques that work for me when building my Sealed deck. They are by no means a definitive “How To” guide. If something I do works for you, feel free to use it. If it doesn’t, keep trying other methods, as it’s important to find what works for you!

1) SORT YOUR CARDS BY COLOUR

The first thing to do when opening your packs is to sort you cards into their correct colours. Typically, I’ll have 8 piles: White, Blue, Black, Red, Green, Multicoloured, Artifacts/Colourless, and Lands. Getting your cards into piles will give you a quick visualization of how many cards you have to play with in each colour.

 

2) FOR EACH COLOUR, SEPARATE YOUR CREATURE SPELLS AND CREATURE PRODUCERS FROM YOUR NON-CREATURE SPELLS

I’ll typically separate my creature spells and creature producers from my non-creature spells and lay them out on a curve – from 1CMC to 6+CMC.

What do I mean by creature producers? Some cards aren’t creature spells but they make creature tokens. Dance with Devils and Devil’s Playground from Shadows Over Innistrad are great examples of what I mean by creature producers. Dance with Devils is an Instant and Devil’s Playground is a Sorcery, but they make creature tokens. Spells such as those are added to my creature count.

I typically try to run 15 creatures and 8 non-creature spells plus or minus one or two depending on the deck I’m playing. If I notice I have a colour with a smaller pool of creatures, that might sway me away from playing the colour. For example, if I’ve got a small number of White or Green creatures – the two colours I tend to associate with having the strongest creatures overall – I might opt to set those colours aside unless the creatures in my pool are amazing. On the flip side, I would consider running Blue even if I have fewer Blue creatures because I tend to value Blue’s non-creature spells higher.

 

3) CONSIDER YOUR BOMBS

The strongest cards in your pool are what we call “Bombs”. After sorting by colour and type, take a look at what you feel are your biggest bombs. The trick here is not to force a colour just because you’ve got a powerful card in that colour. If you have the means of splashing an off-colour bomb, however, that’s an important factor to consider when deck building.

 

4) FIGURE OUT HOW YOU’LL GET TO THE CARDS YOU WANT TO DRAW

Also known as “having a game plan”. A lot of players will vaguely define this without actually explaining what this means.

You need to figure out what your deck is doing (i.e. does it have some sort of synergy, some sort of method of winning the game) and you need to figure out how you can get to the cards you want to draw. Bombs are amazing to have, but they’re useless if they’re stuck in your deck. When building your deck, you need to think about what you want to be doing until you have a way to draw into your bomb. Do you have enough early creatures to gum up the ground battles? Do you have a way to interact with fliers who try to go over the top? How can you break up a board stall? Can I draw cards to find my bombs? Can I filter cards? Search for cards? These are the questions you need to ask yourself.

Overlooking one of these factors can be detrimental when trying to build a solid deck. I once opened an incredibly strong pool, only to build a deck that didn’t have any answers to flying creatures. It was only after losing my first two rounds to stereotypical WU Skies decks that I realized I hadn’t factored in a strategy to deal with fliers when building the deck.

Most importantly, I firmly believe that getting to your bombs quicker in Sealed is far more important than having a synergistic deck. Removal is sparse and building a deck with strong synergies is more difficult to accomplish in Sealed. This means that building a deck that finds a way to get to bombs quicker is probably a better idea than focusing on building a deck with cute interactions that might not win you the game. My goal when playing Sealed is: Get to my bomb. Stall out until I can get to my bomb. Win the game. In that order.



5) KEEP THE BOARD CLEAR

Because synergistic strategies are more erratic in Sealed, if someone has built a deck with strong synergy or a strong interaction, it actually becomes exponentially more powerful. This means that if I see my opponent putting together pieces toward a strong interaction, my game plan shifts to disrupting it by any means necessary.

As with any format in Magic, removal is key. Try to pack in as much removal as possible into your deck. If you don’t have removal, throw in extra creatures or extra disruption. When building your deck, consider that your opponent will be building toward their plan and look at what cards you have that can be used to disrupt that plan.

 

6) K.I.S.S. – KEEP IT SIMPLE, STUPID

The biggest obstacle I see most players struggle with is over-complicating their decks. They run four colours when they would be fine with two. They run cards they know are great in Draft but aren’t as great in Sealed because they don’t have the synergy to go with it. They run a weaker colour over a stronger colour that they should have been playing because the stronger colour meant running one or two weak cards.

Don’t miss the forest for the trees. Do you have a solid creature count? Do you have bombs? Do you have removal? Can you get to them? That’s what you should be focusing on. Just because you may have to run a weak card in a strong colour doesn’t mean you have a bad deck. It just means you have a weaker card in a stronger deck. Here’s the secret: Everyone has weaker cards in their decks. It’s the nature of the format.

 

IMAGE - RESEARCH - Michael Sutfin - Compulsive Research

 

Careful Conclusion

Next week we’ll take a look at a Shadows Over Innistrad Sealed pool together. We’ll see if we can apply some of these strategies to that pool. If you have any question or comments, leave a comment in the Comments section below!

JP Vazquez – Optimum Jank

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JP Vazquez JP Vazquez - April 13, 2016

Cracking Shadows

Optimum Jank – Cracking Shadows

IMAGE - TRISK - Willian Murai - Triskaidekaphobia

Fear Not, Player

It may not be Friday the thirteenth, but we’re in for some frights!

I originally wanted to do my Top 13 Shadows Over Innistrad (SOI) cards in honour of today being (unfortunately, not a Friday) the 13th… what with thirteen being of such relevance in the world of Innistrad). Ultimately, I felt that was a little too cliché.

Instead, I’d like to try something a little different. Hopefully you’ll all enjoy it. Since this week is the release week for Shadows, I felt that this would be the best time to do something we, as Magic players, all love to do: Let’s open some booster packs!

jpcrackapack

Fresh Pack Odor

Ah! That new card smell, that satisfying sound when cracking a pack, those sweet new cards. There’s a reason this game is colloquially referred to as Cardboard Crack.

I’ve set aside three packs to share with you. We’ll be cracking them for the fun of it, but we can also play “Pack 1, Pick 1”. Pack 1, Pick 1 (also known as P1P1) is a quick game Magic players will engage in when cracking packs. The purpose is to determine which card would be the “first pick” in a draft environment. Since we’ll be opening three packs, we can play this two ways: 1) For each pack, what would be our P1P1 if this were the first pack we would open in a draft and 2) What would be our pick if these were opened sequentially in a draft (i.e. pack 1, then pack 2, then pack 3).

Let’s dive into our first pack, shall we?

Here’s a look at our Common cards from our first pack.

No, we’re not jumping right to the rare. It’s called “building suspense”. If you really want to spoil the surprise, there’s nothing stopping you from scrolling down.

So what have we got here? Well, truthfully, nothing really stands out for me amongst these Commons. I’m a big fan of Vessel of Ephemera, which I talked about in my last article. It provides bodies on the board and fuels Delirium if we end up in a Delirium deck. The other Common I’m looking at is Howlpack Wolf. I’ve found the card to be extremely strong in Limited. Its “drawback” of not being able to block without another Wolf or Werewolf on the battlefield isn’t detrimental enough for me to not include it in a deck. More often then not, attacking is what I want it to be doing anyway. A 3/3 body on turn 3 in an aggressive RG (Were)Wolf strategy is exactly what I want. Like most Red mages say, “what is blocking?”

That’s all I’m really looking at in terms of these Commons, though. Let’s see if there’s something spicier in the Uncommons…

Eek, nothing fantastic here either. I like Tenacity. It’s a good combat trick that people often don’t see coming. I’m also a fan of Spectral Shepherd, especially in the Spirit deck. I really like his synergy with Apothecary Geist; Using the Geist as a blocker that I can bounce back to my hand with the Shepherd and then recast him again to gain life is pretty fun. I’m not sure, however, if either of those cards are first picks at this point. Let’s check out the Rare and Double Faced Card (DFC) and see if we’ve opened something exciting.

We opened a Mythic Rare! Seasons Past is a very neat card and I like the potential it harbours, but it’s a very difficult card to build around in Draft. Breakneck Rider, on the other hand, looks amazing right now. He’s a little more mana intensive than the Howlpack Wolf, but the Rider’s potential explosiveness when he transforms into Neck Breaker is worth it to me. That attack bonus is exactly what I want if I’m playing Red aggro. He’s a strong contender for P1P1, so let’s take another look at the pack before we make any decisions, just to make sure we’re satisfied with that pick.

Overall, not the best first pack to open but I feel the Breakneck Rider // Neck Breaker really saves it. I would be happy with P1P1ing the Rider. When this pack comes back to me in a draft, I would be hoping to “wheel” either the Howlpack Wolf for the synergy, Tenacity if I end up in White or the Wicker Witch if I’m in an aggressive deck.

So far so good! Let’s move onto our second pack!

Check it out, our second Vessel of Ephemera. This pack also has a second Vampire Noble as well… Wait a second! There’s only eight Commons here! This means we either have a second DFC in the pack or perhaps a premium card. This is exciting!

In terms of P1P1, if this had been out first pack, I like the Vessel, as I mentioned before, but I also like the Voldaren Duelist. I think it has a good ability on a solid body. If we view this pack as our second pack in the draft, following our Breakneck Rider pack, I like the Voldaren Duelist even more since he’s in our colours. Let’s take a look at the Uncommons, see if anything strikes us as better.

I love Silverstrike. I think it’s one of the best Common/Uncommon removals in the format. Sure, it’s a little expensive and it requires an attacking creature which isn’t irrelevant, but the three points of life has gotten me out of quite a few jams in games so far. I also like the Graf Mole. A 2/4 for 3 is an excellent defensive creature and he’s very solid in the Clue deck. That being said, if this were our P1P1, I’m definitely favouring the Silverstrike. If this were our P2P1, assuming I’m in Red with Breakneck Rider, I’d consider splashing White for Silverstrike. I don’t know if I could say the same about the Mole. I feel I would only pick the Mole if I was already in Green.

We’ve still got our Rare and DFC to check out! Will they be better than our last pack?

BOOM! Flameblade Angel, Accursed Witch and foil Silverfur Partisan. All of these cards are great. Personally, I’m really happy to have opened the Silverfur Partisan because he’ll be going into my Tribal Cube for the Wolf support. What’s a Cube you ask? That’s another topic for another time. But I digress…

For now, of these three cards, as much as I really like Silverfur Partisan, I do feel he’s the weakest of the batch. Accursed Witch is very strong and was an integral piece in my Release Day Sealed pool deck that lead me to a 5-0 victory, so I’m certainly going to give her pause. That being said, Flameblade Angel is the very definition of a bomb and will win games on her own. She’s currently my top pick, but let’s review the entire pack once more before we make a decision.

If this were my P1P1, I’d be hard pressed to choose anything over the Flameblade Angel. I definitely like Silverfur Partsan, Accursed Witch and Silverstrike, but I feel the Angel is the clear pick. Assuming this was our P2P1, following the Breakneck Rider pack, I’d be windmill slamming that Angel. She’s in our colours and she’s a fantastic top end to a Red deck.

This is going pretty well so far! Let’s see what’s in store for us in Pack 3…

Boo! Nine Common cards. Oh well; No foil or extra DFC for us. There’s the Apothecary Geist I was talking about before that could have combined well with Spectral Shepherd. If this were our last pack after our P1 Breakneck Rider and P2 Flameblade Angel, I have to say, I’m not a huge fan of either of these Red card. Hulking Devil is underwhelming and Ember-Eye Wolf is a 2 drop that I’m fine with including in my deck, but I’m not particularly excited to do so. If this were our P1P1, I’d be leaning toward the Murderous Compulsion. It’s cheap, efficient removal with a slight drawback that could be negated if we wheel that Stern Constable.

Let’s move on to our Uncommons.

Now these cards are a little more exciting. Pale Rider of Trostad is a very interesting card for the Skulk/Discard/Madness decks but I think I like Incorrigible Youths a little more. It’s a big beater with Haste and its Madness cost makes it an insane value card if you can cast it on turn 3. Youths is definitely at the top of my list right now. Let’s see if our Rare or DFC can beat it…

DISREGARD EVERYTHING. We opened the Man in the Popped Collar Leather Jacket on Top of a Hooded Cloak himself, Jace, Unraveler of Secrets. Lambholt Pacifist, you’re a pretty good card, especially in a deck with Breakneck Rider and Flameblade Angel, but I think the pick here is Jace. Just to be sure, let’s review the pack one more time.

It’s Jace, right? Jace? Yeah, I think it’s Jace. If this were our P1P1, it’s definitely Jace. If this were our P3P1, it’s still Jace because come on, it’s Jace. If Jace wasn’t in this pack, I’d be looking at the Youths or the Murderous Compulsion. That being said, he’s in the pack and I don’t think I have the fortitude of character to simply pass Jace, although I can tell you stories of those who have. But I digress…

IMAGE - SILVER - Lius Lasahido - Silverstrike

That Was Fun Now

I hope you enjoyed our very first “pack cracking” here on Optimum Jank. I’d be very interested to hear if you agree or disagree with my picks. Would you have gone in a different direction? Would you have passed the Jace in Pack 3 if you were already solidly in Red? Leave a comment in the Comments section and share your thoughts. If you’re in the area, Three Kings Loot hosts SOI drafts on Monday, Thursday and Friday. You should check it out if you enjoyed what you saw here and would like to try it yourself!

JP Vazquez – Optimum Jank

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JP Vazquez JP Vazquez - April 6, 2016

Early Shadows Over Innistrad Impressions

Optimum Jank – Early Shadows Over Innistrad Impressions

 

IMAGE - AVISITOR - Bastien L. Deharme - Asylum Visitor

 

Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

The Shadows Over Innistrad Prerelease is behind us and we are just a few days away from the official release date of the new set. I hope you all had a chance to participate in a Prerelease event or two because Shadows Over Innistrad (SOI) is amazing. Perhaps my early impressions are overly favourable because I loathed Battle for Zendikar (BFZ) so much, but I feel my instincts for this set are on the mark: Shadows Over Innistrad is going to be tremendous fun.

One of the more fascinating aspects of this set are the sheer number of moving parts – from the mechanical elements of the game down to the story and presentation – working in unison in a truly meaningful way. If I may take a moment to contrast Shadows Over Innistrad with Battle for Zendikar, the story of BFZ was that of the Zendikari fighting alongside the unbelievably poorly named “Gatewatch” superteam of Planeswalkers to vanquish the terrorizing Eldrazi menace rampaging across Zendikar. While BFZ’s premise may have been presented as everyone working together to defeat a common foe, in reality, the entire block felt disjointed and divided into three separate entities each trying to do their own contradicting thing. The Eldrazi mechanics mostly worked parasitically meaning they didn’t really work well with anything else in the set… which is fine. The Eldrazi should feel different and alien. The Zendikari, however, were all over the place. Some were Allies which worked with everything… including the Eldrazi, which doesn’t make any sense at all. Others were… just there? They didn’t really do anything, nor were they Allies, so I guess they didn’t mind the Eldrazi being there? I have no idea. Maybe non-Ally Zendikari simply hate Zendikar. They weren’t overly synergistic with the Eldrazi either, so I’m not really sure why they were there in the first place.  Finally, we had The Gatewatch, functioning in their own space to the side by their very nature of being Planeswalkers. For a story and set about teamwork and working together, nothing meshed well nor made any sense.

I’m speaking in broad, generalized terms, of course, but I’m sure you get the idea.

Shadows Over Innistrad is pretty much the exact opposite. There are both obvious and covert synergies between many of the cards and mechanics in a set with a mythology in place that brings rhyme and reason to the improbabilities of certain cards or tribes working together. The madness currently overwhelming the plane of Innistrad gives us a credible reason for why humans would be working side by side with vampires or werewolves or zombies. In fact, in a large majority of the art, the humans are scarier than the actual monsters! Have you seen the art for Rabid Bite?

 

CARD - BITE

 

That human is BITING A WEREWOLF. This is amazing.

As if that weren’t enough, SOI just feels more powerful and more exciting than anything found in BFZ. There were a number of times I would be looking through my sideboard during the Prerelease thinking to myself: “I should be running this card… and I should be running this card too.” The reason for that is a lot of the cards feel like they could be role players in multiple strategies.

 

CARD - VESSEL

 

Take Vessel of Ephemera, for instance. It can provide attackers, blockers or sacrificial fodder, it can fuel Delirium, it works with cards that care about Spirits, at worst it can be pitched for Madness costs… the list goes on. That’s just one common. Imagine an entire set that has that level of synergy. The major problem of SOI isn’t a lack of options, its problem is having too many!

 

IMAGE - WITCH - Wesley Burt - Accursed Witch

 

Scared Walkers Going Crazy in a Caged Box

Since we’re on the subject of powerful cards, let’s talk about a few I was very impressed with because they turned out to be far more powerful than I had initially anticipated and a few that turned out to be a little less so.

 

I was lucky enough to pull these two cards in my first Prerelease pool and yes, I was able to live the dream once: I flashed in Avacyn at the end of my opponent’s turn to save one of my creatures. During my next main phase, I sacrificed five creatures, transforming Westvale Abbey into Ormendahl, Profane Prince which in turn transformed Archangel Avacyn into Avacyn, the Purifier. It was pretty glorious.

Archangel Avacyn is everything you would expect her to be. She’s a fantastic card when you’re ahead, when you’re at parity and when you’re behind. That being said, she’s not as clear cut a card to play as you would believe her to be. I played against another player with his own Avacyn and I felt there were times he would run her out too soon. She’s strong, but she isn’t unbeatable and well placed removal will send her to the yard. More often then not, I liked holding her back in my hand: If I was already ahead, I didn’t need to use her frivolously and get her killed. If I was behind, she was my insurance to get me back to parity. Knowing she was in my hand ready to fly in at instant speed certainly gave me confidence when making combat decisions. Archangel Avacyn strongly reminded me of the Queen piece in chess: A lot of power that is often best held back until it’s time to strike.

 

IMAGE - QUEEN

 

On the other hand, Westvale Abbey is an incredibly difficult card to use in Limited. Simply having it on the board – even if I wasn’t anywhere near activating it – definitely made my opponents play more aggressively and use their removal more liberally.

Activating Westvale Abbey in Sealed was very hard to do. I can see him being much more powerful in Draft or Constructed formats where you have more control over deck building and can take advantage of sacrificing creatures or building up your board with tokens. In Sealed, getting 5 creatures on the board isn’t easy. Using five mana just to get a 1/1 token was a tough pill to swallow. Sacrificing my board and hoping my opponent didn’t have a way to interact with Ormendahl was agonizing. I realized early on that transforming him against anyone running Blue was usually the wrong thing to do: Just the Wind was everywhere. Sending my entire board to the graveyard only to have Ormendahl return to my hand didn’t seem like the wisest of actions. If you could build a Draft or Constructed deck that could take advantage of powerful leave the battlefield effects when your creatures died or had a means of generating a large number of tokens you wouldn’t mind sacrificing, I could see how Westvale Abbey could be an absolutely crushing card. In my case, however, it was more often a land than it was a game-ender.

 

CARD - BOON

 

Where did this card come from? Who okayed this card? Because this card is insane.

Auras are usually frowned upon by the majority of Magic players because they often lead to potential 2-for-1s, i.e. enchanting your creature with an Aura followed by your opponent casting a removal spell targeting your enchanted creature. Your opponent only used one card (their removal spell) to get rid of two of yours (your creature and the aura). Gryff’s Boon completely disregards this weakness because it keeps coming back whenever you want it to. What makes it even more insane is that it doesn’t return to your hand like you would expect it to, it goes right onto the battlefield attached to whichever creature you’d like to turn into an immediate threat. Anything and everything in your deck has the potential to be stronger and fly. Short of exiling the enchantment, you’re never going to get rid of this thing. I had two players simply crush me with this card because I had very few ways to interact with it. Let me tell you, turning Inspiring Captains into 4/3 fliers can be backbreaking.

 

CARD - VISIONS

 

When this card was first spoiled, I though it was okay. I wasn’t certain how detrimental giving your opponent cards would be.  My strategy, if it were to be played against me, was to either A) outrace my opponent with damage or B) get my hand size down using discard outlets if I needed to. Turns out, I was correct in my assumption that it wasn’t as good against aggro/Madness decks, but I was wrong about it being easy to get my hand-size down to a manageable number if I needed too. If your deck lacks methods to discard cards and you’re running a control deck, you’re essentially racing against inevitability. You’re being punished for doing what a control deck loves to do – draw cards. In retrospect, I feel I should have somehow sided into a more aggressive deck with a lower curve to beat this card; playing my control deck against it was an exercise in futility.

I still don’t think this card is amazing, but I’m definitely giving it a bit more credit then I initially gave it.

 

IMAGE - CURSE - Wesley Burt - Infectious Curse

 

See Me Heal These Wounds

My first impressions of Shadows Over Innistrad have been overwhelmingly positive and I can’t wait until Friday when we’ll finally get a chance to draft it for the first time. I’m very excited to see if SOI Draft is as rich and nuanced as it appears to be from its Sealed environment. If you’re in the Montreal area, Three Kings Loot will be hosting SOI drafts all day on Friday starting at noon, followed by a 6:30 Sealed event. If you’re interested in playing with the new set all day, you should absolutely swing by and check it out. As always, if you liked this article or have any questions, feel free to leave a comment in the Comments section below!

JP Vazquez – Optimum Jank

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JP Vazquez JP Vazquez - March 23, 2016

SOI Spoiler Fun Times

IMAGE - Behold
Optimum Jank – Hidden in the Shadows


Holy Water Cannot Help You Now

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.

IMAGE - Odric

What If This Whole Crusade’s A Charade

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.

CARD - Odric

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.

CARD - Effort

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.

IMAGE - Lieutenant

One and One and One is Three

While we’re on the topic of critical masses and over-extensions, it’ll come as no surprise that I absolutely love “Lord” cards.

CARD - Elvish

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?

CARD - Tibbers

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.

IMAGE - Waltz

No Mere Mortal Can Resist the Evil

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

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