Tag: scholar-of-athreos

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Bruce Gray - June 13, 2014

Casual Encounters – Deep Thoughts on…Drafting JBT

Drafting JBT

So, I got my first up close and personal look at full Theros Block Draft and I have to say I enjoyed the experience.  The format has good flexibility and variance making for a wide variety of decks and lots of interesting choices.  Today I’ll share some of my thoughts on the format and recap my draft…hopefully some of you don’t make the same mistakes that I made.

First off, I ended up playing Junk (G/W/B) which is pretty unusual for a draft deck.  Most players would opt to play 2 colours and perhaps splash a third colour, but I ended up playing a full suite of all three colours.  In the Journey into Nyx pack I was looking through and had a rare of Revel of the Fallen God…which is a funny card but it is ambitious to cast and tough to get in to because it is 2 colours to cast.  However, in the same pack there was a Banishing LightBanishing Light is premium removal in White in both Standard and Limited, so this was an easy pick and set me up to go into white.

My second pick had a variety of interesting cards but the Golden Hind looked like an easy second pick and had me going into White and Green.  Normally this is a colour combination that I’m very comfortable with and really felt at ease with being set up in those 2 colours.  With a pick 3 Ravenous Leucrocota I was well on my way to W/G beat down deck I would be expecting myself to play.  However pick four is where things got off the rails.

Pick 4 had me looking at a pack that had no green cards of any sort and poor white cards, so it would appear as if I was being cut off from my colours (or is was a lousy pack) but I was looking at a Brain Maggot.  Now, I thought to myself, Brain Maggot is a pretty solid card…and with both of my other colours seemingly closed off, Black might be an option.  So, Brain Maggot was the pick, opening the door a crack to play Black.

Pick 5 was another Ravenous Leucrocota and I was back on W/G.  However, again, pick 6 I was out of luck in either of my colours, but looking at a pack with a Spiteful Blow.  Normally I don’t get excited for 6 mana removal spells, but in a draft where removal is a tad tough to come by, the fact that this destroys a creature AND a land made it easily the best pick…and at pick 6 was a pretty good sign Black was open.  So, Spiteful Blow and my thought process was very seriously to play either W/B or G/B and abandon the W/G deck idea.

Well, Born of the Gods opened up and my first pack had Tromokratis which was far from ideal as I hadn’t picked a single Blue Card yet.  However, Bile Blight was looking at me and I made sure to grab it.  Passed my pack…and picked up the next one…which also had a Bile Blight! Ok, so now I was very seriously playing Black…I had perhaps two of the best removal spells back to back and to not play them would be foolhardy.  With the next couple of picks I grabbed a couple of green creatures like Nyxborn Wolf, Phere-Band Tromper, and Swordwise Centaur and was really and truly looking to play G/B.

Well the plan totally changed again with Theros when I got passed a pack early in the round and was looking at Scholar of Athreos and a bunch of White, Blue, and Red cards…and nothing in my other two colours.  I wondered if I was being cut off again because someone down the table had decided to jump colours too! I was unimpressed.  Scholar is an awesome card in a B/W deck…but I committed to playing G/B…unless I was prepared to play all three colours or basically toss this pick.  I grabbed the Scholar. I was rewarded with a second one in the next pack too.  Oh boy. Now I was in a pickle. So, more or less I spent the rest of the Theros round grabbing utility creatures in White like Leonin Snarecaster, Hopeful Eidolon and an Ordeal of Heliod.  I also lucked in to a Sip of Hemlock but most of the rest was just filler and not very good.

So, here’s my Draft deck

Junk (G/W/B)

Now, my first thoughts when I finished building this deck from my picks was ” wow…am I GREEDY! ”  Almost every draft deck I have ever seen built, that is any good, is two colours and MAYBE splashes a third.  I was full on running three colours…and had virtually no mana fixing.  On top of that, I pushed the envelope and played 24 spells and 16 land instead of the more traditional 23 and 17.  I was clearly pushing my luck.  I kept telling myself I had plenty of removal…all I had to do was hold down the board long enough to get to 4 land (and have all three colours) and I was golden because my highest casting cost on a creature was 4.

Well, I went 2-1…which is normally a pretty decent record…but that one loss left me somewhat frustrated because I played my way to that loss more than I got beat by my opponent.  We went the full three games and he won game 1, I won game 2, and then he took game 3…but it was the loss in game 1 that left me bummed.  The exchange that left turned the game in his favour was one where I attacked with a Ravenous Leucrocota into his 2 creatures that combined had enough power to kill Ravenous Leucrocota.  I didn’t expect him to team block, but he did.  But all was not lost…I had Bile Blight in my hand and 2 open black mana.  However, I got greedy…again.  I opted not to pull the trigger on the Bile Blight on one of his creatures (voyaging Satyr I think) in favour of trying to get a better target with it later. So, my leucrocota died, so did his Satyr…and that left him with a creature and me with an open board.  Next turn he Bestowed Nylea’s Emissary on his dude and the beat down was on. That HUGE misplay cost me the game and a chance to go 3-0.  I’m not going to say I would have won for sure, but my odds would have been at least even if not better…but instead I had to swallow a loss due to some poor play.  All in all, it was a pretty successful draft and had a blast and can hardly wait for my next one to try and rectify those playing mistakes.

Other Ramdom Thoughts:

Ravenous Leucrocota- In my review of Journey Into Nyx  I reviewed Ravenous Leucrocota favourably and compared it to Nessian Asp, a bomb in triple Theros draft. Well, Ravenous Leucrocota might be better than the Asp.  The difference is the Vigilance.  Once this thing goes Monstrous and is 5/7 it is house!  It can attack and defend, and if you can Bestow it with anything it is HUGE and really hard to manage.

Brain Maggot grossly over performed for me.  The ability to strip your opponent of a key card early in the game is extremely valuable and if that allows you to get out in front and force them to expend resources on other things, well, you are in luck. I have to admit, I also under rated this card in my review.

Leonin Snarecaster and Deathbringer Lampads both played similar roles in the deck, namely provide a form of evasion for some of my bigger creatures to exploit.  The snarecaster would tap down pesky blockers and the Lampads just let something sneak in for extra damage and allow me to get into the red zone.  These were both surprisingly useful.  Especially the Lampads. I was skeptical at first but I have changed my tune.

Consign to dust vs. Fade into Antiquity.  I had the option of running either one of these and opted for the Consign to Dust.  I liked the option of the Strive mechanic despite the fact that I feel that it, in most situations isn’t all that relevant.  Fade can be excellent with the exile ability instead of Destroy, but unless you are facing down a god, the ability to hit multiple targets is key.

Normally I really like Blue, but I really got the sense from the packs going around the table that Blue is pretty weak in this format.  Unless no one else is drafting Blue you are usually scrambling to find playable cards.  Most of the players who were drafting Blue in my pod really struggled and couldn’t dig up enough answers to stay in the game for long.  The one exception was the guy in G/U because he was able to back his blue up with the Green muscle he needed.

A good friend of mine in the military, Major Observation, told me that Bile Blight and Banishing Light are REALLY good removal…and of course he was right.

As much as I hate 6 mana removal, I had never been so happy to see that 6th land show up and then be able to cast Sip of Hemlock.  That Hemlock never tasted so good and putting the final nail in the coffin of your opponent.

Fellhide Brawler largely stinks.  He’s a bad Grizzly BearMogis Marauder isn’t far behind.

White Cheddar popcorn is outstandingly tasty.  Every time I have it I am surprised at how good it is. Why don’t I ever pick any of this stuff up on my own?

Well, that’s all I’ve got for today.  If you have thoughts or experiences you want to share about your Drafting JBT, go ahead, let me know.  I’d love to hear about them.  Fire me a Tweet and tell me your tale or share your wisdom.

Thanks for reading and until next time Keep it fun, Keep it safe…Keep it casual.

 

Bruce Gray

@bgray8791

 

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Bruce Gray - June 2, 2014

The plight of the Underplayed Theros Block mechanics – Inspired,...

Inspired MTG deck - Tormented Hero

The plight of the Underplayed Theros block mechanics

by Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters

We all watched the Pro-tour with baited breath not all that long ago.  For starters, Congratulations must go out to Patrick Chapin.  I doubt he’ll ever read this article, but the truth is what he accomplished is tremendous.  To defeat the world’s best players and win a Pro-tour is the stuff dreams are made of (although he made it look frighteningly easy!).  However, in amidst all the talk of Block Constructed decks, did anyone notice that there were hardly ANY of the mechanics from Theros block on display?  A block committed to the Devotion mechanic by virtue of being tied to the Gods of Theros…and it was virtually totally ignored.  There were very few creatures carrying the Monstrous ability.  Constellation got some love…most in the form of Eidolon of Blossoms.  Inspired? Tribute? Bestow? These hardly even got a sniff.  In the end it was wars waged as Elspeth tokens crushed Elspeth tokens and Thoughtseize and Brain Maggot crippled the hands of countless players.  No…the mechanics of Theros were sadly underplayed and it felt…I don’t know…deflating.

Well, I’m here today to try and restore our faith in the little used mechanics of Theros and present a budget worthy Casual Brew that can grind down an opponent (or multiple opponents as the case may be) and find a way of getting you a win from seemingly out of nowhere. The mechanic I’m thinking about is the Inspired mechanic because it is so tempting…so poised with potential…that to not attempt to build a deck would just be wrong.

Now, we have seen that some of the mechanics in Theros are very powerful.  Devotion powered out crazy amounts of elemental tokens with Master of Waves, drained buckets of life with Gray Merchant, and pumped out dizzying amounts of mana with Nykthos.  No, Devotion is pretty safe.  Monstrous is the same way. With Stormbreath Dragon and Polukranos running around still Monstrous is a thing and they may be joined by Fleecemane lion as staples of this mechanic.  Bestow and Heroic have shown to be invaluable in Draft giving these decks new reach and greater power than ever before.  No, these three mechanics are just fine despite not being played much at the Pro-tour.  However, Inspired and Tribute, both Mechanics from Born of the Gods have hardly got off the ground.

It makes perfect sense for why Tribute has been largely ignored.  In almost every instance the cards carrying Tribute present an option for your opponent to dictate the terms of the creature.  This means that you are no longer in control and if you are looking for a desired effect, well, I can assure you that you won’t get it because your opponent is out to put the screws to you.  Snake of the Golden Grove is a perfect example because you either get 4 life…or a 7/7.  Let me assure you, 100% of the time you will give your opponent the life gain.  However, if you REALLY needed a 7/7 to help you block…well…tough, you are out of luck.

Inspired on the other hand actually holds some promise.  This is actually an ability that you could use because the only requirement is that the creature untaps.  Simply untap. It seems so simple…but yet getting your card to actually untap is pretty tricky.  The most common ways of tapping it is by virtue of attacking with it and then on your next turn untapping it.  The problem is that usually if you go into combat, something dies meaning you could very well lose your inspired creature.  Other options exist like Spring Leaf Drum, Retraction Helix, Epiphany Storm and Claim of Erebos which all allow the creature to tap without combat, but this is extra work for you and harder to set up.  So, how to maximize your chances of Inspired without as much set up cost to your deck?

I have long been a proponent of making combat as absolutely miserable for my opponent as I can manage. This means I pack decks full of combat tricks, death touch, first strike, double strike and haste, basically ensuring that my opponent really has to think twice before blocking ANYTHING.  Well, Inspired gives you even MORE incentive to pack your deck as full of nasty tricks as you can find so that no one is keen to actually block.  With this theory in mind let me share with you a little deck list that I’ve put together to exploit the Inspired mechanic.

 

B/W “Grindy” Theros block mechanics deck for Standard

The game plan behind this deck is actually pretty straight forward.  You are looking to do everything you can to drain off the life of your opponent without attacking , but the creature base in the deck is actually aggressive enough that you can start on the beat down path and not actually take your foot off.  All the while you are looking to exploit the Inspired Mechanic as much as you can wrangle.

For 1 drops we have Tormented Hero which is a solid 2/1 for 1 black.  Sure, it comes into play tapped, but play him turn 1 and attack turn 2 and you’re pretty golden.  Also, when he is targeted he does exactly what you want the deck to do and that is drain the life of your opponent.  At 2 we have a couple of bears, namely Sun Guide and Pain Seer.  These are both aggressive enough that they can come down early and swing in, hopefully triggering the Inspired trigger on either of them.  Baleful Eidolon and Spiteful Returned are technically 2 drops, but are really there for the Bestow ability to basically make something totally unpalatable for your opponent to block.  Spiteful returned is also triggered just by attacking, making him just extra value.  The last 2 drop is Cartel Aristocrat because when you are missing a way to sneak through, Sacrifice a creature and get in there.  At the 3 drop spot we have the bread and butter.  Scholar of Athreos is an awesome mana sink and a solid blocker to plug up the ground.  Servant of Tymaret is a wily little 2/1 with regenerate that I WANT to block with and need to regenerate in order to trigger the Inspired ability when it untaps after regenerating. The 4 drops are really there as Bestow creatures apart from King Macar,  but at 5 we have Gray Merchant and he is a sure fire way to drain out a bunch of life all at once.  The spells are pretty tame in a Gods Willing to protect something or more importantly to allow a creature the ability to sneak in for free.  Necrobite presents an awful combat trick for your opponent.  He will need to play around a situation where you have 3 mana up or risk trading something for a deathtouch creature…who now regenerates.  Whether this is Tormented Hero’s heroic trigger, or regenerating a Pain Seer, there is going to be value generated.  The last one is Asphyxiate which is a poor man’s Hero’s Downfall.  Same casting cost…but much slower and more conditional.  Not my first choice, but acceptable considering the financial cost of a playset of Hero’s Downfall.

Some would say that this looks like an Extort deck from Gatecrash and I can’t disagree…except I prefer this model to relying on the Extort mechanic of Gatecrash because Extort rewards you for durdling around with spells and paying the extra mana to drain the life.  In this deck there is no need to durdle around.  If you have open mana sink into something…like your Scholar of Athreos, attack with your Servant of Tymaret, or cast a Bestow creature to make blocking totally undesirable. You are being proactive and engaged instead of being rewarded by casting derdling spells and hiding.

This deck is weak to decks packed with fliers or with control elements like counter spells and plenty of targeted removal.  Oh, and it still gets run over by the pack rat/desecration demon game plan prevalent in Standard, so don’t take it there.  Where does this deck shine?  Multiplayer variants of all sorts.  Free for all, Two Headed Giant, Grand Melee…if any of these formats match what you like to play then this is a cheap and efficient deck that will do work.  Life drain is absolutely brutal in multiplayer matchups and this deck is no different.

So, I have done my part to restore faith in the mechanics of Theros…particularly Inspired.  Now it is up to you to go forth and Inspire that same belief in your opponents and drain the life right from their souls…without ever attacking!  Enjoy frustrating the heck out your opponents because you can bet I’ll be enjoying every minute of it.

Thanks very much…and until next time keep it fun, keep it safe…keep it Casual.

 

Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
 
@bgray8791

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