Hi again everyone and welcome back to another Casual Encounter! With Battle for Zendikar being out and now legal in Standard, there has been an explosion of decks being built. Brewers of all stripes have sat down and put their thoughts together to make a pile of sweet new decks. I have been in the process of building some of my own new decks, but instead of eyeing playing tier 1 Standard decks I’m looking to build decks to play casually. I’ve always had some unspoken guidelines that I’ve kept in mind when building these decks, but I’ve never actually sat down and laid them all out in front of me. Today I have compiled my personal top ten commandments for building my casual decks and will share them with you. At the end, if you have any others that you feel should be added or things that don’t work for you, leave a message or send me a tweet and let me know!
Let’s clear up a few things before we get started. When I say “casual” I’m talking about any time you just sit down with a buddy or two on a Saturday night and just jam a few games. You are playing Magic, but not with an express interest in winning (although winning is fun). You are looking to enjoy the company of your friends and have games of Magic where something interesting, surprising, or intriguing happens. So, if your deck is too powerful, or too weak, your experience is just not going to be as good because you will either dominate or get run over and your games will run out of steam. Neither experience lends itself to fun game play. So, when trying to build a deck I try to follow as many of these rules as I can. Without further ado let’s check out The Ten Commandments of Casual Deck Construction.
10) Thou shalt build a deck that is good…but not too good. Playing the oppressive tournament winning deck is no fun for your friends. It’s ok to have this built and to play it once in a while, but if this is your go-to deck you will quickly find that your friends lose interest or don’t like to play against that deck. Pull it out and play a game or two with your scary good tournament deck, but then put it back in your deck box and grab something else.
9) Thou shalt look for synergy over raw power. Synergistic decks are always more fun and can be deceivingly powerful. Once you get the momentum going you are hard to derail and can be capable of some pretty explosive things. One such example of a synergistic deck that is perfect for Casual play are Simic decks featuring the Evolve mechanic and lots of +1/+1 counters. The Simic deck can be slow to get going, but once you get that Zegana or Master Biomancer up to speed your deck gets hard to handle. Decks featuring somewhat obscure or tricky combos like Sanguine Bond/Exquisite Blood are other great examples of where synergy can totally take over a game, but the deck doesn’t need to ruin the experience for everyone..
8) Thou shalt play those janky bulk rares. Those terrible, unplayable cards can give you much joy and give everyone a good laugh because no one thought they would see play…ever. I’m looking at you Felhide Spiritbinder and Blessed Reincarnation. These sorts of cards can do powerful things if you are prepared to actually play them…sometimes with unintended consequences…and that always makes for great stories. Don’t be gun shy, just run’em. You’ll see.
7) Thou shalt remember that commons and uncommons are your friends. Most Casual players have boxes of commons and uncommons that just sort of sit around and don’t do very much. However, these very playable cards can be leveraged into good value during a game if you are committed to running them. A couple of recent examples are the uncommons from Fate Reforged like Elite Scaleguard, Temur Sabretooth, and Mistfire Adept that can be very powerful but often get overlooked in constructed in favor of just more raw power. Kitchen Table Magic is the perfect place for these to flourish.
6) Thou shalt play an imperfect mana base and that is okay. Really, it’s O-K. No one expects you to have all the most current dual lands / fetch lands / creature lands / make rainbows & skittles fly out of their back side lands. Plus it is way cheaper. WAY cheaper !!!
5) Thou shalt play seven mana (or bigger) spells and not even blink twice. I think this is self explanatory.
4) Thou shalt play expensive, but useful creature destruction. We all know how removal has changed over time. Long gone are Terror, Dark Banishing, Swords to Plowshares and Path to Exile. Instead we get much more conditional removal that is either slower (at sorcery speed), more narrow (like Ultimate Price) or just plain expensive like Spiteful Blow & Pinion Feast that tack on an extra effect. There is actually an incentive to play these less mana efficient cards outside of Limited when you head on to the Casual game. The extra ability (that usually makes the spell so expensive to cast) actually can help your deck do what it wants to do. I always use the example of Spiteful Blow in a deck with a fair amount of land destruction because now you get a 2 for 1 out of this spell that plays into the theme of your deck. Pinion Feast is fine removal in a deck looking to leverage lots of +1/+1 counters. Would I be clambering to play a full playset of these things? No. But there is a place for 1 or 2 of the more unusual spells. Besides to play a million copies of Hero’s Downfall is expensive and not fun.
3) Thou shalt play unusual artifacts. Hello Pixis of Pandemonium.
2) Thou shalt play answers to a little of everything. Since you really don’t get a chance to sideboard you need to play an answer to most sorts of things. Creature destruction obviously, but artifact and enchantment removal are key too. You can slide in some counter spells. No opponent wants to be locked out of the game on account of counter magic, but they do have their place. This takes up more card slots and increases your variance, but variance can make for fun game states with someone having the surprise answer in hand that can swing the whole game around.
1) Thou shalt remember that it is just a game and that you are paying for fun.
Notice I don’t say you can’t play this, that, or the other thing. Anything goes. Provided that your deck is mindful of things like your opponents and having a fun and interactive game, you can play that Ugin or Karn. You can go all aggro if you want, but maybe not quite as aggro as the winning deck at the last big tournament. You can do anything you like, but remember that you are playing for fun. Giving some consideration to the other players will help make your experience far more enjoyable for everyone.
Here’s an example of a deck I have built that fits many of these rules and would be an excellent example of a good casual deck:
So, let’s look at the number of commandments I’ve hit on with this list. It’s not just rares (#10), relies mostly on synergy (#9), plays a couple of janky rares (Foul Renewal for sure)(#8), has lots of commons and uncommons (#7), the mana base is a long way from being flashy or perfect (#6), and answers to a range of things (#2). That’s quite the number of goals that I’ve met and I have no doubt that the deck would fare just fine in a match with some friends. I’ve been toying around with this in the play rooms on MTGO and have seen some reasonable success by giving as good as it gets. More importantly, no one is going to look at this deck and just balk. It’s respectable, has a chance to win every time, and is looking to interact and make the game fun for everyone. It’s not a fancy deck, but it showcases many of the ideas I have been trying to illustrate.
Have I missed anything? Is there anything on my list you don’t agree with? Let me know. There are loads of people out there who play casually and I would love to hear what other people do as they sit down to make up their decks. So, leave me a message or fire me a tweet and let know.
Thanks very much for stopping by for a read. Until next time have yourself a great MTG day and I’ll talk to you guys next time!
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter
Welcome back to the second part of my EDH // Commander review of Dragon’s Maze. The first installment can be found here. I found such a plethora of interesting cards that it was necessary to split it into two offerings so you wouldn’t get information overload. Like I mentioned before the amount of powerful multicolored cards has helped to make this set very friendly to EDH players and there is most definitely something to pique your interest. So without further ado here is the rest of the best…
Ral Zarek – this guy is screaming at me to be paired up with Krark’s Thumb in a coin flip deck. Since there is still some randomness with him your opponents should only be mildly annoyed with you for taking 5 more turns.
Master of Cruelties – an obvious include in a Kaalia deck as an instawin if both are able to get through unblocked. He is also able to combo with Ninjutsu creatures like Skullsnatcher or Walker of Secret Ways, you just use Ninjutsu after his ability is triggered.
Possibility Storm – I can see this offbeat enchantment as another annoying tool in a Norin deck. If you embrace these types of random effects then you can definitely have fun with it. Could be built around to some extent which would require some very creative deckbuilding.
Blood Baron of Vizkopa – not only is he from a great tribe but his protection can be very relevant as well. Obviously he’s at his best when one of your opponents is 10 life or less, hello Sorin Markov, and remember that nothing is forcing you to attack that particular opponent.
Notion Thief – I’m dreaming about some sort of Donate deck that runs him and Consecrated Sphinx for instant death. Just give away the Thief while you have a Sphinx in play and draw a card. Since the ability is not a may your opponent will be forced to draw which will trigger Sphinx again forcing him to draw which will trigger Sphinx again forcing him to draw…you get the point.
Debt to the Deathless – this one is just blatantly obvious especially if you are already running Crypt Ghast and Nirkana Revenant to ensure an amount of X that’s sure to close games very quickly in your favor.
Renounce the Guilds – this excites me very much for mono-white aggro builds like in an Isamaru deck where you won’t take any splash damage. I like that it hits permanents instead of specific types and should be able to get something from everyone that way.
Deputy of Acquittals – seems like there’s definitely a way to abuse his ability with Riptide Labratory to gain infinite amounts of extra value out of from bouncing your non-wizards with into play or leaves play (but not to the grave) abilities.
Voice of Resurgence – this card when pushed into a Doubling Season deck with a ton of token creatures will single-handedly push a game from ridiculous to insane. Also can have similar effect if you can stick him to a Mimic Vat popping his tokens each turn.
Korozda Gorgon – repeatable removal which definitely wants to be in a Doubling Season shell. Should be able to slip into a Ghave deck which is almost certain to have all the counters you need to use him to the fullest.
Zhur-Taa Druid – WOW !!! A mana dude with the added benefit of pinging all of your opponents. Sure one little point isn’t all that much but if you add Grafted Exoskeleton or even Phyresis then this little guy can end games even quicker just on his own.
Maw of the Obzedat – could probably find a spot in a junk tokens deck to use some of those small guys to pump up the team. Easily eats blocked creatures to push extra damage through with the rest of the assault. The kind of card that makes blocking miserable and leaves them asking if there’s any way to block where they won’t die.
Ready // Willing – this is just an absolute blowout. Not only are you going to thwart an attack with surprise blockers, not only are you going to gain a bunch of life instead of possibly dying but indestructible deathtouchers to sweep the army of your opponent is priceless. A must include in every junk deck.
Catch // Release – there is so much value gained with this card that I would find room for it in Ruhan. Obviously you’re able to deal with the most problematic permanent, as long as it’s not protected, but you can also work around it with cards like Flagstones of Trokair, Hostility, Mycosynth Wellspring, Hatching Plans or Reveillark. Just be sure you’re ready for a backlash since this will not make people very happy.
Breaking // Entering – I can see this in Sedris with value gained from both halves, fill your grave with unearthables and reanimate the biggest card in any graveyard. You might find a slot in Thraximundar but mostly for the Entering half.
Pontiff of Blight – I can totally see this guy as a top end bomb with some zombie hordes. Giving extort to all of your creatures will tend to end games rather quickly in your favor but also put the bulls eye squarely on you and him.
Blood Scrivener – has two relevant types with zombie and wizard, although I’d imagine in a wizards shell you’d be in trouble if his ability was triggering. Ends up very powerful in a low curve aggro deck that tries to empty its hand every turn.
Wear // Tear – not the most powerful spell but very versatile and will always have bothersome targets to take care of.
So there you have it, another amazing release with tons of great possibilities. Were there any cards that you think I missed? What cards have you been adding into your decks or what new deck ideas have sparked from the Dragon’s Maze? Don’t hesitate to tweet me about it, I love to talk magic and I’m sure there’s some new ideas that I can learn from. Also, feel free to email me your decklists and I’m sure to enjoy reading about your new found synergies. Thanks again and see you next time.
– Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on twitter
Regardless if you call it Commander or EDH I’m certain you found some goodies in for a deck you may be working on…I certainly found a bunch of cards that had me thinking.
Lazav, Dimir Mastermind – While he could maybe head an all-in mill deck its probably better to slip him as support in a The Mimeoplasm deck with the hexproof it’s a pretty nice pick the best of the bunch you hit that turn and it could be pretty fun. Too bad for them you CAN copy the Eldrazi and then Bribery it from his deck and yes that’s two Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre, nice.
Obzedat, Ghost Council – He makes me want to start work on an Orzhov style of bureaucracy advisors deck. Seems better with less opponents but if you pair it with Vizkopa Guildmage you can work them all down.
Aurelia, the Warleader – She is definitely the card I am going build my aggro Boros deck for. She is also a great include in a Razia, Boros Archangel deck.
Prime Speaker Zegana – Its a wizard and a merfolk so obviously there’s a spot in a deck. If you can get some synergy with a Deadeye Navigator that could draw through your deck nicely.
Borborygmos Enraged – Maybe in some kind of a 70+ land deck that can really make use of him but I haven’t seen that list yet, but I would love to.
Sylvan Primordial – This is just so absolutely ridiculous and ramp a Riku of Two Reflections to copy can be pretty oppressive. This is definitely the top of the cycle.
Diluvian Primordial – As always it’s about timing but by the time you play him it should be at a point where your payoff is ludicrous.
Luminate Primordial – A huge Swords to Plowshares and if you can get a flicker effect going can constantly pick off your greatest threats.
Sepulchral Primordial – Another interesting addition in a Mimeoplasm mill deck.
Molten Primordial – It has potential to get a massive effect but feels like the one of the cycle that could end up with more frequent meh scenarios.
Giant Adephage – When you add that to Doubling Season it just looks like that could go loopy…and I’d love to see the alter in the token.
Ooze Flux – Not super but again you can pull of some shenanigans with it.
Crowned Ceratok – Really nice global effect for swarm decks that that abuse +1/+1 counters.
Serene Remembrance – Well obviously its you getting your best cards back and will again & again…I see some beautiful Riku of Two Reflections interaction, I would love a spell that’s RUG to shuffle itself and six cards from your graveyard back into your library.
Wight of Precinct Six – Interesting zombie that can potentially get humongous.
Hellkite Tyrant – This sick dragon will definitely net you some booty.
Angelic Skirmisher – Besides the obvious inclusion in angel decks she can do some major work in token strategies as well. First strike, vigilance or lifelink to all of your creatures, wow !!! And every combat step, just brutal.
Deathpact Angel – Could find a spot maybe in a Kaalia of the Vast deck but is fighting for precious space.
Shadow Alley Denizen – Relevant as a vampire and will trigger many times.
Merciless Eviction – Just so damn versatile, and much much better when you can recur it to your advantage.
Thespian’s Stage – With so many targets to choose from it’s going to be doing some heavy lifting for you. Looks like one of those support lands I want to squeeze into most decks.
Crypt Ghast – Another ramp for black. He has a fragile body and average cost but helps black ramp strategy by adding the redundancy.
Stolen Identity – Way too expensive to be viable in constructed but the ability to hit artifacts and there should be a way for you to trigger every turn.
With a list like that there must be something to tickle your fancy. To be honest I’m a novice to Commander but have absolutely had a blast every game I’ve played. I’m going to work on an Aurelia deck because I’ve always gone Boros. I love to see cool lists so feel free to send me a tweet and time permitting I’ll get back to you.
– Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on twitter