Welcome back to another Crack a pack with Bruce. I would like to first off apologize for being a little behind this week. It being the summer and all I was away with my family, but I am back now and excited to Crack open a pack for all of you and to see what we find. We’ve had some interesting packs in the last couple of weeks and if you want to catch up with things you can find those articles right here on Three Kings Loot. This week we’ll be opening a pack of M15 because it will now be the default draft environment if you are out in the shops.
M15 is an interesting set to draft because the overall power level of the cards is much more flat. There are much fewer absolute bomb cards in this set, but there are also a much higher level of generally viable cards that can make spots in your deck and offer you some interesting twists mid-game. Let’s take a look at what we’ve got in this pack.
Once again, this pack is a very mediocre pack. There just are not any huge, obvious bombs in this pack that make it clear what direction you should be taking it. The rare is Aggressive Mining which is a fine card, but is not something I would be looking for to start my draft off. For starters, it’s an enchantment that has very little impact on the board when I cast it. As I have said before, I want my first pick to be something that when I cast it I can tangibly see an impact on the board. Aggressive Mining does very little initially. Also, while the situation can arise in draft that you have too many land cards, I very rarely ever want to physically prevent myself from playing further land by casting Aggressive Mining. Sure I can net some extra cards, but at what stage of the game am I comfortable doing that? My initial sense is late in the game at which point Aggressive Mining is likely too late…or helping me to pour on the pressure because I’m out in front anyway. It also isn’t even worth that much, so drafting it for value also falls short. While Aggressive Mining is a neat card, and might have a place in a Constructed deck somewhere, for a draft I’ll pass and find something else.
So, what else grabs my attention. Believe it or not, the card that gets my attention first is Frost Lynx. This simple little 2/2 for 3 mana is exactly the sort of card I like to play in a draft. It has a serviceable body at a decent cost and even comes with a very useful ability to “freeze” another creature. While this guy isn’t flashy, he’s very useful and something that I can get behind.
Another card that I could see myself get on board with is Coral Barrier. It seems weird to be ready to get behind a Defender, but 2/4 worth of power and toughness for 3 mana is good value, and if I can find a way to recur it I would be pretty happy. Also, the squid token has Islandwalk which is surprisingly relevant.
The third card that grabs my eye is Encrust as a piece of reasonable removal for Blue. There isn’t much to say about this card, but it is reliable and reasonably costed and always seems to do good work. Also, you might notice that this point, we’re three cards deep and they are all Blue meaning something from this pack might wheel because the other players at the table might not want to be grabbing Blue at this point.
Oreskos Swiftclaw is another decent body as a 3/1 for 2 mana. He’s vanilla and hardly exciting, but if you want the aggressive body, he’s the guy for you.
Wall of Frost is the 4th Blue card that gets my eye and is another defender. This one is another one that doesn’t need much in the way of discussion because he’s just solid, but not flashy at all.
Dissipate is a solid counterspell and something that I would be looking at to wheel. I don’t prioritize counter magic too highly in a draft if I’m Blue, but it is nice to have a little in your deck to keep your opponent honest.
Verdant Haven can play a useful role to let you splash for another colour, but let’s be honest, this will likely be there late if you really want it. I’ll take my chances on finding one later in the draft if I really want one.
Sacred Armory is about the poorest card in the pack, which isn’t too bad. It is still a playable card, but I’m not really excited about pumping my creatures for power only with this, but it could be a useful mana sink if you lack other options.
My first pick, as discussed, would NOT be the Aggressive Mining, mainly because I don’t think it does enough for me. I’d pass on it and see if it comes back to me. No, my first pick in this pack would be Frost Lynx. A serviceable body, a relevant ability and it doesn’t overly commit me to playing any one colour too heavily at this point. It fits in almost any deck, even if I just need to splash it, and can impact the board quite significantly by freezing something else. As much as this isn’t an exciting first pick it is a reasonable choice. Also, seeing the amount of Blue in this pack I might hope to see something else that is useable come around when the pack wheels. Perhaps the Dissipate or Coral Barrier could still be there to give me another solid Blue card to add to my pile.
Well, there we have it…another week…another pack. What would you have picked out of this pack? Would you take your chances on the Rare? Would you have gone with another of the Blue cards in this pack? Something else? Let me know…I’d love to hear what you guys think and what you feel should have been the first pick, so tweet at me and let me know.
Next time we’ll bust open another pack of M15 or a pack of Journey into Nyx…I haven’t decided, but once I do I’ll let you all know. Thanks for reading and until time may you crack nothing but mythic bombs!
by Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters @bgray8791 on Twtitter
I hope everyone had a great weekend and a fun M15 prerelease experience. I have to say, I don’t get out to play in the shops very often, but I make a point of going to the prerelease. It is a fun environment, is a little less stressful than full on tournaments and is just a great way to try out some of the new cards in the newest set.
The shop that I attend hosts a Two-Headed Giant event on the Sunday evening which is reasonably well attended (although not packed like the other 4 events they run during the weekend) and is my preferred time slot and format. If you haven’t tried a Two-Headed Giant event I would strongly recommend that you do. For starters, it is a fresh and different way of playing Magic at a Local Game Store. We routinely assume that you have to play a 1 on 1 duel but it becomes very evident that Two-Headed Giant can work just as readily. At our prerelease events you get your sealed product and can open up your stuff, but can then share cards with your partner to make the best decks possible. This means that deck construction can be done with a partner and with a larger pool of cards meaning you are assured to be able to play a reasonable deck in the colours of your choice. I particularly like building my deck with someone else. I spend most of my time building my deck solo, so to have a second opinion and fresh eyes is refreshing and a pleasant change. The strategy of a Two-Headed Giant game is also substantially different because the 30 life you start with, while it is only 10 more than normal, is much harder to deal with. Your deck needs to take on much more of a mid-rangey feel because a full out aggro assault is very likely to come up short and out of gas. In the actual game play, you get the same time allotment as you would if you were playing a 1 on 1 duel, but only need to complete 1 game meaning that usually you are done in good order. This is nice so that you can get a little bit of a breather, get a drink of water, or visit the bathroom. There were a few games that went the distance and resulted in draws and such, but they were far from the norm.
How did my partner and I fare? My partner for such events is my brother. He’s the guy who can claim responsibility for getting me into Magic back when we were in High School and he is most often my partner of choice for such events. He’s a very good player and is quite polished in his game play…and we tend to think along the same lines when we sit down to build decks meaning that we can easily complement each other. I’m not sure the fact that we are brothers is a huge benefit, but we certainly are familiar with each other and know what to expect from the other person. In the end we went 4-1 and placed 2nd out of 20 teams which was a very strong showing for us. Here’s a look at the deck I was running.
As you can probably tell I played the White seeded pack and was generally pretty happy with the outcome. The intent of the deck was to get out early with the 2 drops (Welkin Tern, Dauntless River Marshal, Oreskos Swiftclaw and Ajani’s Pridemate) to apply some early pressure to get us to the long game plan of the Archangel and Boonweaver Giant. I packed in a couple of auras and a little removal but was stunned to have opened 0 counterspells. I admit, I felt kind of naked without knowing that I had a little bit of counter magic, but you get what you get and play the games. My brother on his end played the Black seeded pack and opted for a wildly aggressive B/R build running tons of goblins and bringing loads of pain. In the end, our decks complemented each other pretty well and we seemed to have reasonable synergy such that we could really get out front of our opponents and then close down the match.
A few highlights were in game 1 we had fallen behind to a very aggressive Mono-Red deck that left us reeling. We had sort of stabilized at 12 life but were still in danger of being blown right out. In back to back top decks I ripped Boonweaver Giant and immediately tutored up Spectra ward for it giving me a basically untouchable 6/6 beatstick. The next top deck I ripped Resolute Archangel and swung our life total back for a ton and could then attack with impunity. The look on the faces of our opponents when the Angel came down was just priceless and the two 7 drops turned the tide of the game for us. In game 4 we were again under pressure and from an aggressive duo had just suited something up with their own Spectra Ward but I ripped my Spectra Ward suited up my Ajani’s Pridemate with 5 counters on him and we quickly closed out the game. In our final game it was once again Spectra Ward, this time on a Krenko’s Enforcer that did the damage to finish of a pair that had got off to slow start and were being punished.
Now that I have had a chance to sit down and really see the format, granted in a sealed setting and not draft, I have a learned a few things that I would pass along in the form of some Deep Thoughts
You may have got the sense that Spectra Ward is good. Based on the limited results we had, it was not just good, it was terrific. You can make ANYTHING into a basically untouchable bomb that can shred your opponent. I have rarely been excited for 5 mana auras, but I might be able to get behind this one. What is a disgusting combination is the Boonweaver Giant tutoring up the Spectra Ward for FREE and then closing out the game very quickly. If you see this one, take it because it does very good work.
There are a fair number of Goblins in this set and many of them are useful. Foundry Street Denizen is a terrific way to punish opponents for slow starts and Frenzied Goblin basically makes blocking a nightmare as they tap things down. However, the real star of the Goblin army is the Rabblemaster who is a one Goblin army. My brother put him to good use and routinely got in there for plenty of damage with him. Mix in the Red Paragon (yes, I know he’s NOT a Goblin) and you have an awesome combination to get out to blinding start with loads of damage.
If you weren’t sure before, I’m here to tell you that the removal in this set is very poor. It is either very situational like Pillar of Light or Banishing Light, super expensive and clunky like Flesh to Dust, or punishes you tremendously like Ulcerate. So, with the exception of Lightning Strike you are paying a ton for lousy removal. This puts extra pressure on you to curve out with creatures because the only real way to protect yourself is to block and to try and block profitably. I miss the days when removal was cheap, efficient and plentiful…alas, the times they are a changing and removal just got pricey.
All of us who enjoy playing limited are going to have to adjust to playing in a post Theros world where Bestow is no longer a deal. It means the requirement for Auras to be playable now needs to go WAY up. It also means that you can’t just load up one dude and have him smash away. I watched a number of opponents suit up there creature like they would have in Theros limited environments only to have them completely nullified by a single spell. Remember folks, don’t set yourself up for the 2 for 1 unless those auras are really good.
The new card frame got its debut and it looks solid. It isn’t really a major change and it still looks and feels like a Magic card. I think everyone will get used to it and will grow to like the new look.
One of the hardest parts of playing Magic at a lengthy event is making sure you get something to eat between rounds. Lots of people default to Mcdonald’s or Tim Horton’s, but I’m never really satisfied with those choices. Well, as I walked into the Shop to play I noticed that the small pizza joint next door had a promotion for a slice of pizza, a pop, and a garlic dip all for $5. The proximity to the store (namely, right next the game shop), a solid price, and the fact that it was pizza sealed the deal and was the meal choice for us. Pizza has rarely tasted to so good.
Oh, as a final point, at the end of the night for my drive home I stopped at the Tim Horton’s to grab a decaf coffee (I only ever drink decaf). It’s 10:30pm and surely most Timmies have decaf brewing, but not this weekend. I had to stop and wait while they brewed up a new pot. Now, I know this sounds very petty, but who exactly is buying regular coffee at 10:30pm on a Sunday night? Presumably people want to sleep and the caffeine pretty well sewers that. Decaf would be the obvious choice but for some reason the Timmies I visited seemed stunned that I would want decaf. Perhaps I’m being overly particular because when I was younger I worked at a Timmies…but I hardly think expecting to have Decaf on hand late at night is a shocker. Rant over…thanks.
I hope all of you had a fantastic M15 Prerelease weekend. I’d love to hear about other experiences out there and what you observed. Was Spectra Ward as good for you guys as it was for us? What did you think of the removal? Did anyone open some crazy awesome rares and just go off? I’d love to hear the stories. Send me tweet and let’s hear all about it!
Thanks for reading and until next time, keep it fun, keep it safe…keep it casual.
Bruce Gray @bgray8791
Nyx Infusion- A 3 mana (1 black, 2 colourless) aura that gives enchantment creatures +2/+2 otherwise the creature gets -2/-2. The versatility is nice here…it could be a form of removal for a pesky “bear”, or a nice boost to a creature on your board. Overall, it’s kind of meh, but playable if you are looking for the flexibility this offers. This will be around late in the round, so no rush to grab this up.
Oakheart Dryads- a 2/3 for 3 mana (a green and 2 colourless) this enchantment creature comes with Constellation that says whenever it or another enchantment enters play target creature gets +1/+1 until end of turn. This is a serviceable body, a reasonable Constellation ability, and is generally pretty reasonable, if not exciting.
Oppressive Rays- a 1 white mana aura that prevents target creature from blocking or attacking unless their owner pays 3 colourless. Also, activated abilities of the creature cost 3 colourless more to activate. This is pretty cheap and can really slow down an opponent. It acts much like a Pacifism and strangles off activated abilities making it pretty decent “removal”. You will have to pick your spot and use this strategically because they may just be prepared to pay the cost, particularly the later the game goes, but as an early ay to freeze up your opponent this will be a strong card.
Oreskos Swift Claw- a 3/1 for 2 mana (a white and a colourless) is a good aggressive creature in a White Weenie style deck. He’s a little vanilla, but still solid and aggressive in a draft.
Pensive Minotaur- a 2/3 Minotaur for 3 mana (2 colourless and a red). He’s a solid enough body in red and if you are drafting the B/R Minotaur deck he’s ok, but just a little bland. He’ll still make decks, but is just a dude.
Phalanx Formation- This is a 3 mana (1 white, 2 colourless) for an instant that grants target creature double strike and has Strive to allow you to target additional creatures by paying a colourless and a white. It could be a fun combat trick, but you will need to be careful with all the Strive combat instants that you don’t water down your deck by substituting tricks for bodies.
Pharika’s Chosen- This is a 1/1 for 1 black and you get a snake with Deathtouch. This will see plenty of play and will be an early deterrent to your opponent to attacking because NOBODY like attacking into deathtouch creatures. Sedge Scorpion is solid, and so is this.
Pheres-Band Thunderhoof- Another Centaur, this time a 3/4 for 5 mana (1 green and 4 colourless) and comes with Heroic and gets two +1/+1 counters when targeted by a spell. He’ll be playable, but is a little expensive considering Nessian Courser is a 3/3 for 3 mana, and you then need to work to make this guy bigger, but if you need a sizeable body and solid Heroic trigger this will be just fine
Pin to the Earth- Don’t look at this as an Aura. Look at this as actual blue removal, because a -6/-0 pretty much means the creature is useless. Yes, it can block and act like a wall, but if you’re casting this Aura it’s because you don’t want to get smacked across the face by a big beater, so that’s a trade off I’m prepared to make. At a mere 2 mana (a blue and a colourless) this spell is cheap, splashable, and quite effective.
Pull from the Deep- A blue sorcery where for 2 blue and a colourless you may return an instant and a sorcery from your graveyard to your hand and exile Pull from the Deep. This allows you to re-buy a solid combat trick, a Heroic enabler, or just grab your Divination one more time to fill up your hand. With no flashback in this set, this will be useful to get access to your spells in your yard, but will mostly a late game play as you would rather be doing other things with your mana earlier in the game.
Quarry Colossus- a 5/6 Giant for 7 mana (2 white, 5 colourless) this is a neat card with a quasi removal effect. When Quarry Colossus enters play return target creature to its owners library just beneath the top X cards, where X is equal to the number of plains you control. Let’s be real, this is a huge body and with 2 white mana will be in a pretty White heavy deck, so you should have a high number of plains on the battlefield. This guy makes your opponent’s best creature disappear for…oh…I don’t know…a large number of turns and gives you a chance to finish him off with the Giant beat stick you just cast. I like him, but at seven he’s a little slow. Cross your fingers and hope you get there.
Reprisal- a very funcational reprint of an efficient White removal card. With all the enchantments out there boosting the power of creatures it should be no issue to find a suitable target and at instant it will come out of nowhere and really shift combat. Basically, combat just got impossible to predict, so don’t bother trying to play around the removal…just accept that if your opponent has mana up and cards in hand that he has a trick or something make you go nuts.
Returned Reveler- A 1/3 Zombie satyr for a black and a colourless mana, this pretty vanilla creature says that when it dies each player mills the top three cards of their library. Here we go with the Mill again, this time on a creature that needs to DIE before you get the benefit…and…as if that weren’t already bad enough, it is symmetrical meaning the Mill hits you too! No, there are very few cards I’ve called poor in this set, but this is poor. Lots of set up, bad stats, symmetrical ability…more like don’t waste your time. This will be last pick regularly, I’m sure.
Reviving Melody- a 3 mana (1 green and 2 colourless) sorcery that allows you to choose 1 or both of return target creature card from your graveyard to your hand and/or return target enchantment from your graveyard to your hand. I get to re-buy 2 cards for 3 mana? That’s a pretty good deal and in a set with enchantment creatures it means you are basically getting back two creatures. Good deal! Anything running Green will play this.
Rise of Eagles- a 6 mana (2 blue, 4 colourless) sorcery that gives you two 2/2 bird enchantment creature tokens and then Scry 1. Ok, Talrand’s Invocation is the closest comparison I can draw, but that was 4 mana for a pair of 2/2 fliers. This is 6 for a pair of birds…and a Scry… umm…yuck?! Unless you are REALLY working hard for those Constellation triggers this will be a bubble card and will likely miss out in favour of something that will impact the board more directly.
Rollick of Abandon- a 5 mana (2 red, 3 colourless) sorcery that gives all creatures +2/-2 until end of turn. This looks PERFECT for the B/R Minotaur deck where all your Man-Bulls are 3 toughness…suddenly your stampeding horde are all 5/1’s at a minimum. The B/R deck doesn’t care that they die to a feather duster…all this deck cares about is trying to stomp on your jugular…and if enough Man-Bulls hit the mark it’s game over. It could also be a very unusual sweeper to wipe out a White weenie/Bear deck, but that takes work and I would rather bank on this being an aggressive card over the potential sweeper effect.
Rotted Hulk- a 2/5 elemental for 4 mana (1 black and 3 colourless). A decent body at a reasonable cost means that this vanilla creature will see play in draft. He’s just another dude with a big butt to hold off your opponent’s critters.
Rouse the Mob- This is another scary trick to make the B/R Minotaur deck really scary. For 1 red mana target creature gets +2/+0 and trample and you can cast the Strive ability for an additional 2 colourless and a red to start getting additional targets. Boost your Man-Bulls with Rollick of Abandon and then give one (or MAYBE more…but good god am I living in fantasy Christmas land then…think of the mana requirements!) trample to just keep the beat down pouring in. I bet your opponent will just about ready to scoop after that barrage. However, this one feels pretty narrow and a bit limited. Unless you are all in for aggro beat down you can probably do better.
Satyr Grovedancer- A 1/1 for 2 mana (1 green, 1 colourless) you get a Satyr Shaman that when it enters the battlefield put a +1/+1 counter on target creature. This is Timberland Guide from Avacyn Restored and is pretty fun. The Grovedancer can be a Bear if you need it (or lack another target) by pumping itself, but just like the Supply-line Cranes, can boost another creature for more value. A serviceable card and nice ability.
Sigiled Skink- This is a 2 mana (1 red, 1 colourless) 2/1 lizard that lets you scry whenever it attacks. What more reason does Red need to attack? All in…all the time…and now you get to scry to improve your card selection next time. It’ll be played in Aggro builds of all sorts if only to hit the Scry ability.