The anticipation is mounting! In just a few short days we will be getting our first chance to play Battle for Zendikar and I’m pretty excited. There are some amazing new cards in this set, and some terrific reprints that got some slick new art. It looks like there are going to be some bonkers new additions to just about every format, including Casual Kitchen Table Magic. Today I’m going to go through my Top Ten cards to bring to your next Casual Kitchen Table Magic game night and spice things up. Let’s get down to business.
10. Common Land Cycle ( Sandstone Bridge, Skyline Cascade, Mortuary Mire, Looming Spires, Fertile Thicket ). This common land cycle doesn’t look super spicy, but let’s be real, any time you can play a land card and have an effect that is normally created by a spell you have something that is deceptively powerful. There will be loads of decks looking to pick these up to replace just a regular basic land card, and the extra ability is always a solid trick. Now, let’s talk about how to abuse these (i.e. get more than one activation). In a Kitchen Table world you are constrained only by your card pool and the rules you and your friends have established, so finding fun ways to take advantage of these should be easy. Let’s start with the “Karoo” lands or “Bounce” lands from Ravnica. These were reprinted in Modern Masters 2015 making them pretty readily available and an easy way to get more than one activation of these. Emancipation Angel or Kor Skyfisher, or even Pearl Lake Ancient are also some of my favorites and could easily get you additional activations. Going a little more in the the history of Magic, Soramaro, First to Dream would be hilarious.
As if just getting the value off these lands wasn’t enough, don’t forget this set is packing Landfall meaning that you are very likely to net all sorts of value off of just playing these lands. That makes these things even more appealing. The nice part is that you will usually be pleased to see these guys, regardless of what stage of the game you’re in. Keep your eyes peeled for these small, but significant, additions.
9. Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper: What isn’t to like about this guy? He’s a 4/4 for 5 mana which is a pretty reasonable rate to start and you will not feel ashamed to run him out. His size also makes him surprisingly robust and able to tussle if the need arises. However, what is truly gross is his ability. You get free +1/+1 counters on your lands every time you cast an instant or sorcery…and in Blue and White isn’t that what you want to do anyways? I can well imagine EDH decks premised on this guy or just jammed in there for value. However, what I think might be truly busted is playing Jeskai and slamming this guy and Zada. Cast your instant on Zada, copy the spell a bunch of times, make a pile of Elementals, attack for the win…or something like that. Yes, that is magical Christmas land, but it’s fun to dream. I’m kind of excited to see this guy and try him out.
8. Omnath, Locus of Rage: I don’t know what to do with this guy…but I like the fact that Omnath is getting a reprinting, and this time he’s pissed. I haven’t got a clue how good he will be, or any deck built around him using elementals as a centerpiece, but this guy sure looks unhappy and ready to kick some butt. All he really asks of you is to play your land and benefit from an army of 5/5 tokens, but that feels a little too simple. Omnath makes the list because of his unbridled anger…and big scary tokens. For those of you out there with RTR block cards still kicking around, time to dust off those Populate enablers..
7. Catacomb Sifter: This guy is among my favorite cards in the set and the art is insane. That is spectacular art! The colours and contrast really stand out and makes this thing look super frightening. But enough about the art. This 3 mana creature packs 3/4 worth of power and toughness across 2 bodies which is a very good rate. I know I play casually, but I also really like efficient creatures…they help me get to the much less efficient but fun part of my deck! This is exactly the sort of thing I want to do. However, there is still more. This packs the Scry 1 ability that Reaper of the Wilds packs just because…umm…value? This is a very strong card and I can’t wait to get my hands on some of these guys and ride the Value Train.
6. Halimar Tidecaller: How is this NOT a rare? Can you just imagine pairing this with Noyan Dar and making FLYING land creatures? Wow. And you even get to bring another relevant spell out of your graveyard to replay and get yet ANOTHER land creature. Sure, it is a bit of a build around, but if you can successfully build around it this looks amazing! For a paltry 3 mana this feels as if it has been pushed to try and push an elemental theme…and I’m taking the bait! I can almost taste the Elemental Deck…Brews to come!
5. Defiant Bloodlord: Ok folks, this makes the list because you now have Sanguine Bond attached to a 4/5 flying body. This gives those janky “life gain” decks you see around the Kitchen table yet another win condition and NOW it gets to attack too! I’m just dreaming of casting this and Feed the Clan to maximum effect. The interaction between this and Gray Merchant of Asphodel seems like it could be potent too. All in all, there will be lots of ways to abuse this around the Kitchen Table so you had better buckle down.
4. Felidar Sovereign: Felidar Sovereign is yet another example of the power of alternate win conditions. This guy is a reprint from the original Zendikar block and became a staple in EDH decks all over the place as an alternative win condition. The issue WAS that Felidar was a $10-12 card that essentially exclusively saw play in Casual formats. By getting a reprint players will be getting a shot to grab this guy at a much more affordable $2 price point. Enjoy the savings Casual players, this one is for you.
3. Kiora, Master of Depths: Kiora made this list because her ultimate is nutty. Three 8/8 octopus tokens PLUS they get to fight your opponent’s creatures? Whatever…you win the game if you get this Emblem online. If you can look me in the eye and honestly tell me that you aren’t interested in doing that then you’re lying to yourself.
2. Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger: If the Eldrazi somehow didn’t make this list then I wouldn’t be doing my job. What’s NOT to like? It’s big, splashy, hard to kill, wrecks the game instantly, can be played in virtually every deck and looks to be about the best thing you can do with 10 mana. Also, because this version of Ulamog doesn’t come with the “feel bad” Annihilator mechanic your buddies around the kitchen table are more apt to agree to let you play it. Yeah, Ulamog is a thing and makes our list.
1. Zada, Hedron Grinder: Zada is getting lots of buzz and with good cause because her ability is just outright insane. Any time you can copy spells you have a strong effect. Zada will let you copy them multiple times for FREE! Magic players love the word FREE and so Johnnies around the world are setting up to break this. I’ve heard lots of players talk about casting Titan’s Strength or Become Immense on Zada and then pumping your team to significant effect, but I was going somewhere completely different. I was going to aim for Feat of Resistance and essentially allow your team to get protection from…oh…everything…and crash in for the win. But things at the Kitchen table can get better! Ranger’s Guile protects ALL your stuff. Rootborn Defenses fights off Board wipes. Retraction Helix allows you to turn all your creatures into Unsummon spells! Really, the possibilities are endless and this is why so many people are excited about Zada. There really isn’t much doubt, Zada is the real winner for the Casual Magic crowd.
Well, there we have our top ten cards for Casual Magic. I’m sure there are a few spicy things that I left off the list, but I have to draw the line somewhere. If you have something you think should be added to the list, send me a tweet and let me know. I’d love to hear what has got other people excited!
Thanks for taking the time to stop in and have a visit and have yourself a great MTG day!
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter
Hi folks. We had a huge weekend at PAX. I watched a good deal of the coverage and am firmly convinced that at some point I will need to attend one of these events because it looked super cool. Did you see the GIANT Eldrazi sculpture erected in front of the exhibit hall?! Wow! That was amazing and looked super cool. The most impressive part was the detail on the sculpture…but I won’t go too far into that.
In addition to the World Championship and PAX, we got a massive amount of previews from the set that will be hitting the shelves this fall. That’s right, Battle for Zendikar is just about here and I’m excited. I’m really looking forward to getting a chance to play with all these giant Eldrazi monsters stomping around because it feels amazing to see so many massive creatures. And they all seem to pack some sort of nasty ability! Talk about spoiling us!
The last time we visited Zendikar, during Rise of the Eldrazi, I wasn’t playing and was totally oblivious to these creatures. I have since come to know many of them through things like watching and paying attention to deck lists, reading up on the lore of the plane, and generally paying attention to the happenings in the Magic community. However, I have seen these guys in isolation. I have watched Emrakul get cheated into play with a variety of tricks. I have seen Ulamog in a Modern Masters 2015 draft pack. I have heard about Kozilek and the destruction he can wreak on a board and the massive card advantage you can draw. But I have never seen these three beasts in their own element. I have never faced down the wrath of a horde of voracious Eldrazi and I can hardly wait to get my first real Eldrazi experience now that we are heading back to Zendikar.
While the prospect of facing down the Eldrazi is very appealing, there are a few other things that were spoiled that are bound to be of interest to people. Personally, the most important thing spoiled was the new cycle of dual lands. Initially I read that there were a lot of people who were disappointed that the Enemy Coloured Fetchlands weren’t going to be reprinted, but it seems unusual for WoTC to have all 10 Fetchlands in standard at the same time. So, Fetchlands were out but word got out that a new set of Dual Lands was being released and the speculation exploded. What was revealed Saturday night was a very interesting set of lands.
The lands are allied coloured dual lands. That’s a fair place to start and not the least bit unusual. I hope we see the remaining five enemy coloured lands in the second set, but for the time being we have 5 lands. They also have a drawback of coming into play tapped unless you control 2 basic lands. That is a very reasonable drawback, but I will come back to that. The most interesting feature is that they have 2 land types meaning you can fetch them with a Fetchland. That is exciting because the last time that non-basic lands had two land types was the Ravnica Shocklands, but once again we’ll come back to any comparison with the Shocklands. On the whole, this is pretty exciting cycle of lands and an interesting variant on dual lands in general.
The reaction has been mixed to say the least. The initial place that most people started with was that these lands are inferior versions of the Shocklands. Yes, they share the characteristic of having 2 basic land types on them, but the Shocklands can enter play untapped based on YOUR decision and aren’t conditional to you controling 2 basic lands. So, we can agree that the Shocklands are a notch better, but there is something to be said for NOT having your land hit you for 2 points of life (or 3 if used in conjunction with a Fetchland) that might make these more appealing. That extra 2 or 3 points of damage per land is a very real cost and now having the chance to avoid it is appealing and will give players in Modern reason to pause at least to consider their mana base before sleeving up their deck.
As far as Standard is concerned, these will be nice replacements for the Temples and could be seen in many ways as an upgrade because you can actually fetch them. As nice as the Temples were, you could never fetch them up and that was not optimal. The tradeoff of a Scry in favour of being able to fetch the land is very real, but something that many players will be prepared to make. The new Mulligan rules may prove to be a saving grace to many players because they might be able to get that first turn Scry that they have become accustomed to thanks to the Scry lands. We’ll need to keep an eye on that trend for sure once all the changes come into effect.
The other piece here is that the clause that allows you to have them come into play untapped is conditional and not a choice. This feels like a very balanced option and a way to mitigate the relative power that you can harness by having access to two colours of mana in the same card. In my mind this harkens back to the balancing act that WoTC was trying to get with the “Buddy” lands but with a new twist. In either case, players who are looking to play their lands untapped will find themselves putting more basic lands in their decks and limit the number of colours that they play, while decks that are prepared to pay the price of playing your land tapped may continue to run three or more and play these happily.
I think that these lands are being unfairly criticized by some members of the community. I think people are looking for a direct and obvious upgrade to the Shocklands that can migrate over to Modern. Looking at these, I don’t feel like that was ever the intent, but I will not be surprised to see some people opt to play some number of copies of these in their Modern decks. No, these lands have been designed to be played in Standard and they fit in nicely. Just as we lose the Temples we get a balanced, interesting, and fun land mechanic that will undoubtedly shake up the sequencing of your land. If they happen to move to Modern, all the better, but for the time being Standard is a good starting point.
The other major preview was for a new Planeswalker. In the upcoming set we will be seeing Gideon, Ally of Zendikar as the newest incarnation of our friend Gideon and he’s pretty sweet. I like that they have retained his ability to become a powerful creature that is difficult to kill, but his other two abilities are extremely relevant and a significant departure for Gideon. His 0 ability has him make a 2/2 Knight token, which is pretty significant. This is a new ability for Gideon, and making a 2/2 Knight is pretty awesome. However, the most interesting thing is the ultimate ability that allows you to IMMEDIATELY remove all the counters from him and for him to become an Anthem effect. In many aggressive decks Anthem effects are extremely powerful and I’m fairly certain that this will not change. The Zendikar Allies are going to love it. Plus, this version of Gideon looks to play quite well with the Kytheon/Gideon transform card from Magic Origins further adding to the appeal. There is no doubt that this card will be one to watch and might be a defining card once Battle for Zendikar arrives. I’m a big fan and can’t wait to see what happens with this new addition to the Planeswalker club.
One of the things that I am always on the look for are some hidden gems that you can use around the kitchen table to really spice up your casual games and to perhaps get a leg up on your friends. Sure, you could play all the hottest cards from the newest Standard legal set, but right now, as we approach rotation, you could find yourself some very budget friendly gems that could really add some appeal to your games.
Planeswalkers are a fun way to add a new dimension to your game and there are a couple out there that right now that are good value and can pack a pretty good punch. Jace, Architect of Thought and Kiora, the Crashing Wave represent strong cards that you can add to your decks and are extremely affordable right now. Both of these are hovering around $4 a card right here on Three Kings Loot and would be great value. Sure, these may not be the best cards ever printed, but they pack strong abilities, can win you a game if left unchecked, and can certainly be a big distraction if your opponents are intent on taking care of them. If you don’t believe me that they are good value, take a look at some other Planeswalkers that have recently been printed but rarely see eternal play. Tamiyo is about $19 a card. Domri and Ral Zarek are around $7. Garruk, Apex Predator weighs in at $8. Clearly, these two look to be a little on the inexpensive side right now and with Kiora rotating out shortly you could likely scoop her up quite cheaply.
A creature that has been supplanted by the mighty Siege Rhino has been the Reaper of the Wilds and at a mere $0.30 a card this solid 4/5 for 4 mana would be an addition to many a deck. Besides being a very sizeable body, Reaper packs 3 abilities! This one has clearly been forgotten about, but your kitchen table would be an ideal location for some revitalization.
After a brief foray into a Pro-Tour Chromanticore has largely vanished despite the fact that it is a super fun card that packs way too many abilities…and at less than $1.50 would be steal.
Herald of Torment has never really received much love, but I for one think that this little beauty is well worth the pick up. The casting cost is about right, the Bestow is very powerful, Black devotion LOVES this guy and he costs a mere $0.30. C’mon. If you rock Black around the kitchen table this guy needs to be one of your dudes.
We had been missing a genuine wrath effect for Black until we hit Khans block and got Crux of Fate and followed up with Languish in Magic Origins. However, for your Casual game, don’t forget Extinguish All Hope. In most environments this is good as any wrath you will ever need and while it does cost a little more Mana it’s also $0.25 meaning you could pick up some of these and still have pocket money left over to buy yourself a coffee . What’s even better, if you build your deck right to abuse this, this could become a beautiful one-sided wrath and really make your opponents curse you and your janky (but hilarious) 6 mana wrath spell.
That’s all for tonight folks, but thanks for stopping in. I’m super excited to see more of the Battle for Zendikar spoilers and glimpse the landscape of Magic for the upcoming autumn. Thanks, and have a great MTG day.
Grand Prix Manchester Champion – Theros Block Constructed on June 1st 2014
Winner of ‘the other’ Theros Block Constructed tournament was Fabrizio Anteri playing a powerful BUG Midrange deck. This deck is the flip side of the Elspeth, Sun’s Champion coin and as such runs the means to beat it rather then join it. As was proven at Pro Tour Journey into Nyx that the battle lines were drawn with the majority taking sides between either Elspeth and Prognostic Sphinx then jamming in the formats Green acceleration package.
In this format the most commonly played cards it turns out are a pair of Green mana accelerants which most likely are going to become the dynamic duo come the next Standard season. This decks ideal opening lies with a turn one Scry land into a turn two Sylvan Caryatid followed by a turn three Courser of Kruphix before making your land drop. That provides the deck with the possibility of rushing out that early five drop which is where the deck plays into. The main avenue of attack lies in the Prognostic Sphinx which was discovered to be the main foil to Elspeth as it not only will fly over her ground forces but also is able to skirt her destroy creatures ability by virtue of being not too powerful. There is also additional beatdown provided by Reaper of the Wilds which sports great stats as a 4/5 for four mana able to protect itself if necessary, but also provides some added bonus with a Scry whenever another creature dies. A pair of planeswalkers are included with Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver doing a lot of heavy lifting by not only milling away possible threats and answers from the opponent but also stealing some of those threats away, and Kiora, the Crashing Wave which can add extra draw and acceleration, lock down a particularly troublesome creature or even ‘Call the Kraken’ if allowed to build up enough loyalty. As this deck chose the Midrange route instead of Control the only disruption in the deck is provided from a set of Thoughtseize to not only strip them of their most bothersome card but also provide you with all the information about their plans so you are able to set yourself up properly. Then we have the removal suite which is as robust as they come. Centering around the formats best there is a full set of Hero’s Downfall to rid the board of creatures or planeswalkers alike, a trio of the pseudo-sweeper in Silence the Believers which can often hit two or three necessary targets, a pair of Bile Blight that is extremely good at taking care of an army of Elspeth tokens, and a misers Unravel the Æther to deal with any troublesome artifacts or enchantments including Gods as they are shuffled back into the library. A solitary Read the Bones provides the deck just a tiny bit of draw power to help dig for the cards it needs.
I had an interesting discussion with someone over the weekend about a previous article I wrote. I have long maintained that getting into Modern doesn’t have to be overly expensive, as I have explained in a previous article right here on Three Kings Loot. However, people still don’t seem to believe me. So, I set myself a little challenge to show another, different way to get into playing Modern.
The Duel Decks, for those that aren’t familiar, are a pair of themed decks sold together with the intent of being played against each other. This is for those players who are somewhat familiar with the game play of Magic, but aren’t really comfortable building their own decks yet. The nice part about the Duel decks, particularly those built around Planeswalkers, is that there is a surprising amount of value and very playable cards contained within each. You can’t argue when decks contain foiled Planeswalkers, solid cards like Underworld Connections, premium creatures like Hellrider and Reaper of the Wilds, and splashy counter magic like Remand. So, I periodically pick up these Duel decks, sometimes because of the sweet alternate art on the cards, or because I’m actually pretty jazzed about the cards that they contain. The only issue with the Duel decks is that, because they are pre-constructed, they contain a large number of single cards as opposed to the more powerful 3 or 4 of certain cards that get used in other constructed decks made by players. This means that your deck has a high degree of variance each time you draw. This is fun if the other deck has an equal amount of variance, but if the deck is more concentrated and loaded with high powered spells then the reality is that you are likely to get blown out. What can you do about this?
My solution has been to take two of the Duel Decks and to mash them together to see what I can brew up as the best deck. My starting point was to take the Tibalt deck from Sorin vs Tibalt and then to take the deck made for Vraska out of Jace vs Vraska. This means that you get R/B/G deck in terms of colours, which is normally referred to as Jund. Now, my limitations were that I could only use the cards contained in the decks. You’ll see I violated this a little bit, but that I’ll explain what I did and I don’t really think that I violated the spirit of the deck. I will also go through some of the options you could make in order to spice up this new deck that I have affectionately taken to calling Jund Mash-up.
First off, let’s review the deck list for each of the decks I’m using for the Mash-up.
Here is Tibalt-
Now, for Vraska.
These two decks give us quite a number of options to take any Mash-up in, but there are some very obvious cards that are too good to pass up. First off, Tibalt and Vraska need to make the cut because they both offer us some very powerful abilities. Both of these Planeswalkers get a bit of a bad rap, but only because there are others out there that are far more powerful. That doesn’t mean that these two can’t be solid additions to a deck such as this. Next, Underworld Connections is too good a card to leave out simply because of the card draw ability. Reaper of the Wilds and Hellrider are extremely powerful 4 drops that can’t be ignored. Terminate is an extremely efficient removal spell and Browbeat allows you to do two things you want: either draw cards, or make your opponent take damage. So let’s take a look at what I slotted in here to make up the 60 cards in the Mash-up deck.
Jund Mash-Up deck
So, there is the 60 card list. You’ll notice that the only additions I made were to add an extra Reaper of the Wild, because I had an extra, an extra Treasured Find (for exactly the same reason). I substituted Night’s Whisper and replaced it with the improved Read the Bones. Finally, Last Kiss was replaced with the virtually identical Pharika’s Cure. For the Read the Bones I was prepared to pay the extra colorless mana to Scry 2 and then draw 2 meaning my card selection was vastly improved. For Pharika’s Cure I decided that the double black in the casting cost was preferable to paying three mana (2 colourless and a black) because I could have access to it earlier.
So, with only minor substitutions I have created a Jund Mash-Up deck that can do a little bit of everything. The heavy creature removal package pretty much assures everything dies to my spells. The Underworld Connection and Browbeat and Read the Bones allow for additional card draw to keep up the pressure. Blightning is the only real source of hand disruption, but with the ability of Treasured Find I could replay this card and make use of the ability again…and I could go and craft a sideboard out of the remaining cards that will assuredly pack some pretty good discard options. Lastly, the curve of creatures is pretty reasonable. Jund decks have the ability to get out early and this deck is no different. With a number of 2 drops early pressure is almost a guarantee and by 4 mana the real heavy hitters are hitting the battlefield allowing you to really take charge. All in all, the build “feels” pretty decent, if still a little high on the variance order due to all the single cards in the deck.
The easiest way to spice this deck up would be to tinker with your land base. Now, I’m not going to go for pricey lands because you may not have the high price lands like Shocklands from Return to Ravnica. However, there are still a number of options available to you still in the form of Guildgates, namely Rakdos, Golgari and Gruul. The issue becomes if you add in these 12 Guildgates a lot of your land comes into play tapped…which is a perfectly valid observation…but with a tri-colour deck such as this you may put more of a premium on the lands that produce 2 colours instead of just playing basic lands. It also means Tainted Wood may not be a strong choice because you may not control a swamp to allow it to produce green and black mana. Other options are more of the Zendikar life-gain lands like Kazandu Refuge or Akoum Refuge. These inexpensive lands still give you access to both colours of mana, but at least you get a life when it enters the battlefield. Of course, you can keep going on down the line and find plenty of expensive lands if you want, but if the goal is to try and keep your deck cost down and at a reasonable level these choices are perfectly acceptable.
For those interested, the Duel Decks themselves run about $25 for either the Sorin vs Tibalt or the Jace vs Vraska decks at your local game shop, so you would need to shell out about $50 in order to put this together. All in all, that’s pretty decent value and gives you a starting point from which to begin to build your Jund deck to make it more competitive. This shell will give you enough of the key ingredients that you can play and not look out of place, but as discussed, you will miss out on the consistency due to the much higher degree of variance in the cards in your deck. Still, it is a beginning and a fun stepping stone to get you into Modern and ready to play…and gives these Duel decks a new lease on life outside of just being decks primed to face off against each other.
So, before you turn your nose up the next Duel Deck you see, take a second and give it a deeper look. Is there something more you could be doing with this collection of cards? What pieces could you put together in order to maximize what you get out of these deck lists? The possibilities are just about endless even with such a limited card pool and it won’t break the bank…and has plenty of fun available when you play.
Thanks very much and if you guys have any feedback or suggestions on things you would like to see me explore, I’m all ears and would love to hear what you guys want to see me dig up and bang on next.
So, until next time, Keep it fun, keep it safe…Keep it Casual.
The opening strategy is focused on your mana dorks to come and ramp to the fatties. We find full sets of Elvish Mystic, Sylvan Caryatid and Courser of Kruphix all of which can speed you plan up by several turns. Also, removal aimed at them means less removal to deal with the big boys. As far as those ‘big boys’ are concerned there is Polukranos, World Eater and Stormbreath Dragon who’s ability to become Monstrous will often spell certain doom for your opponents well before they’re ready to deal with them. Then there are a few support creatures with Reaper of the Wilds with a Scry ability helpful when the opponent is removing your creatures or chumping with his, Ghor-Clan Rampager which can turn a game saving chump block into a game ending surprise, Scavenging Ooze with incidental lifegain and graveyard hate, and Xenagos, God of Revels pushing the beatdown plan into high gear. Speaking of Xenagos we find the same standard package of Planeswalkers as in Gruul with Domri Rade and Xenagos, the Reveler which both are invaluable in a creature heavy deck both accelerating and digging for them while also working hard to control the battlefield. The addition of Black is what allows an interesting one of Vraska, the Unseen which can spell certain doom if her assassins are able to infiltrate through the enemies defenses but will most often be used as removal of various types of threats. And speaking of removal the deck is completed with a minor removal suite which consists of a pair of Dreadbore and pair of Mizzium Mortars but is also somewhat supplemented by the Monstrous ability.
Other Spells (15)
Other Spells (11)