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Bruce Gray - October 14, 2015

Casual Encounters – The Ten Commandments of Casual Deck Construc...

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The Ten Commandments of Casual Deck Construction

by Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters

Hi again everyone and welcome back to another Casual Encounter! With Battle for Zendikar being out and now legal in Standard, there has been an explosion of decks being built. Brewers of all stripes have sat down and put their thoughts together to make a pile of sweet new decks. I have been in the process of building some of my own new decks, but instead of eyeing playing tier 1 Standard decks I’m looking to build decks to play casually. I’ve always had some unspoken guidelines that I’ve kept in mind when building these decks, but I’ve never actually sat down and laid them all out in front of me. Today I have compiled my personal top ten commandments for building my casual decks and will share them with you. At the end, if you have any others that you feel should be added or things that don’t work for you, leave a message or send me a tweet and let me know!

Let’s clear up a few things before we get started. When I say “casual” I’m talking about any time you just sit down with a buddy or two on a Saturday night and just jam a few games. You are playing Magic, but not with an express interest in winning (although winning is fun). You are looking to enjoy the company of your friends and have games of Magic where something interesting, surprising, or intriguing happens. So, if your deck is too powerful, or too weak, your experience is just not going to be as good because you will either dominate or get run over and your games will run out of steam. Neither experience lends itself to fun game play. So, when trying to build a deck I try to follow as many of these rules as I can. Without further ado let’s check out The Ten Commandments of Casual Deck Construction.

10) Thou shalt build a deck that is good…but not too good. Playing the oppressive tournament winning deck is no fun for your friends. It’s ok to have this built and to play it once in a while, but if this is your go-to deck you will quickly find that your friends lose interest or don’t like to play against that deck. Pull it out and play a game or two with your scary good tournament deck, but then put it back in your deck box and grab something else.

9) Thou shalt look for synergy over raw power. Synergistic decks are always more fun and can be deceivingly powerful. Once you get the momentum going you are hard to derail and can be capable of some pretty explosive things. One such example of a synergistic deck that is perfect for Casual play are Simic decks featuring the Evolve mechanic and lots of +1/+1 counters. The Simic deck can be slow to get going, but once you get that Zegana or Master Biomancer up to speed your deck gets hard to handle. Decks featuring somewhat obscure or tricky combos like Sanguine Bond/Exquisite Blood are other great examples of where synergy can totally take over a game, but the deck doesn’t need to ruin the experience for everyone..

8) Thou shalt play those janky bulk rares. Those terrible, unplayable cards can give you much joy and give everyone a good laugh because no one thought they would see play…ever. I’m looking at you Felhide Spiritbinder and Blessed Reincarnation. These sorts of cards can do powerful things if you are prepared to actually play them…sometimes with unintended consequences…and that always makes for great stories. Don’t be gun shy, just run’em. You’ll see.

7) Thou shalt remember that commons and uncommons are your friends. Most Casual players have boxes of commons and uncommons that just sort of sit around and don’t do very much. However, these very playable cards can be leveraged into good value during a game if you are committed to running them. A couple of recent examples are the uncommons from Fate Reforged like Elite Scaleguard, Temur Sabretooth, and Mistfire Adept that can be very powerful but often get overlooked in constructed in favor of just more raw power. Kitchen Table Magic is the perfect place for these to flourish.

6) Thou shalt play an imperfect mana base and that is okay. Really, it’s O-K. No one expects you to have all the most current dual lands / fetch lands / creature lands / make rainbows & skittles fly out of their back side lands. Plus it is way cheaper. WAY cheaper !!!

5) Thou shalt play seven mana (or bigger) spells and not even blink twice. I think this is self explanatory.

4) Thou shalt play expensive, but useful creature destruction. We all know how removal has changed over time. Long gone are Terror, Dark Banishing, Swords to Plowshares and Path to Exile. Instead we get much more conditional removal that is either slower (at sorcery speed), more narrow (like Ultimate Price) or just plain expensive like Spiteful Blow Pinion Feast that tack on an extra effect. There is actually an incentive to play these less mana efficient cards outside of Limited when you head on to the Casual game. The extra ability (that usually makes the spell so expensive to cast) actually can help your deck do what it wants to do. I always use the example of Spiteful Blow in a deck with a fair amount of land destruction because now you get a 2 for 1 out of this spell that plays into the theme of your deck. Pinion Feast is fine removal in a deck looking to leverage lots of +1/+1 counters. Would I be clambering to play a full playset of these things? No. But there is a place for 1 or 2 of the more unusual spells. Besides to play a million copies of Hero’s Downfall is expensive and not fun.

3) Thou shalt play unusual artifacts. Hello Pixis of Pandemonium.

2) Thou shalt play answers to a little of everything. Since you really don’t get a chance to sideboard you need to play an answer to most sorts of things. Creature destruction obviously, but artifact and enchantment removal are key too. You can slide in some counter spells. No opponent wants to be locked out of the game on account of counter magic, but they do have their place. This takes up more card slots and increases your variance, but variance can make for fun game states with someone having the surprise answer in hand that can swing the whole game around.

1) Thou shalt remember that it is just a game and that you are paying for fun.

Notice I don’t say you can’t play this, that, or the other thing. Anything goes. Provided that your deck is mindful of things like your opponents and having a fun and interactive game, you can play that Ugin or Karn. You can go all aggro if you want, but maybe not quite as aggro as the winning deck at the last big tournament. You can do anything you like, but remember that you are playing for fun. Giving some consideration to the other players will help make your experience far more enjoyable for everyone.

Here’s an example of a deck I have built that fits many of these rules and would be an excellent example of a good casual deck:

B/W Counters

So, let’s look at the number of commandments I’ve hit on with this list. It’s not just rares (#10), relies mostly on synergy (#9), plays a couple of janky rares (Foul Renewal for sure)(#8), has lots of commons and uncommons (#7), the mana base is a long way from being flashy or perfect (#6), and answers to a range of things (#2). That’s quite the number of goals that I’ve met and I have no doubt that the deck would fare just fine in a match with some friends. I’ve been toying around with this in the play rooms on MTGO and have seen some reasonable success by giving as good as it gets. More importantly, no one is going to look at this deck and just balk. It’s respectable, has a chance to win every time, and is looking to interact and make the game fun for everyone. It’s not a fancy deck, but it showcases many of the ideas I have been trying to illustrate.

Have I missed anything? Is there anything on my list you don’t agree with? Let me know. There are loads of people out there who play casually and I would love to hear what other people do as they sit down to make up their decks. So, leave me a message or fire me a tweet and let know.

Thanks very much for stopping by for a read. Until next time have yourself a great MTG day and I’ll talk to you guys next time!

 

By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters

@bgray8791 on Twitter

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Bruce Gray - August 14, 2014

Crack a Pack MTG Journey into Nyx with Bruce (2nd)

Crack a Pack MTG - Journey into Nyx boosters 2

Crack a Pack MTG Journey into Nyx with Bruce (2nd)

 by Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters

                Welcome back to another week of Crack a Pack MTG with Bruce.  We’re going to take a little break from some M15 for a while, mostly because as cool as the set is, it is also a very tricky draft format because there are a very high number of picks where it is tough to decide what is best.  It just isn’t a clear cut slam dunk. There are so many interchangeable cards and cards that seem to be reasonable (but not amazing) in M15 that picking cards and ordering selections is very difficult.  So, this week I thought I’d go back to Journey Into Nyx…but don’t worry, I’ll be back on M15 for next week, that’s a guarantee.

 

There’s no point beating around the bush…let’s get down to business and see what we’ve got.

 

Rare

 

 

Uncommon

 

 

 

 

Common

 

 

 

 

Ok, once again this week we have opened up another premium Mythic Rare in our pack.  Pharika is pretty solid god who got a bit of bad reputation.  She’s a house at 5/5 for 3 mana if you can get her online…so if you want to take her you had better be ready to go Black and Green.  Her activated ability is also pretty useful if you can score a few Constellation cards in your draft.  She also accesses your graveyard to make 1/1 death touching snake tokens which can warp combat and trade up to take out much larger creatures.  Add in the feature that she’s worth a couple of dollars and you have the makings of a very fine first pick.  In some formats I would be shy to grab a Gold card as my first pick, but considering the relative power level of the card and the fact that the B/G deck is actually very good, I’d be prepared to grab her and see what I can manage when it comes to finding playable cards to support Pharika. She’s not quite a windmill slam first pick, but she is very solid and clearly gets out in front as the early favorite.

 

Believe it or not, the next card to grab my attention is Sigiled Starfish.  This innocuous little 0/3 is super useful.  For starters, it blocks “Bears” for days, but the real asset is the Scry 1 ability when you tap it.  This allows for SO much card filtering in your deck that it is a little absurd. This improved card selection may not give you true card advantage, but the improved quality of what you will be drawing will make a huge difference and put you in the driver’s seat.

 

The next card that grabs my attention is Bladetusk Boar.  This solid creature comes with evasion in the form of intimidate and just does work.  A 3/2 for 4 mana isn’t super efficient, but the fact that it almost assuredly speeds up the clock on your opponent means that it needs to get answered soon.  Also, Red is very strong in this format, so grabbing the Boar and then forcing Red a little doesn’t feel like a bad idea.

 

Gold-Forged Sentinel is another interesting card.  A 4/4 flier for 6 mana, but seeing as it is an artifact it can fit in any deck.  I like the 4/4 flier.  I like that it is an artifact and can deal with creatures with Intimidate.  This is a very reasonable choice and a solid body that can get rough and tumble when you need it.  Normally artifacts aren’t a high priority for me, but this one is a very serviceable body and can fit anywhere.

 

Sigiled Skink also gets my attention because a 2/1 for 2 mana is very crucial in this very fast draft format.  The fact that it allows you to scry 1 whenever it attacks can also set up some very good card filtering and really help your cause avoid drawing into dead cards.  I like this little guy, but he is a little limited due to his 1 toughness.

 

Colossal Heroics is a useful combat trick to untap a blocker and pump it…and the Strive ability can help you to set up a situation where you could conceivably blow your opponent out with surprise blockers.  It takes a fair degree of set up, so go sparingly with this card, but it does make a useful addition to a deck and is a long way from being unplayable.

 

Spiteful Blow always gets my attention.  Yes, it is still 6 mana removal…that hasn’t changed from a couple of weeks back when I looked a pack of Journey Into Nyx…but it does kill a creature, set your opponent back a turn with respect to their land, and is a nice insurance policy.  I’ll look at it because removal at almost any price will get consideration, but it’s not super flashy.

 

Akroan Mastiff is a very solid tempo type creature for white.  The ability to tap down a creature is very relevant and makes this a strong utility creature.  The body is a little fragile, so it is unlikely to be going into combat too frequently, but I won’t give up on it.

 

Nyx Infusion is a versatile aura that can act as a form of quasi removal or as a pump spell.  The options presented here makes this a very valuable little addition to deal with creatures of all sorts.  Look in this pack alone at all the things this card kills.  Sigiled Skink, Akroan Mastiff and Bladetusk Boar and it turns the Gold-Forged Sentinel into a Wind Drake.  No, this is useful in either mode, but mostly as a form of conditional removal.

 

Godhunter Octopus.  I don’t much care for this card. Sure, a 5/5 for 6 mana is pretty useful at the top end of the curve, but the condition placed on this creature in order for it to attack really makes me nervous.  There are lots of other very good 6 drop creatures in this format and I would be none too thrilled to have this at the top of my curve unless I was well and truly stuck.

 

Mortal Obstinacy, Cruel Feeding, and Nature’s Panopoly.  I lump all of these in together, not because they do the same thing, but because they are all marginal cards that you could play if you wanted to try and benefit from some Heroic triggers.  Otherwise, they are all kind of Blah and could be played as a 23 card, but you aren’t going to fist pump like a champ because you grabbed any of them. Your deck would also largely be fine if they didn’t make the deck in favor of some other card too.

 

Desecration Plague is the last card in this pack and is probably the most unplayable card in the pack.  Destroying a land is fine and all, but truthfully speaking, you would rather be doing something else with your mana.  Sure, the Kitchen Table “Land Destruction deck” will love this card, but in a draft, if you would like to do well, you avoid this and hope it gets forced on someone. It just does not do enough to impact the board state and leaves you stranded looking at a dead card in hand.

 

Top 5 cards

 

  1. Pharika, God of Affliction
  2. Sigiled Starfish
  3. Bladetusk Boar
  4. Gold-Forged Sentinel
  5. Spiteful Blow

 

First pick

Once again this week, there is almost no doubt about what gets drafted first.  Pharika, God of Affliction is just too powerful to ignore, and so you’ll grab her and try and force Black and Green a little.  There are a few other cards in this pack in both Black and Green that might work their way back to, so I won’t feel bad.  However, I have left Red and two very strong Red creatures (the Boar and the Skink) available meaning that there will almost assuredly be someone in Red nearby. All in all, I feel pretty good about my pick and comfortable with the direction I would be taking and ready to see what came next.

 

So, there we have it…another week, another pack, and pretty sweet Mythic Rare in the form of Pharika.  What would have picked first?  Pharika? The Starfish?  Something else?  I could see someone making a pretty good case with this pack as there were actually some other choices that could have made sense in another strategy, but I feel pretty safe in taking the Pharika and trying to build the B/G agro deck.

 

Thanks very much and until next time, may you open nothing but bomb Mythic rares.

 

by Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791
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Bruce Gray - July 14, 2014

Crack a Pack MTG Journey Into Nyx with Bruce

Crack a Pack MTG - Journey into Nyx boosters

Crack a Pack MTG Journey Into Nyx with Bruce

by Bruce Gray -Casual Encounters Welcome back to another installment of Crack a Pack with Bruce.  In the past few weeks we’ve cracked a pack of Theros and Born of the Gods meaning that today we have a terrific opportunity to complete the cycle and open up a pack of Journey Into Nyx.  The interesting thing with the Draft format for the full block of Theros (1 pack of Journey, 1 pack of Born of the Gods, 1 pack of Theros) is that it sort of got cut short in terms of a draft format because everyone was side tracked by the installation of Conspiracy. Full block Theros draft is really the default draft format at the moment as Theros is the current block this year but it is also less drafted than some of the other formats because it has been supplanted by Conspiracy as the preferred draft format of players heading out to the shops.  That said, full block Theros draft is very lively and very versatile and well worth a look.  Let’s go see what we crack out of this pack!

Rare:

Uncommons:

 

Commons:

 

 

Foil

 

On the whole, this pack is quite strong.  There is no obvious first choice, but there are a number of very strong cards that will get my attention. Based on the quality of the cards there is a very real opportunity for something really solid to wheel around and come back to me, which is also a nice possibility. Let’s examine the cards available to us in this pack.   If you’re like me, the first place to start is your rare. This card holds the potential of having the most upside and being extremely powerful and today is no different. Prophetic Flamespeaker is exactly that sort of card…lots of potential power.  However, there are some rares that can also be duds just as quickly…and sadly Flamespeaker also falls into that category as well.  A 1/3 with double strike and trample for 3 mana AND the ability to gain you card advantage is nothing to sniff at and it makes this cards very appealing.  However, here’s the drawback with this card.  For 3 mana you are getting a relatively underpowered creature meaning that you absolutely need to upgrade this with an aura or some sort of other effect to really reap the benefit of this creature.  If you don’t believe me, think about all the creatures in the THIS PACK that block Flamespeaker and cost 3 mana…Harvestguard Alseids, Returned Reveler, Nyx Weaver…not to mention things like Nessian Courser, Scholar of Athreos, Grim Guardian and the list goes on and on.  No, for this card to be good it needs to be augmented by something and THEN you may be able to really gain some advantage. We call this the set up cost of this card and they are relatively high. The other piece is the ability to exile a card and have you play it.  This is totally contingent on you having enough mana to cast the spell.  Let’s imagine you Flamespeaker on turn 3 because you hit your land drops. Next turn you play your fourth land and cast, for arguments sake because it is this pack, Aspect of Gorgon which costs 3.  Now you’ve augmented the Flamespeaker and can swing.  Now you can see 1 or 2 cards (based on if your opponent blocked or not) but you only have 1 mana available to cast anything you exile. The chances are pretty slim you’ll be able to pull that trigger this turn…and you lose your cards.  I hate losing cards, particularly because I can’t cast them.  By turn 5 you may in a position to actually start benefitting from Flamespeaker, but there might have been other things you’d rather do with your mana. Before it sounds like it is all doom and gloom on this guy, the potential power level of this guy is very high.  Double Strike and Trample make this very appealing and the card advantage is still card advantage.  Also, draft is a place where you can come to table and try out some of the more flashy rare cards in the format and really see how they play. Even with you first pick is a Flamespeaker, you could totally recover if you decide to not play Red, so the real cost to you of picking this card first is lower than people might like to admit.  It might be worth the roll of the dice and grabbing this first and seeing where that takes you. Another card that grabs my attention is Golden Hind. A simple 2/1 for 2 mana that ramps you up.  This helps you go from 2 mana to 4 mana and that’s a big deal. Also, looking in this pack there are a number of other quality green and black cards that I would be looking at and by taking Golden Hind I would be opening the door to playing a B/G strategy that I like.  Nyx Weaver, Spiteful Blow, Market Festival, Aspect of Gorgon, and Returner Reveler would all be cards that would interest me and might wheel.  So, I would seriously be looking at taking the Hind and eyeing B/G as an option based on the choices that might come back my way later this round. Magma Spray is just solid, inexpensive removal and the best part is that it exiles the creature robbing them of the graveyard synergy if they want it.  This really isn’t a flashy pick but is safe and reliable. Spiteful Blow is another one that would certainly get my attention mostly because of the fact that it does not have a limitation imposed on the removal.  It doesn’t limit itself to enchantments, a certain colour, size, or mana cost…it just kills stuff dead.  On top of that you get to destroy a land setting your opponent back a turn which is nice additional value. The fact that it cost 6 is less ideal, but in a draft 6 mana removal can be useful, just ask Sip of Hemlock. The last card that gets me excited is Nyx Weaver and really motivates me to go down the B/G graveyard deck. A 2/3 with reach for 3 mana is a solid creature and the ability to fill your yard is huge to give you increased access to your resources.  The fact that this can basically regrow you the most powerful card in your graveyard is extremely powerful and can’t be overlooked. The issue with this guy is the Black AND Green in the mana cost meaning you likely need to play both colours in order to be able to play this guy. Other quality playable cards are Pin to the Earth which is a solid removal-type spell for Blue decks to run.  Countermand is a pricey 4 mana counter, but in a format with few counterspells this one isn’t bad and it hits the top of their library too. Harvestguard Alseids is a very serviceable 2/3 for 3 mana that can play a role in a Constellation deck. Mortal Obstinacy and Aspect of Gorgon are both reasonable auras although hardly exciting. Market Festival can be a cute ramp spell for a green deck and can really help push the tempo. Towards the end of this pack, Font of Ire is not high on my list.  Sure it acts a little like a time delayed Lava Axe but I’m not a huge fan of any of the Fonts and this one is no exception. Returned Reveler is a useful body at 1/3 for 2 mana, but the symmetrical mill effect is not my style.  Lastly, Solidarity of Heroes is basically an unplayable card.  In order to reap any benefit off of the spell you need to spend so much time and energy that it hardly makes sense. No, it would likely be something picked right at the very end, if not forced on someone.

Top 5 cards

 

  1. Prophetic Flamespeaker
  2. Golden Hind
  3. Magma Spray
  4. Spiteful  Blow
  5. Nyx Weaver

 

First Pick     

  There would seriously be 3 cards that I would weigh very carefully.  The Flamespeaker is a little underpowered in terms of raw stats but could have some super explosive abilities with some augmentation.  The potential upside for this card is extremely appealing and would be tempting to say the least.  The fact that there are so many creatures that block it readily is an issue, but not dire.  Golden Hind is just simply a terrific creature to ramp up with.  Acceleration in any format is key and often determines who wins by helping you to get a turn or two ahead of your opponent.  Think about it, if you’re playing 6 drops and they’re playing 4 drops, who’s coming out ahead most of the time?  You are…I assure you. Lastly, Magma Spray would get a look because cheap removal is always at a premium.   In the end I would select Golden Hind.  The ramp ability is a sure thing, unlike with Flamespeaker where I need to work to set up the benefit from the Exiling ability, and there are a number of other cards, namely Nyx Weaver, that might wheel if I start in Green and leave myself open to being G/B.  I would be also very conscious that to my left is now someone who will be playing Red because I’m sending along a Flamespeaker and a Magma Spray and both are potential first pickable cards. It feels weird admitting that I’d take the common over the mythic in this pack, but I’d rather have the less powerful card that is a sure thing than the flashy card that could prove to be a dud if I can’t connect.   Well, there we have it for another week.  What would you have done?  Would you have gone with the Flamespeaker?  The Magma Spray?  Something else all together?  I’d love to hear what you think, so shoot me a tweet and let me know what you would do.   Thanks for reading and until next time…keep it fun, keep it safe…keep it casual.

by Bruce Gray
 
@bgray8791
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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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Three Kings Loot - April 20, 2014

Journey into Nyx- Skybind, Skyspear Cavalry, Solidarity of Heroes, Spi...

Skybind

Skybind- A 5 mana (2 white and 3 colourless) enchantment with Constellation.  This is an interesting card because it now can allow for repeatable Enter the Battlefield triggers on one of your creatures.  This could be really handy way to abuse Eidolon of Blossoms or another fun ETB trigger.  You could also use it as a way to remove a troublesome blocker from your opponent’s board for the turn in order to get in there for some more damage.  My honest assessment is that this is too expensive to see much play in limited or constructed, but could see play in an enchantment-based EDH deck for some silly results.

Skyspear Cavalry

Skyspear Cavalry- This is a 5 mana (2 white and 3 colourless) for a 2/2 flying, double striking human soldier.  This will be a fine limited card and will pack a mean bite with something bestowed on it, but by itself as a 2/2 for 5 mana is a little overcosted.  I would like this one better if it had vigilance and not double strike (and be a tad cheaper!), but this will be a solid card in limited and will do good work.

Solidarity of Heroes

Solidarity of Heroes- This one looks like a fun card to abuse with a Heroic deck.  For 1 green and a colourless you get to double the number of +1/+1 counters target creature has on it. You can also target more creatures with Strive by paying an additional 1 green and 1 colourless for each additional target.  The Strive cost is really no different than casting multiple copies of this spell, making it reasonably affordable and a good way to exploit the Heroic ability on your team.  It will also be a fun way to make one of the Hydras we saw earlier in the spoiler season into something HUGE for a relatively inexpensive investment.  This could be a fun combat trick, but be wary of it because in limited it could sit dead in your hand waiting for a target.Spiteful Blow

Spiteful Blow- a 6 mana (2 black and 4 colourless) Sorcery that destroys target creature and target land. Let’s be honest, if Sip of Hemlock saw play in Limited when Theros dropped, so will this.  This is powerful removal and the ability to set your opponent back by destroying a land could also be huge to keep them off their splash land, off of their last drop to hit 7 for a big fatty, or just slow them down.  Sure, it’s steep at 6, but people will play it, and people will pay it.  You just may not want 3 copies of this one in your deck…you may never see your 6th land drop.

Starfall

 

Starfall- a 5 mana (1 red and 4 colourless) instant that deals 3 damage to target creature and if that creature is an enchantment creature it also deals 3 damage to that creature’s controller.  5 mana for a 3 damage is very expensive, and even with the extra 3 damage if you hit an enchantment creature it is still hard to swallow.  In comparison, Searing Blood was a much more cost effective 2 mana for a similar ability.  This will get run in Limited and will hit all sorts of Enchantment creatures, so you will need to be ready, but that’s where this one will stop seeing play.

Stonewise Fortifier

Stonewise Fortifier- A “bear” with a plus.  This is a 2 mana (1 white, 1 colourless) for a 2/2 creature that can prevent all damage done to Stonewise Fortifier by target creature by paying 5 mana (1 white, 4 colourless).  You will play this in Limited as a ‘Bear” and will rarely trigger the ability.  Bring on the Travelling Philosopher, Stonewise Fortifier, Oreskos Sun Guide “bear” deck in limited!

Supply-Line Cranes

Supply-Line Cranes- This is a 5 mana (2 white and 3 colourless) for a 2/4 bird.  When Supply-Line Cranes enter the battlefield you may put a +1/+1 counter of target creature.  This is fine limited card and you could quite possibly be a 3/5 by the time you distribute the counter, or target something else for more value.  It will do good work and has a solid body, but won`t scare anyone.

Swarnborn Giant

 

Swarmborn Giant- I actually rather like this guy.  As a 6/6 for 4 mana (2 green and 2 colourless) he is significantly overpowered relative his casting cost.  I`m not a big fan of his drawback  because if you get swarmed by a small, yet aggressive deck, well, goodbye Giant, so you won`t invest the mana in the Monstrosity cost unless you are pretty sure you can control the board and combat.  The fact that he gets reach when he has been made Monstrous is also very good.  Don`t overlook this guy, but you can`t rely on him to fend off your opponent…he`s going to need some help.

Tethmos High Priest

Akroan Skyguard Heroic decks just got ANOTHER key tool to keep up the beat down.  The problem with Heroic decks is that you are compelled to be very aggressive to get the job done.  When you play aggressive and attack, stuff dies…like your Akroan Skyguard, Favored Hoplite, Battlewise Hoplite etc.  This 3 mana 2/3 with Heroic allows you to go and return target creature with a converted mana cost of 2 or less from your graveyard to your hand.  ALL RIGHT! All this means is that Heroic decks now are a little more resistant to removal and make you kill their stuff all over again.  With a solid body and a good ability this will make for a solid mid round pick for Heroic decks.

Thassa's Devourer

 

Thassa’s Devourer- This is 2/6 enchantment creature elemental for 5 mana (1 blue and 4 colourless) that also has Constellation.  I like the body and the mana cost because with just a single blue he could be splashable.  I HATE the Constellation ability because it mills.  U/B mill decks may want this guy, but I`m just not a fan of mill…it just isn`t enough of a premium for me.  It feels like this was just sort of a throw away addition to this card.

Thassa's Ire

Thassa’s Ire- 1 Blue gets you an enchantment that, for 3 colourless and a 1 Blue, you can tap or untap  target creature.  This will be fun and can be a useful way to take out pesky blockers, or to protect yourself if things start going sideways.  It doesn’t tap meaning you could use it multiple times at instant speed, but the activation cost is expensive.  This will be a late pick for decks with Blue, but I love the art and it is quite flavourful.

Thoughtrender Lamia

Tormented Thoughts

Tormented Thoughts- Oh boy…Hand destruction.  Watch out.  For 3 mana (2 colourless and a black), and as an additional cost sacrifice a creature, target player discards cards equal to the power of the creature sacrificed.  In limited this could be very powerful, but tricky to time.  There may be games where your opponent is holding a full grip of cards and you can slice that in half with a well played Tormented Thoughts, but I suspect that it will sit dead in your hand for much of the game as there are other things you would rather spend your mana on.  However, I never discount hand disruption because it can be super crippling.

Triton Cavalry

Triton Cavalry- 4 mana (1 blue, 3 colourless) 2/4 merfolk with Heroic.  The raw stats on this one make him playable in Limited because they are comparable to Giant Spider which is a Limited staple. The Heroic ability, to return target Enchantment to its owner’s hand is also very useful to bounce Bestow creatures or other enchantment permanents (See you later Gods!).  This will be a fine card and will probably make most decks with Blue.

Triton Shorestalker

Triton Shorestalker- 1/1 for 1 Blue and unblockable? Yes…this will see play.  Voltron him up with a Bestow creature and suddenly the clock is ticking for your opponent.  The lack of Hexproof suggests that Wizards has learned from the Invisible Stalker “mistake” because unblockable, untouchable creatures really suck the fun out of the game.  However, he`s still a very solid card and will undoubtedbly see play in Limited.

War-Wing Siren

War-Wing Siren- a 1/3 Siren Soldier with Flying for 3 mana (1 blue and 2 colourless) with Heroic so that it gets a +1/+1 counter when targeted will be a fine creature and can be splashed in a variety of decks. A solid body, evasion, and the ability to grow to be a bigger threat gives this lots of upsde. This will be a reasonably high pick for anyone playing blue sitting in your draft pod.

Wildfire Cerberus

Wildfire Cerberus- This is a 4/3 Hound for 5 mana (1 red and 4 colourless) with Monstrosity where for 7 mana it deals 2 damage to each opponent and all of their creatures.  This will be a fine card and with a single red in the casting casting cost could be splashed. I really like the mini board wipe effect that takes out `bears` and one toughness creatures when this goes Monstrous.  Again, this will be a solid pick and won`t disappoint.

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