Tag: sphinxs-revelation

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Avatar Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - August 28, 2014

Boros Burn Modern by Teruya Kakumae (1st at Grand Prix Kobe on Aug 24t...

Champion’s Deck

Vexing Devil - Boros Burn Modern

Boros Burn Modern by Teruya Kakumae

1st at Grand Prix Kobe on Aug 24th 2014

Now here’s a deck that calls straight to my heart. As I’m an Aggro player in the blood Red has always been a color I most associated with. I’ve followed burn through Standard from year to year, Extended back in the day, Legacy while Mental Misstep was legal, and of course now in Modern. The two main draws of this deck is that there are few lifegain issues in the meta as Soul Sisters is not the most popular deck choice while you’re deck has a wealth of removal to deal with many of the life gaining creatures in Pod decks, and with a largely fetch/shock manabase common to the format most decks do between two and six damage themselves in the first two turns.

 

The creature package is very tight and comprised of some very cheap drops. Eleven one drops showcase just how low the curve of the deck is with perennial Goblin Guide with its hasty beats and uncommon ability to provide information to this color combination, Vexing Devil leaving your opponent with the decision to take a smack to the dome if he isn’t able to deal with it otherwise, and a trio of Grim Lavamancer who will often find a graveyard well stocked in fetchlands and burn spells. There is also a two drop in relative newcomer Eidolon of the Great Revel which once you’re ahead on life can come down to lock out any opposition. The rest of the spells in the deck consist of a plethora of burn spells designed to ruin your opponent in just a few turns. The deck boasts basically fifteen bolts providing three damage for one mana with full sets of Lava Spike, Lightning Bolt, and Rift Bolt supplemented by a trio of Shard Volley. Then it is filled out with two cost burn starting with a full set of Skullcrack which is the decks insurance against lifegain from Sphinx’s Revelation, delaying the infinite life combos in the various Birthing Pod builds, or even a cripling life boost from a Martyr of Sands. Next a trio of Boros Charm are easily four damage to the dome but can in a pinch save your army from untimely death with indestructibility or even grant one of your soldiers Double Strike to one shot for a kill. The last inclusion is the decks only straight removal with Searing Blood which is great against all the low toughness creatures that litter the format and tacks on a bolts worth of damage if that creature does find its way to the graveyard.
I am intrigued by his build and feel the move away from Black which these decks had been regularly splashing into White for the Charm and better sideboard options is a great move. The only thing I am questioning is the twenty lands where this low curve would seem to thrive on eightteen, although with three Shard Volley you do need few more land but I’m reluctant to go to three in the first place. It’s great to see a good ol’fashioned Aggro deck rise up to the top where the format does appear rife with Combo and Control. Still, I am hoping that a viable Dark Boros deck splashing both White and Black for all-star Dark Confidant to enable the deck with a draw engine will emerge one day. Until then this deck will have to satisfy my cravings to burn my opponents into toasty piles of ash, definitely something near and dear to the flames in my heart.
Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter
Email: ejseltzer@hotmail.com
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Avatar Bruce Gray - August 17, 2014

A Brave New World (Grixis control standard)

Prognostic Sphinx - Grixis control standard

A Brave New World (Grixis control standard)

by Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters

 

Well, the summer Pro-Tour has come and gone and we have seen the full evolution of Standard.  The match play was terrific with some hugely entertaining matches both at Draft and at Standard.  Congratulations must go out to all the players, and especially Ivan Floch for his display of prowess and winning the Pro-Tour with his Blue/White control deck.  It is no small feat and he had to play some tremendously high caliber matches to win the title.

 

As cool as the pro-tour was to watch, I have to admit, I was a little disappointed that it was Blue/White control that was the winning deck.  I have no problem with the strategy and can clearly see that it is effective, but there were a number of really interesting decks running around that were much fresher and newer.  I would have loved to see one of these newer decks win the day simply for the novelty, but at least it wasn’t Mono-Black Devotion.  There was plenty of variety in the Top 8 decks, which was nice, but still, to see an archetype that has been as consistent from last Fall to now still prevail is a little bit…I don’t know…I guess boring. However, the days of Blue/White control in Standard seem to be coming to a close, so get your fill now folks because I suspect we may not see it for a while.

 

This first portion of my article today is strictly a prediction.  I have no inside source at WoTC or anywhere inside the Magic community.  However, based on a few observations I can pretty safely declare that Blue/White control or U/W/x control will be taking a back seat.  We will be watching as Return to Ravnica rotates out of Standard in about 7 weeks leaving two HUGE holes in the U/W control strategy.  The first gap is Sphinx’s Revelation. Sphinx’s Revelation is a major key to the strategy because it just allows for massive card advantage and life gain allowing the control player to reload their hand with answers and gain valuable life.  I would be shocked if something comparable was printed in Khans for the simple reason that it is such a powerful card. Notice I say “powerful”, not “broken” because I fundamentally feel that Sphinx’s Revelation is a fair card and a player who casts it can still be beaten, but it is a very powerful card that can turn the tide of the game very quickly.  I would expect some measure of mass card draw, or life gain, but NOT both together the way that Sphinx’s Revelation does it.  No, the days of easy living on Sphinx’s Revelation will be drawing to close at Standard for a while.

 

The other piece is a little trickier, and that’s Supreme Verdict.  For ages now we have just come to accept that there will be a 4 mana sweeper in white. Please see exhibit A- Wrath of God.  Exhibit B- Day of Judgement.  However, when they printed Supreme Verdict they raised the bar a touch.  4 mana sweeper…and can’t be countered.  Well, that’s a big upgrade and pretty much makes Verdict the Cat’s Ass of wrath effects.  However, since Supreme Verdict was released there has been steady trend. Removal has got progressively more expensive.  Think about it…in Theros we were given a large number of removal spells, all of them quite pricey (thank you Sip of Hemlock).  Inexpensive removal consists of things like Hero’s Downfall…which is still a 3 mana removal spell.  Sure, it hits Planeswalkers too, but in most situations it is used to wipe out a creature.  Bile Blight is a thing, but it is also conditional because if the creature is too large, Bile Blight just shrinks it (and you hope to heavens you can block the creature profitably).  Ulcerate is 1 mana…but costs you 15% of your life total just for casting it.  Fated Retribution, Planar Cleansing and Mass Calcify are other removal type spells…and cost 6 or 7 respectively.  Even Red has not been spared.  Apart from Lightning Strike, Red has started to see burn spells creep up in cost as well.  Bottom line, the price of removal is getting a tad higher.  So, combine the fact that Wizards has already given us the Cat’s Ass of mass removal, and that removal is getting more expensive, I would honestly be surprised to see a 4 mana sweeper once Khans of Tarkir is released.  There will be mass removal of some sort, but I would expect to see the coverted mana cost climb to 5 , or if it is staying at 4, would require all three colours from the respective wedge. In either scenario, the requirement to cast the spell has just increased. This slight increase, coupled with the loss of Sphinx’s Revelation might be enough to knock U/W control down from a top tier deck to being a reliable but somewhat lacking tier 1.5 deck that just won’t command the same level of respect at any given event during the Standard season.

 

So, U/W may be taking a back seat for the next while, but there will absolutely be a control strategy of some sort that will come around.  It’s a bit tricky to try and pick up on what exactly that strategy will look like, but I am prepared to take a look at some new options, and one in particular, that you might be interested in keeping an eye on as Khans of Tarkir starts to be spoiled in the next couple of weeks.  For many a season now we have seen U/W/x be the dominant control strategy but what if we removed the White from that mix and instead replaced it with Black?  We would move away from the Esper or Jeskai (did you notice the new wedge name?) and move towards Grixis as a potential control strategy.  Let’s explore this strategy a tad.

First off, land.  This colour combination could very well have the appropriate land base to make a go at it.  There are Temple of Deceit (U/B) and Temple of Malice (R/B) and Temple of Epiphany (R/U) from Theros block to give you at least 12 on colour Temples to start your deck off.  From M15 we also have Shivan Reef, meaning that you are pushed to 16 total on colour dual lands for your deck. Add in Mana Confluence and you could be as a 20 lands for your deck to cast your spells and have access to the right mana.  So, the land looks good.

 

Next, you have your removal package which is still very strong.  With access to Hero’s Downfall, Bile Blight, Ulcerate, and Silence the Believers you have a pretty robust suite of removal with which to handle most creatures that are on the table.  I agree, this is all targeted removal and not a sweeper meaning Hexproof creatures or other creatures that are difficult to interact with could be a problem.  The solution would appear to be, in the absence of a true sweeper, sacrifice effects.  Devour Flesh may  be rotating out, but there will undoubtedly be another sacrifice type effect that could at least be sided in if the need arises.  I’m hesitant to include In Garruk’s Wake, the 9 mana sorcery that is an asymmetrical board wipe, but if you are playing a control deck you could get there in a long game and then drop this thing to just devastate an opponent.  I’m skeptical myself, but it warrants some investigation.  Red would also give you access to Lightning Strike, Anger of the Gods,  and Magma Jet and Magma Spray meaning you would have a pretty beast set of removal spells to lock your aggressive opponents out of their creatures.

 

Lastly we have the permission package and M15 gave us a sweet option. Dissolve is a very solid 3 mana counter spell, but now with the addition of Dissipate we have as many as 8 hard counters to use. That could be pretty devastating to deny your opposition of a crucial spell or to protect some resource of your own.

 

I can think of very few creatures that you would be truly excited to play in this deck because control decks are usually pretty light in the creature department, but those that they cast can protect themselves.  Aetherling played such a role perfectly for months after it arrived on the scene from Dragon’s Maze, but Prognostic Sphinx could play a similar role.  The 3 power makes it JUST small enough to avoid getting killed by Elspeth, Pillar of light or other spells.  The high toughness means it survives most burn spells. You can even grant it Hexproof to help protect it.  And the best part is the Scry 3 whenever it attacks basically ensures you can draw exactly what you need.  Other options could include Indulgent Tormentor because the triggered ability is useful in all three modes, or Chasm Skulker because the more cards you draw to bigger it gets…and when it dies it spits squid tokens everywhere making it a real pain to contend with.

 

The last consideration is Planeswalkers and the Grixis control standard colour combo could have some good ones.  Chandra Pyromaster is the best Chandra yet printed and she could be extremely useful in this deck.  Lilianna Vess is another viable option and her ability to tutor up an answer makes her invaluable.  Jace, the Living Guildpact could also be a very solid control card and offer some very good versatility to filter your draw and bounce permanents.  The last is Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver who might be an ideal Planeswalker in this sort of deck to give you a true win condition of milling out your opponent.

 

So, the pieces sort of fit and so I have put together a rough list of a deck that start down the Grixis control standard path for when Khans of Tarkir is released.  It is not going to be perfect because it only includes cards that are from Theros and M15.  Without knowing exactly what Khans could hold for this deck it’s tricky, but I figured I would give it a stab and see what i can put together as a framework for the deck and add when Khans is released.

 

Test Deck – Grixis Control Standard – Khans of Tarkir

 

There we have our shell for a Grixis control deck.  Of course, this is not written is stone but is something that you might be willing to brew up and test out.  I haven’t put together a sideboard yet either because you might have your own direction you want to take it in.  The beauty of this time of year, as we prepare for the Brave New World post rotation, that anything is possible and lots of interesting new twists on decks could emerge.

 

Let me know what you think about the deck.  What would add?  What would you take out?  Would you go another direction all together? Some of the beauty of playing Magic is that the possibilities are endless, so let me know what possibilities YOU see.  Send me a tweet and let’s exchange some ideas.

 

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

 

by Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters

@bgray8791 on Twitter

 

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Avatar Bruce Gray - July 27, 2014

Deep Thoughts on…Inspiration

Aqueous Form - Bant Auras

Deep Thoughts on…Inspiration

by Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters

 

What motivates you to Brew?  Is it a card?  Is it a mechanic?  Is it a colour?  Brewing up a deck takes as much creativity as any other creative output, whether it is writing the next piece of great literature, or composing the next symphony, or even painting a masterpiece to be displayed.  No, regardless of what you do in your life, if you brew up decks at Magic, you need some sort of inspiration.  Let’s explore some of those sources of inspiration and where you go looking for creative ideas to make a deck.

 

There are lots of different types of decks out there and lots of different people out there brewing things up.  Not every one brews up first rate competitive decks…and that’s fine. Let’s be honest, the very creative and best are rare and hard to find.  If it was easy to be creative there would have been more Mozart’s, Rembrandt’s, or Shakespeare’s.  The same theory applies to creating a deck…the top deck builders are the top deck builders for a reason.  They “see” things that the average player misses, and that’s what makes them special.  However, we can learn a process, we can all improve, and the fact that we aren’t that special talent does not invalidate our own efforts to build decks.  In fact, there is a great deal of satisfaction in building your own deck even if it is never going to be used at more than a game at your kitchen table. Building decks is a creative activity that brings with it its own level of enjoyment and joy regardless of how talented you are.

 

So, when you sit down to brew, where do you start?  For me there are a couple of ways that often kick start the process. The first and most obvious jumping off point is you open up an automatic “build around me” card that it is just too tempting to turn up.  These are usually super powerful mythics or rares and come in a variety of colours and shapes, but these present an opportunity to exploit something very explosive and powerful.  However, sometimes these are commons or uncommons that can yield a more consistent result because you likely have a playset to fill out in your deck.  One such example would be the card Aqueous Form from Theros.  “Huh?” you ask, but let me run down how this could be such a card.  We have seen that unblockable creatures are super hard to contain and interact with…and the only thing harder is an unblockable creature that is also hexproof.  Basically, I took one look at Aqueous Form and said “ well…let’s make my own Hexproof/Unblockable creature and make the game totally degenerate”.  So, I next needed to find hexproof creatures…and I was off and running to build a deck all on the back of 4 common Aqueous Form cards.

 

 

Another approach for inspiration is looking at the decklists of others for ideas.  This does NOT mean straight out copying the deck list.  As much as that is a very popular form of building decks, it is not really inspiration because there is very little of your own creative thought that goes into the deck.  No, the idea spawned by the decklist is a decent place to start but you need to take that idea and then build around it by substituting and replacing pieces of your own.  This may be done on account of you not having the same pieces as the decklist that was posted, but sometimes it is to reflect your own interests.  Perhaps you want to push the linear mechanic in the deck further. Perhaps it is to reflect your playgroup and you make changes to deal with particular decks. Whatever your reason, you move away from the standard decklist that you found somewhere on the internet and take it in a different direction.  On occasion I have done this as well mostly to get a sense of some core pieces that can fit nicely together that interest me, but I then go around and fill out the shell with the cards that I want.

 

A third way to find some inspiration is looking at decks from previous formats and then modifying them with the use of cards that are currently in the Standard format.  The nice thing with Magic is that often similar cards get printed that have the same or similar effects.  This isn’t always the case, but you can find most effects you want printed in one form or another.  As a result, the same style of decks and archetypes can exists, but with slightly different cards and with some slight differences.  One such archetype that I have been enjoying is the Hexproof/Auras decks…particularly the Bant Auras deck that was played while Geist of Saint Traft and Invisible Stalker were in Standard.  Both of these cards are effectively broken and to arm them up with Auras makes for a potent deck.  My immediate thought when they rotated out was that Theros could NOT support such a strategy again because the deck was pretty degenerate.  Honestly, who wants to play a deck that allows for almost 0 interaction and races you with devastating effectiveness?  Not me…unless I’m the one running the deck! Then I saw a deck tech on the coverage for the Theros Pro-Tour that was a W/G Hexproof auras deck and my hopes were renewed as I took inspiration from source #2 (someone else’s deck).  This is where my interest in Aqueous Form, an idea for a current deck in the Meta, and a previous archetype coalesced to form one common deck idea.

 

Now, once you have a deck idea the actual brewing process can be very quick or it can take a long time to assemble the cards you want/need.  I’ve sat down and in 25 minutes put together a perfectly reasonable deck with a variety of synergistic pieces. That’s fine so long as you are prepared to play with a bunch of common and lower price tag cards.  However, I have also been building a deck for the better part of the last 8 months in an attempt to assemble all the cards I want.  Now, the prime reason it has taken me so long to build the deck is that I have been looking to pick up the premium rare cards and lands to make the deck go.  When you play Magic on a relatively tight budget it takes time to trade, acquire, scrimp and save enough to acquire the pieces you want for you deck.  That is exactly the situation in which I find myself and have had to piece together the cards for my latest deck.

 

Bant Auras “Aqueous Form” decklist

2015 Core set Standard

 

 

So, that’s the deck I’ve been building since September. It is a combination of all three forms of Inspiration that I usually use.  The common playset of Aqueous Form, the W/G Hexproof shell from Pro-our Theros, and some of the main tenets of Bant Auras as it existed while Geist and Stalker roamed the battlefield. I’m actually proud of this deck because I have yet to actually see a deck that looks like this in Standard anywhere.  Now, that likely means it is likely no good, but it is nice to think that is entirely my own brew and not copying or emulating any other deck running around Standard currently.  It is also a long way from being a budget deck.  That’s part of the reason it has taken me so long to build this deck and to take it out for a test drive.  Inspiration is great to give you direction…but sometimes the old bank account can hold you back from some of those goals. It has taken me 8 months to put together the pieces for this deck and will likely continue to evolve.

 

Further Deep Thoughts on Inspiration

 

Tribal

I haven’t included much in the way of discussion around tribal decks because they are almost self evident.  You open up a bunch of Goblins…you make a Goblin deck.  Horsemen (Centaurs), make a Horsemen deck.  That’s easy enough, but just because it is easy doesn’t mean that it can’t be fun. Sometimes the simplest source of inspiration is the best sort.

 

Kor Skyfisher

I built a rather wonky casual deck around this one common and the interaction with Spark Trooper.  What could be more fun than a recurring Ball Lightning with Lifelink! Sometimes finding cards that extend across sets separated by a number of years can yield some fun and unexpected interactions and fun inspiration for a deck.

 

Griefer

Sometimes I wake up and want to build a deck that will totally cause nothing but grief for my opponents.  It is not normally my style, but there is a sort of sick satisfaction from just hosing your opponent and locking him out and then crushing him.  Mill. Counter decks. Land Destruction. This can be immensely enjoyable…but only in small doses.

 

I have to say that a Monte Cristo sandwich is really quite delicious.  If you’ve never tried one, if you see it on the menu of a restaurant near you, give it a whirl.  Think Grilled cheese sandwich meets French Toast…and 100% delicious.  That’s some solid food to Brew on!!

Monte Cristo sandwich - Bant Auras

 

 

Thanks for reading…if you have any other ideas on what motivates you brew I’d love to hear about it.  Everyone is different and maybe you have a trick that you could share with the other readers. Shoot me a tweet and let me know.

 

Until next time keep it fun, keep it safe…keep it casual.

 

Bruce Gray
@bgray8791

 

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Avatar Bruce Gray - July 20, 2014

Brewing on a Budget MTG Standard

Laboratory Maniac - Brewing on a Budget MTG

Brewing on a Budget MTG

by Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters

 

Since I started writing for Three Kings Loot back in February I’ve highlighted a fair number of decks.  The one thing that most of these decks have in common is that I would describe them all as being “budget” decks. This means that I am interested in trying to find a relatively inexpensive way to build a deck that is still powerful and presents a number of problems for my opponents.  These decks aren’t usually Tier 1 competitive decks, but they can surprise someone who underestimates what the deck can do.  Today, I’m going to showcase some budget substitutions that will allow you to build your own budget deck and help you to keep your cost down.  We’ll look at land, creatures, and lastly other spells in an effort to briefly touch on all the key elements of your very own budget deck.

 

Lands

If you routinely stop by here on The Bag of Loot you know that I have a thing for land.  Basically Magic is entirely dependent on the land you draw.  I don’t care how many awesome spells you have in your library, if you don’t have the land to cast them you are likely sunk (unless you’re playing Legacy/Vintage in which it seems possible to play with no land).  Without access to the correct land it doesn’t matter what spells you have, you’re likely to lose.  As a result, this is one of the few areas where you really can’t skimp too much.  You can use things like Guildgates and Life Gain lands from Zendikar if you aren’t fussy on format, but most people want to play Standard.  If you want to play Standard you need the lands.  It becomes even MORE apparent in the realm of Modern where Fetches and such are super expensive. Bottom line, unless you play Casually and you and your friends don’t mind you mixing in different things, you’re probably on the hook for having the “right” land for your deck.  Temples. Shocks. Mana Confluence. Nykthos. Guildgates. Pain Lands.  There is a large variety of lands available, some more expensive than others, but if you want to play you need to get the right ones for you and your deck and cheaping out and just running basics just won’t cut it usually.

 

Creatures

While you can’t cut corners on your land, you most certainly can make up ground with the suite of creatures you opt to run.  Basically, at almost each and every converted mana cost along the curve you can run a variety of choices. Now, the creatures that are very expensive in a given format are expensive because they are the optimal creature for that converted mana cost in that colour.  That doesn’t mean that alternatives don’t exist.  These alternatives are typically much cheaper and can help keep your cost down.  Don’t believe me?  Let’s look at a few examples.

 

Let’s start with Stormbreath Dragon.  4/4 flying for 5 mana and has haste, protection from white, and a Monstrosity ability.  There’s no doubt this is a premium creature and well worth the $15 a card you’ll pay as a single.  However, there are other options available to you if you really wanted to run a creature at the 5 spot that was more inexpensive.  Hypersonic Dragon is the same 4/4 with haste and 5 mana (although a blue and red are part of its casting) meaning it could fit the bill.  Scourge of Valkas from M14 fits those stats pretty well too and is still a dragon.  Both of these options are red, can fill the same hole in your deck and cost you significantly less in terms of money to pick up.

 

Blood Baron of Vizkopa is another 5 mana creature, this one is 4/4 with protection from white and black, lifelink,  and can trigger some ridiculous bonus if you have enough life, or your opponent is running low on  life.  Some other options at 5 cmc are Serra Angel (which is unexciting, but still perfectly viable), Keepsake Gorgon, and Celestial Archon.  These are all very playable at five and are even in Black and White so they can hold a spot in your deck.  Don’t let me fool you…Blood Baron is the optimal choice, but if you’re budget is tight, these guys are viable options.

 

Polukranos a 4 mana for 5/5 hydra with a ridiculous Monstrosity ability.  This one is tough to replace because 5/5 for 4 mana AND has an ability is pretty ridiculous.  However, there are a few options available like Deadbridge Goliath. This is probably the closest from a statistical standpoint, and isn’t a bad card and makes a suitable alternative.  If you can splash another colour, Reaper of the Wilds is another solid option and much cheaper as well.  A 4/5 for 4 mana is pretty close and the abilities on it make it a tricky critter to deal with…and costs a fraction of what Polukranos costs.

 

Soldier of the Pantheon– The aggro decks out there are not immune from having some pricey cards too.  Soldier of the Pantheon is a $2 card that is a 2/1 for 1 mana.  There is no doubt that they are an optimal 1 drop to kick start your beatdown with an aggro deck, but $8 for four 1 mana creatures leaves me scratching my head and my wallet empty.  You could opt instead to run Favoured Hoplite or Satyr Hoplite, both 1 drops that can lead the beat down band wagon for you in place of the Soldier.  They need a little more work than the Soldier, but with their Heroic triggers might give you a bigger beat stick with which to bring the pain.  If you really wanted the 2/1 for 1 you can instead turn to RTR block and grab the Dryad Militant as an inexpensive option.

 

Boon Satyr – This super awesome 4/2 for 3 mana is a staple in Green decks, but can also Bestow for a very reasonable 5 mana…oh…and has flash.  There is really nothing else that approaches this level of versatility, explosive damage, and just being down right nasty to play against.  No wonder it’s $1.50 a card.  However, you could run Feral Invocation if you were looking for the Flash aura effect.  If you wanted the Flash effect on a creature, Briarpack Alpha probably comes closest as a 3/3 for 4 mana and a fun Enter the Battlefield trigger.

 

Brimaz, King of Oreskos– King Kitty is a huge threat at 3 mana and the abilities packed on him are just full on value…no wonder he’s $20 a card.  However, if you wanted a card with just about as much devastating punch, Fabled Hero runs you about a $1 and packs double strike and heroic.  Things can get out of control very quickly with our Hero…and the extra money you saved will bring a smile to your face as well.

 

Now, these are just some suggestions for substitutes in your deck to help keep the cost down.  All the substitutions have significant drawbacks compared to the optimal creatures in the deck.  I fully admit that a Serra Angel doesn’t stack up with Blood Baron very well, and that Fabled Hero is a poor substitute for King Kitty.  However, if you’re wallet can’t handle the $80 to pick up a playset of Brimaz, Fabled Hero can do in a pinch.

 

Spells

Spells are a little tougher to replace.  The super expensive spells and staples of a format are that way because they don’t have a substitute…or at least not exactly.  The thing is spells don’t leave behind a body that can be utilized after they have been cast, so you need the impact of the spell itself to be pretty terrific.  However, there are a few options for some of the spells.

 

Thoughtseize– This Legacy playable piece of hand disruption just crushes decks by stripping away all the most important pieces of your opponent’s hand.  It really is crippling…and it is going to be in rotation for another 14 months! Yikes.  However, at $20 a card is a little steep.  Duress is probably the closest option and is regularly reprinted.  It is a little more limited in terms of what it hits, but let’s be honest, you are almost always going to take an instant or sorcery spell from your opponent because you can find other answers in your deck to deal with creatures and planeswalkers.  So, Duress is a reasonable substitute.  Brain Maggot is another possible route, and it even gives you a body.  Sin Collector is the last option, but for 3 mana is significantly slower and not as optimal.

 

Supreme Verdict- Premium 4 mana wrath effects are always key to a control player’s strategy.  Supreme Verdict really has no equal because it also can’t be countered…meaning that you hit it and your opponent cries every time as they watch their board disappear.  However, at $8 a card this can burn a hole pretty quickly in your wallet.  The only REAL option is Planar Cleansing…but it’s a 6 mana sorcery…which feels kind of yucky.  Fated Retribution is another option…but it’s 7 mana (although thankfully at instant speed).  These can do in a pinch if you really want to play the control game, but you may have to alter you game strategy because you’ll need to get to at least 6 mana to have either of those spells come online.

 

Sphinx’s Revelation- Ok, there is no equal to this card.  Mass card draw AND life gain is a Control player’s dream come true.  However, the most important piece is always the card draw because it gives you access to more resources.  Divination is the cleanest way to get access to some of the card drawing power of Sphinx’s Revelation, but Jace’s Ingenuity from M15 will be another option that draws 3 cards for 5 mana at least at instant speed meaning you can jam it on your opponent’s turn. After that, you can play poorer spells like Inspiration, or the more expensive Opportunity, but you’re still longing to get a Sphinx’s Revelation and run it.

 

Hero’s Downfall- Instant speed spot removal of creatures AND Planeswalkers is huge.  However, Black has lots of good removal right now ranging from Ultimate Price to Bile Blight to Doom blade.  This means that Black decks should have no issue dealing with creatures…pick your removal spell of choice and go to work. Planeswalkers are tougher, but you can always resort to fighting them directly which always gives you at least one option.

 

Planeswalkers- I have no substitute for a Planeswalker.  Honestly, they represent 3 (or 4) potential different spells and abilities that you just can’t replace in your deck.  You can try but prioritizing which of the abilities are most pertinent to you and your deck and substituting for cards that recreate that effect, but you still need to pay for it while the Planeswalker can replicate that effect for free turn after turn.  No, there’s no real option to playing these guys if you want to emulate a Tier 1 deck, but lots of decks can also run just fine without a Planeswalker (just look at Mono-Black Devotion decks that typically run no Planeswalkers).

 

Well, there we have some options to help limit the damage done to your bank account while still allowing you to play and have fun with some solid decks.  Of course the options available go up significantly when you start shifting formats from Standard to Modern, but so do the price tags on the optimal cards.  I hope this was helpful to you guys and that it gives you a few options to go out and brew some of your own decks using some of these alternative pieces.

 

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

 

Bruce Gray
@bgray8791
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Avatar Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - July 9, 2014

Champion’s Deck – Esper Control by Gerard Fabiano (1st at ...

Esper Control -Detention Sphere

Esper Control by Gerard Fabiano

1st Place at StarCityGames Standard Open on 7/5/2014
As we get ready for a little metagame shake-up from the upcoming release of Magic 2015 we finish up the lame duck Standard with a final tournament. This one continues to show that Mono-Black Devotion is not the end all and be all of this metagame. We also see the Aggro dominance tamed by pro player and crowd favorite Gerard with a return of Esper Control to the spotlight.

Esper Control decklist

 

As with any Blue and White based control strategy we find a stock shell with this deck sporting a trio of Jace, Architect of Thought for draw and protection from creature swarms, a set of Sphinx’s Revelation to restock your hand with options and incidental lifegain to boot, a set of Supreme Verdict to deal with Aggro creature swarms, and a set of Detention Sphere which is able to answer most every other problem the deck may face. The meat of the deck comes from its planeswalkers, where we find the duo of the light and darkness alongside a pair of Jace options. First looking at the light we have Elspeth, Sun’s Champion as a primary win condition spitting out soldiers three at a time, while also able to sweep the board of all creatures with power greater then four and should she go ultimate will pump those soldiers of hers into veritable jet planes. Next plunging into darkness we find Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver who is especially powerful against creature decks to steal away their threats by milling away the top of the library and given enough support then dropping them into play. Then we have the two Jace, Architect of Thought integral to the deck surviving creature rush Aggro and grinding out card advantage, but also a singleton Memory Adept to work against Control strategies and mill them down to no library while you sit back playing a defensive role. The potatos of the deck come from a variety of Control staples of permission, removal and draw. The permission package is two-fold using the potent Thoughtseize to strip away their threats before they can play them while also providing you with very valuable information about what their plan is, and also a pair of Dissolve as the deck only real denial with a bonus Scry tacked on to help dig through your deck for more answers. As for removal this deck is chock full of including Supreme Verdict and Detention Sphere already mentioned, but also some spot removal with a trio of Devour Flesh to abolish that huge threat when the enemy doesn’t have a swarm present and a Doom Blade able to destroy anything in RG Monsters in a pinch. As for draw power the main tool lies in Revelation and Architect, but the deck also leans heavily on the eleven Temples for Scry to help filter draws into what is absolutely needed. We wrap up with the utility player Azorius Charm which can gain a few points of life with Soldiers if desperate, filters itself into a new draw when needed, and even bounces an attacking or blocking creature to the top of its owners library to set them back and save some life.

 

While it’s true we are on the verge of a new Standard format in a few weeks it is certain that UW Control will be a strategy to continue going forward. Normally I would also say that with the summer here and Magic in its dog days that it isn’t important what to play, but remember that the World Magic Cup Qualifers are coming up. If you like oppressive Control strategies then I would definitely recommend this deck for you but be sure to clue into the current meta as this is always a deck that needs to be tweeked and tuned for what’s current. And good luck chasing down that glory.

Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter
Email: ejseltzer@hotmail.com
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Avatar Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - June 18, 2014

Champion’s Deck – Boros Burn by Igor Gorbunov (1st at Gran...

Boros Burn - Skullcrack

Boros Burn by Igor Gorbunov

Grand Prix Moscow Champion – Standard on June 15th 2014

Once again the power of fire to the face was able to propel this Tomahawk missile of a deck right to the top of the victory podium. Showing how powerful a linear strategy of simply throwing everything into reducing your opponents life total to zero really can be, this design is a well oiled machine dedicated to death and destruction. This really appeals to the little fire imp which resides in my heart and is a variation on the classic burn theme which has existed in magic since the days of Fireball and Lightning Bolt.

The deck is a little light on the creature side but has found two spicy dudes that synergize with the deck extremely well given the 26 spells that are played at instant speed. The first is Young Pyromancer which on its own isn’t a very intimidating creature but once you start slinging some spells the party gets started and guests will arrive, and don’t think that lowly 1/1’s aren’t any good because every single point matters with this deck. The other creature comes with Chandra’s Phoenix that can do some real damage as a hasty flier but also will find its way back to your hand rising from the grave whenever one of your spells blasts into the opponent. The manabase also affords you space to squeeze in three copies of Mutavault that are able to maneuver their way around any sorcery speed removal. Then we get into the burn suite of the deck which is massive. There is at one cost Shock capable of delivering a two point blast either to the player or if necessary any of his smaller creatures. The mass of the burn is found at two cost starting simply with Lightning Strike which is simply three points going to the opponents dome or one of his creatures. Next we have Magma Jet which is another flexible two points but the most important part is the Scry 2 which helps the weakness of this deck a bit as there is no real draw available to you. Against decks that play with lifegain, the true nemesis of burn, you have Skullcrack which as a surprise against Sphinx’s Revelation decks could very easily snatch victory from what would be an almost certain defeat. The flexibility of Boros Charm is almost universally wasted with the four point blast to the face as the Double Strike will rarely do more damage but if you have a sizable force you might need the Indestructible against a sweeper. The last two cost burn is a removal spell with Searing Blood which will do two points of damage to a creature but has the added bonus where if that creature dies will do an additional three to its controller. And the last burn spell is the Warleader’s Helix with a four point shot while also providing a four point lifegain as an added benefit. The last spot in the deck is taken by the removal of Chained to the Rocks which is capable of exiling almost any creature threat that is able to skirt the other options from direct damage.

If you like a deck that goes all out in pounding your opponent to a pulp with a relentless assault of burn baby burn then this is definitely the deck to tickle your fancy. Don’t think though that it just pilot’s itself as you are always faced with the decisions of how to best utilize your mana and spells each and every turn. As you are limited by your draws be sure to practice and know your match-ups in advance so you can realize which way you need to fight. This is the ultimate race where your resource is your life vying against his, don’t be afraid to take a couple hits from his creatures if it means you get to blast his dome for a few extra points and kill him a turn faster. But on the flip side make sure you kill his creature before it gets you. In the end you’ll find that the rush of this deck makes it so worth playing.
Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter
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Avatar Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - May 15, 2014

Kiki Control by Shaun McLaren (3rd at GP Minneapolis Modern on May 11t...

Deck of the Day

Restoration Angel - Kiki Control

White-Blue-Red Control by Shaun McLaren

3rd at GP Minneapolis Modern on May 11th 2014

Shaun McLaren has already proven his dominance of the UWR Control deck in Modern so it looks like he felt it needed a tweak to keep performing for him. And while it was not able to propel him to the top spot, it was good enough to push him into the top 4 of a very strong field. His deck still has the classic control elements of draw, permission and removal but adds an interesting creature twist to grind out all the value.

 

Let’s start from the top with the title card which adds the new spin with Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker who is no stranger to Modern but has traditionally been found in either the Twin or Pod decks. Here we find him used to grind out some mega-value or even surprise combo for the kill. So looking first at that combo kill, when we pair Kiki up with Restoration Angel you create a possible infinite loop of tapping Kiki to copy Resto then blinking Kiki with the copies into play trigger to rinse and repeat. You can also flash in Resto as a blocker if Kiki is in play and create enough blockers to shut down an alpha strike from a Twin deck, very sneaky. The other key target for Kiki is Wall of Omens which works to shore up some ground defenses while providing a solid and steady stream of card advantage. There is also Snapcaster Mage which can continue to rebuy spent spells in the grave with Kiki. A singleton Vendilion Clique is extremely useful in the deck as a way to not only gain information about your opponents plan but also to help disrupt it as well. The manabase also affords us the inclusion of a set of Celestial Colonnade which are a key beatdown element and one of the main avenues to victory. As advertised this is a control deck and thus has a well rounded permission suite starting with a set of Mana Leak, a pair of Remand, and singletons of both Spell Snare and Cryptic Command. The removal is also very heafty including Lightning Bolt and Electrolyze to either burn creature or straight to the dome, and Path to Exile to decisively remove any creature threat in the way. The deck is also able to squeeze two Tectonic Edge into the manabase as an additional hedge against manlands or Scapeshift combo. The draw power of the deck lies primarily with the Wall, Electrolyze, Remand and Cryptic, but the are also singletons with a Sphinx’s Revelation and a Desolate Lighthouse to bolster the draw package.

So once again Shaun shows us it was no fluke that he won Pro Tour Born of the Gods almost fighting his way to another victory. He clearly enjoys this style of deck and has a finger on the pulse of the metagame. It is going to be exciting and interesting to see what sort of evolution he continues to push with this deck, and also if it continue to be a strong metagame choice.
Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter
Email: ejseltzer@hotmail.com
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Avatar Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - April 23, 2014

Champion’s Deck – UW Control by Simon Stahl (1st at SCG De...

U/W Control
Simon Stahl
1st Place at StarCityGames Standard Open on 4/19/2014
Fated Retribution
While it’s not a newcomer to the top of the pile this weeks winner was able to wrestle dominance away from the big bad Mono-Black menace. One of the most classic styles of control, UW is able to operate more fluidly then Esper versions even though they are relatively the same core concept. Control relies upon a good mix of permission and removal, backed up with a strong finisher once the board has been stabilized. This deck follows that structure to a tee while adding in a few interesting one ofs to round it out.

Since the printing of Return to Ravnica and with it the Azorius guild UW has had an arsenal of weapons that each decklist has been build on the foundation of. This deck is no different with four copies of each Jace, Architect of Thought, Sphinx’s Revelation, Supreme Verdict and Detention Sphere. That group alone is able to provide the deck with so much power and consistency, giving it answers to a plethora of threats. For permission we have a full set of Dissolve, which also help as pseudo-draw, and a pair of Syncopate, which can be key at stopping a dangerous two drop like Pack Rat. For removal you have primarily Detention Sphere to pick off pesky threats of varied permanent types or Supreme Verdict to sweep the board free of creatures, but also a Celestial Flare and two Last Breath as pinpoint removal. We also find the inclusion of Fated Retribution as a catchall reset against all creatures and planeswalkers if necessary. The deck keeps your hand full through the draw power of Sphinx’s Revelation and Jace, which both also help to keep your life total from falling too low, and also a couple of Divination. The finishers are a very tight package which has a one of Ætherling and two Elspeth, Sun’s Champion which you must be very mindfull to deploy only once you have taken over the game. Also, because the deck only runs two colors we find room to squeeze three Mutavault in the manabase which while small over time will produce more then enough damage on an empty board. Another versatile spell in the deck is the Azorius Charm which can either help gain back some life to stable against aggro decks, cycle itself away to dig for a necessary answer or as removal for a bothersome threat. The final card in the deck is some old tech in Elixir of Immortality which just keeps the deck churning even after you’ve depleted so many spells.

So with just a couple weeks left until new standard it is certain that people are looking forward to Journey Into Nyx instead of backwards at our current standard. While I don’t feel that this deck benefits too much from the new set there are two cards with an outside chance to slip in. Deicide could be a good piece of removal depending on how the Gods appear in the meta. Also, Aegis of the Gods is a great way to protect yourself from targeted oppression, but neither are backbreakers for the deck. We will see over the next few months how it plays out.
Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter

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