Man, that snake is adorable! Just look at his cute little face and eyes, so cute! He’s even all bundled up… oh, I get it, he’s a noose. That’s terrifying. And are those… yup, boots behind him, with several other nooses in the background. And possibly even a body. Well played, Kev Walker, well played.
Scary art aside, the January FNM Promo is a sweet one. Noose Constrictor is a very powerful card because of its ability. It’s playable in a number of decks, so make sure you pick yours when you can in January!
When you want to madness cards and turn lands into 1/1 creatures, who you gonna call…? The Bloodline, apparently. The new art by the talented Magali Villeneuve makes this one FNM Promo card one you won’t want to miss out on!
Angels can certainly have tempers, especially when gripped with madness. This guy does not look like he’s having a good time, not at all. You, however, will be having a great time if you manage to pick up one of these awesome FNM Promos coming up in November. Fiery Temper has already shown itself to be an important part of Standard every time it’s printed, so being able to bling out your standard deck seems pretty good. Also, if you don’t pick them up, it might cause you to lose your temper. And no one wants that.
Hey guys, I’m back! So after a long hiatus from Magic and an even longer one from the competitive scene my creative juices have started flowing and I just had to start up again. By the way I’m not just jumping into one format but I’ve been actively back in Standard, Modern and now stepping back again into my personal favourite which is Legacy. Now what could these three all possibly have in common? Well, I’m playing Eldrazi in every format currently and doing quite well with the massive titans and their spawn.
First off let’s take a look at Standard…
This deck is a lot of fun for the one piloting it but less so for the one who has to try and stop it. Basically you just have to stay alive long enough and you have the tools to do it with your cheap counter magic and efficient removal, including the very powerful Kozilek’s Return, all of which plays at Instant speed. As long as you’re making your land drops the removal keeps you going long enough to drop down a walker to really get ahead or a Drowner of Hope to put some pressure as well as use the tokens to ramp. Once you have the mana, which can be as early as turn 6, you drop Ulamog and it’s pretty hard to lose from there especially as you get to exile your opponents bests two permanents and clock them with his ability as well as damage. This deck matches up well against the GW/x decks like Tokens or Company and is generally well positioned in the current meta due to the fact that you really don’t care what your opponent is doing, and really you just need to make it to turn 5-6 to snowball advantage.
Moving on to Modern…
This Eldrazi deck isn’t strictly a ramp deck, yes you play a bit of ramp to power out your Eldrazi a bit faster BUT you are mostly an aggro deck which better creatures then other aggro decks and for cheaper too! It’s not uncommon to go turn two Thought-Knot Seer followed by a turn three Reality Smasher. That is an insane opening and an absurd clock that few decks can actually race against, not even taking into account the built-in disruption these monsters have! Looking at your opponents hand to exile one of their cards is already a solid ability then put that on a 4/4 body that can come out so quickly and it’s so amazing. The best part is if they kill it they don’t get that card back, yes they get to draw one at random but the card you stole is gone for good. Reality Smasher is a pain to deal with but you must because a 5/5 with haste and trample…well let’s just say it does a very good job of living up to it’s name while dealing with it is difficult at best. One of the cards that doesn’t get enough credit is Matter Reshaper because on defense or offense it’s just good and if the opposition isn’t playing Path then even if they get rid of it you get value. Easily the best card in the deck is Eldrazi Displacer giving your guys evaision, clearing your way for attack, actual removal for tokens, and abusing the hell out of Thought-Knot. He does it all and generally your opponent is going to try everything to get rid of him right away. Other key elements are Ancient Stirrings which hits almost every card in this deck and is arguably as good, if not better, here than it was in Tron and as a former Tron player that is saying something. Cavern of Souls makes control match-ups much easier and leaves them with a bunch of dead cards in hand while Eldrazi Temple itself is a straight-up ramp card. This deck is insane and provides a fast clock while causing some minor disruption all at the same time.
Finally looking to Legacy…
So as you can see this list is very similar to the Modern list in terms of the creatures used but is much more explosive and you get to play with one of the most disruptive cards in the format. Whenever you are able to drop a turn one Chalice of the Void for one it can just absolutely ruin many decks. Like they are out, it is game over, moving on…that’s just how devastating the card can be. Decks like Storm which rely on one mana cantrips and Dark Ritual effects or decks that try to deal with your monstrous creatures without the help of Swords to Plowshares will be miserable. You also pretty much just get a win against decks like Burn and if you are on the play against Elves it just completely shatters their game plan. We also still get to play with Eye of Ugin and the sol lands making turn two Thought-Knot Seer scarily common. The other thing this deck can do because of Eye of Ugin is toss down a bunch of Mimics on one turn and next just play Reality Smasher for a quick end to the game. Another big advantage that this deck has over it’s Modern counterpart is the use of Jitte because when you have it combat for your opponent becomes just awful with no profitable way for them to do anything. This deck offers amazingly crippling disruption paired with a combo finish as one avenue to win or just big fast efficient creatures that can end games quickly and prevent your opponents from ending games as another.
Until next time…
I don’t usually figure that I am the type of person that gets all reflective. I very much live in the here and now. I focus on what is in front of me, what needs to be done, and I try very much to not get ahead of myself. However, every once in awhile something happens to me that forces me to sit back and really take stock of where I am and what I am all about.
As some of you may be aware, during the day I am a teacher. I love my job. I love working with my students as they grow into outstanding young men and women. I relish their successes, and I genuinely feel for them when they falter and stumble. I wouldn’t trade the job for anything. If you aren’t familiar with schools, it takes a lot of planning year to year to be able to keep a school running and publicly funded schools need to ensure that they have the appropriate number of staff for their site. In my school area we start that process in April and it doesn’t get fully resolved until August and even then can be a kind of up and down affair.
A year ago, at this time of year, I opted to move from a safe and sure thing at a solid school in order to search out a new job and some new experiences because I thought my teaching was getting a little on the stale side. I landed a job at a small school and have been forced to not only take a much larger leadership role than anticipated, but also challenge myself with my teaching and new subjects that I haven’t taught before. The experience has been healthy to say the least. Sadly, the staffing process for next school year has just begun and I found out that my small school is shrinking a little bit further and that I am now supernumerary. That means that I’m out a job and will need to look for a new job for next school year.
Am I a little sad to leave? Yes. I have been afforded some tremendous opportunities and I have really enjoyed my experience. However, staring down the barrel of forced change doesn’t feel so bad. I’ve done this before, just a year ago, BY CHOICE, and done well. Surely I can find myself another new job now that I NEED to go and find a new job. Desperation can be a very powerful motivator, but so is the prospect of change.
Many of us resist change. It scares us and makes us tentative. However, I have seen that change can be extremely positive in my professional life leading to greater enjoyment of what I love to do. Does it still scare me? You bet, but I am learning more and more to accept this change and to try and use it to my advantage and to improve myself.
How does all this discussion of change pertain to playing Magic? I think it is very straight forward. Change in Magic is good. We all love the change afforded us on account of rotation and a new block. This is a type of forced change that impacts most of us who play this game and helps to keep the game fresh and interesting at every level. To see the recent transition in Standard away from 4-colour insanity to more modest 2 and 3-colour decks has been refreshing. We see new cards, new combinations, and new abilities that will help redefine how we think about Magic.
We can also see this sort of forced change through things like the recent Bannings and Restrictions. Adding new cards to the card pool of a format like Modern goes a long way to help freshen up a format an unlock new potential combinations that will make the environment more enjoyable.
However, for every instance of someone getting excited for change, we see other things where players complain about all sorts of changes. I can scroll through my Twitter feed and see people complain about all sorts of Magic issues on a daily basis. I understand that some changes may not feel positive, but I would ask players to at least keep an open mind. Play points may not be all bad for MTGO. MTG finance might be more predictable at some point down the road. Less coverage of GPs may not be a bad thing instead of competing with everyone on Twitch for the attention of Magic players. But if we all complain about such things instead of embracing some of these changes, or at least giving the people who planned the change the benefit of the doubt, then we are limiting ourselves.
Then there is the question of change that you have brought upon yourself by choice. This might be the most difficult area because many times it is unclear how we, as players, can change and grow. However, perhaps it is a matter of becoming more attuned with the story of the game and paying more attention in that realm to help deepen your appreciation for the game. Perhaps it is uncovering a new fun podcast or website for inspiration. Maybe you just commit yourself to spending more time playing a given format into to try and grow your skill and understanding. Regardless of what you have chosen, making those first steps down the path of change can open up countless opportunities and be something that pushes you to be better.
For me, I look at the next few months of impending change as a positive. Am I sad? Yes. I hate to leave my school. I’m also sad when I take apart old decks from formats that I enjoyed and had kept together for nostalgia, but sometimes those cards can be put to better use elsewhere. However, the new possibilities that can exist from this change can be very positive. I like building new decks and I enjoy new challenges professionally. Things will be stressful and tense in the next few weeks as I attend interviews, but that’s part of the challenge and one I look forward to facing. I can’t wait and I am hoping that there is a perfect dream job out there for me somewhere. In the meantime I am going to enjoy the time at my current school, enjoy a little Magic, and get ready for whatever may come my way.
@bgray8791 on Twitter
OK folks, I’m back and all excited for Shadows over Innistrad. There is a just tons of sweet new additions in this set and new possibilities that are getting me all excited. In the past I have started a new set with a number of Crack a Packs and approached them from a Limited perspective as if I was going to draft. That is fun, but today I wanted to try something different. I’m going to open up a pack and use as many of the cards in the pack to brew up something kind of fun and silly that might inspire you and get your brewers hat on and take a stab at brewing. I won’t use every single card, and I will keep the deck Standard legal. It is invariably going to be a kind of a silly little deck that might have some play, but is more likely than not just going to falter. However, I enjoy brewing decks like this and maybe something I do will inspire you to do the same. Let’s see what I opened!
This is a pretty sweet pack. Sage of Ancient Lore is a very strong draft card, but the card that got me really excited in this pack is Ever After. The first time through Innistrad we got to see the power of Reanimator spells with things like Unburial Rites, and Ever After harkens back to some of that reanimator-type love. So, what does a Reanimator-style deck want to do? Why, it wants to mill itself, dump a ridiculous bomb (or several ) into the graveyard and then reanimate them at a considerable mana discount. Now, Ever After is not a cheap Reanimator spell because it does cost 6 mana, but for that six mana you are getting TWO potential bombs, not just one. So, let’s see what we can brew up with some of the cards in this deck.
The game plan is fairly simple. You want to burn through your deck as quickly as you possibly can with things like Vessel of Nascency, Corpse Churn, and Crow of Dark Tidings as you dig for either your Inverter of Truths or the Bane of Bala Ged. Now, Bane of Bala Ged is really a placeholder for just about any huge Eldrazi you want to cast and the bigger the better really. If you can unearth an Ulamog, a Kozilek or any of the truly scary Eldrazi you are obviously going to target them with your Ever After or your Necromantic Summons, but Bane is a nice tidy budget option that can be run reasonably easily. The real treat is the Inverter of Truth that is a very discounted 6/6 for 4 mana that I’ve been fooling around with since Oath of the Gatewatch dropped. It could now be time for this ridiculous flying Eldrazi to shine now that we can mill our decks with surprising speed so we don’t deck ourselves.
Some of the more interesting cards from Shadows Over Innistrad that are found in this pack are the Moldgraf Scavenger and the Pale Rider of Trostad. The Scavenger is a surprisingly solid little creature that is an effective early blocker. It blocks things with Skulk, survives Fiery Impulse and Fiery Temper, and when you hit Delirium can go on the offensive as an undercosted 3/4 . Those are all very reasonable stats and make the Scavenger almost a reasonable addition to a Constructed deck that could play a similar, but different, role to Jaddi Offshoot. Pale Rider of Trostad is a 3/3 for 2 mana which is a fine set of stats, but also gives the deck a way to discard something big if you don’t want to cast it yet. I toyed with the idea of dropping something like an Angel of Deliverance in this list to be discarded, but that felt very risky if I couldn’t actually cast the Angel. In the end I figured sticking to Eldrazi that could actually be cast seemed less risky.
Sage of Ancient Lore is another really interesting card in this deck because it is an expensive rare card at 5 mana that has a ton of potential. The fact that it says “draw a card” is the first dead give away that this is very powerful. I have run much worse creatures that include that line of text and would happily do so again. The real deal is when it transforms into a huge monster that can wreck the game. This makes for another solid reanimation target, but is a little more volatile and riskier because it could flip back to being a human on any turn. That said, it is a very strong card and would be another good target for reanimation.
The other cards in this list are just creatures that might allow me to hurry up and rush out some of my spells by ramping me, but also provide some measure of value if I need another valid target in my graveyard to make Ever After work. Just about any value creature would work, but I opted for 3 Brood Monitors because 6/6 worth of stats across 4 bodies is very strong, but I could totally envision not playing this in favor of another value creature. This slot is very much up for discussion and I would welcome some ideas if you had something I could have run Gloomwidow as a form of aerial defense, and that might be a better option to give me enough time to hit enough land drops and be able to play an Ever After.
I weighed playing Vessel of Malignity and decided against it because exiling the cards from my opponent is not really what I wanted to do. If I could have used it to target myself and discard something then I would have been more interested. It would have been another discard outlet to allow me to pitch some other big scary creature, but alas, it exiles and can only be used on my opponents. I can see Vessel of Malignity having a place in some decks because I feel like the hand destruction in this Standard format is very strong, but this is not that deck.
The rest of the pack is not on colour or theme for what I want to do with this sort of deck, but there is a little interest in some of those white creatures, notably the Apothecary Geist, and the Ghostly Wings because I think those might see a little fringe play if the right conditions are met.
That’s all for tonight folks. I hope you all enjoyed the different approach to a Crack a Pack. If you didn’t enjoy the weird deck and would rather I just crack a pack and focus on limited please let me know. Personally, I enjoyed brewing something kind of fun and off the wall. I know I might be stretching the self mill angle in the format with some of my selections, but if you are truly intent on milling yourself you do have some options. Would you have used Ever After or would you have left it alone and opted to do something completely different? Share your brewing ideas down below in the comments or find me on Twitter.
Thanks very much and as always be sure to stop by next time for another Casual Encounter.
@bgray8791 on Twitter
Hello fellow Looters! We are in the midst of the final week before Shadows Over Innistrad (SOI) releases. The pre-release was this past weekend, and I hope you all had fun playing with the new cards! So with SOI so close, I figured it is time to talk about Standard. There are going to be a lot of changes from this last season and this is one of the benefits, (or detriments, depending on who you ask,) of the Standard Format. Obviously, we won’t know until the cards hit the table (hopefully in sleeves…) but hopefully this will get you thinking about the format.
The biggest way we will see standard change during this rotation is the power reduction of available mana. Now, we are not losing the ability to play multiple colors as there are still plenty of lands in the format (Pain Lands, Battle Lands, Man Lands, The new SOI land cycle, etc.). Let me put it in perspective, though. Currently, with fetch lands and battle lands, it is possible to use one fetch to get one of any four colors and even untapped a good portion of the time. This allowed four color decks like Abzan Blue, Mardu Green, Four Color Rally, and every other deck with an uncreative name to run rampant. To put it in the words of Patrick Chapin, “You don’t have to ask yourself if you can afford to play this card, you have to ask yourself, why not?” Why not splash Jace or Siege Rhino? With the loss of the fetch lands, we are now losing the ability to have such a streamlined mana base. In addition, tri-lands and gain-a-life duels are out the door as well. It is still very possible to run that many colors but you run a heavier risk of stumbling and your deck will be a lot slower with more lands entering tapped. I fully expect to see many more two to three color decks during this standard format, which will be a welcomed change for me.
KHHAAAAN!’s of Tarkir is parting ways with standard and ushering in the slow climb of fetches until Wizards decides to reprint them. It is taking its buddy Fate Reforged with it and, between the two of them, that is a lot of cards (454 to be exact). The most notable cards we are losing from standard, aside from fetch lands, are the hyper-efficient three-color cards. This includes things like Siege Rhino, Mantis Rider, Abzan Charm, Crackling Doom, Big Knucks, and a bunch of other cards loved by these four-color decks. There was nothing stopping decks from jamming these cards for almost no additional effort and it really crushed the playability of some otherwise great cards. Mana is supposed to be a restriction and I am glad we are returning to a world where more tough deck-building choices need to be made.
Abzan Aggro – Will Abzan completely disappear? Probably not, but with the loss of Khan’s of Tarkir, they are losing a lot of the cards that make the deck super powerful. Warden of the First Tree, Siege Rhino, Anafenza, and Abzan Charm are all rotation which leaves the wedge less supported.
Rally – When a deck loses its namesake, it is usually not going to survive rotation. That being said, most of the other pieces remain short of Grim Haruspex. Depending on what graveyard synergy we see, from Eldritch Moon and with Collected Company still in the format, we could see an efficient creature combo deck remain strong. Plus we still have to deal with Reflector Mage…
Hardened Scales – Same goes with this namesake card. Khans also housed a good number of counter’s matters cards which will squish counter strategies until they are better supported. Counters will go from being a combo to just being… regular I guess. There are still plenty of powerful counter strategies that could make their way into standard.
Most 4/5 Color Decks – They won’t be impossible to build but we definitely will not see as many of them moving forward. That being said, I could probably 100% see a 4 color super friends deck or something similar being in the format.
Tribal (Vampire, Werewolves, and Zombies Oh My!) – There are so many awesome tribal cards that we are seeing from this set. I would not be surprised at all to see Zombies, Spirits, or Werewolves become a playable Standard deck. This being said, I don’t see any of them being top tier. The simple fact is, you limit yourself when building around a specific tribe which at times can cost you a slot that would have gone to a slightly better creature. This won’t stop people from building tribal decks as they are some of the most fun decks to play and they are really well-supported this time around! I could fully believe a Humans, Vampire, or Werewolf deck taking down a GP at least once as well. Eldritch Moon should make this category even strong as it will add cards without causing a rotation.
Reanimator – This was a deck that saw a lot of play in the original Innistrad Standard environment and was very powerful. Ever After and Necromantic Summons are two very powerful spells that bring things straight from the graveyard to the battlefield. I think we need to figure out some better targets as currently most of the powerful effects trigger on casting the creature rather than entering the battlefield. That being said, I am all for another Reanimator deck, (assuming there is hate for it in the format, of course).
Artifact – Color me crazy, but this archetype is something to investigate. Origins is host to all sorts of Artifacts with a high power level. Cards like Thopter Spy Network could take over an entire game and with the introduction of Clues, I think there could be something here. There are not too many constructed playable clue producers, however, in my head I have delusions of tapping six Clues with Ghirapur Aether Grid to have a repeatable Lightning Bolt. You never quite lose that ecstatic brewer in the back of your head. We also still have creatures like Hangarback Walker and all of the various thopter producers as well.
I think the format is going through a well needed change. Normally when a new block rotates in, it has a theme and it is supposed to have hate cards that weakens previous strategies to allow new cards to shine. Battle for Zendikar fell short as it failed to bring much to the table and did little to break the hold that Khan’s of Tarkir had over the format. There was little punishment for player playing tons of colors. Aggro was in too weak a spot as removal was everywhere. Now that Khans is rotating, I am not sure how Standard will look but I am a big fan of keeping things new and exciting which is why I love the Standard format.
@Sockymans on Twitter
Usually I get excited for new sets during spoiler season, but something has got me super excited. Sure, going back to Innistrad seems cool and I can’t wait to find some more sweet werewolves for a deck I built 4-years ago…but that isn’t what got me truly excited. No, I’m super excited right now for the MTG world in which we live right now. Things are sweet and I want to tell you why.
Most people are bemoaning the fact that Modern sucks right now as we are overrun by Eldrazi and silly lands like Eye of Ugin and Eldrazi Temple. The pro tour was a bit of a train-wreck if you like to see a super diverse Top 8 because the format kind of got busted. Legacy hasn’t been far behind with the Eldrazi deck sliding over and giving everyone fits with super fast decks. I mean, any deck running an Endbringer and casting it on turn 3 tells me things are broken. The Eldrazi Winter is truly a thing and lots of players are pretty upset. These eternal formats aren’t supposed to be broken so easily…and yet thanks to Oath of the Gatewatch that is exactly what has happened.
Now, I’m not relishing the state of these formats, but I am super pleased that the MTG world has been so preoccupied with the Eldrazi and non-rotating formats that they have allowed Standard playable cards to tank in value. I don’t think I have ever seen so many excellent cards cost so little. Thanks to a focus on acquiring Modern staples and things that can port to Eternal formats, players have opened piles of OGW, (not to mention looking for the Expeditions,) and in the process helped depress the prices of OGW and BFZ. We’ll look at a few examples in a bit, but to a fringe constructed player or someone who plays casually this is music to our ears. Affordable MTG? Yes please!
A similar effect has happened with Battle for Zendikar and prices have been seriously reduced because everyone has been hunting furiously for the Expeditions and opened up tons of product. Mythics and highly sought after rare cards are affordable making rotation seem almost palatable. C’mon, who doesn’t like having access to things like Drana or Undergrowth Champion at reasonable prices? Right now these cards are indeed things that can be acquired without much trouble making piecing together what you want for a future deck much easier than in the past.
Similar effects are being felt in other Standard legal sets that are going through the usual pre-rotation lull before they leave Standard, but even in Dragons of Tarkir, a set that is NOT rotating out in a few short weeks, we are seeing prices drop to a point where they are reasonable. When premium, Standard playable powerhouses are falling to very reasonable prices you know something kind of cool is going on.
The one exception is Magic: Origins where prices have stayed high and continue to soar upwards. Jace, Vrynn’s Prodigy alone continues to skyrocket and is listed at close to $90 a card! However, Pia and Kiran Nalaar, Liliana, Heretical Healer, and Abbot of Keral Keep are all quite expensive. Some of the pressure on Origins is tied to the fact that it was released mid-summer, historically a low time for sales, meaning not as much of it has been opened as some of the other sets and that is forcing the prices to be higher.
So, what does it mean? The combination of a focus on Eternal Formats, an over abundance of some sets on account of the “Expedition Effect”, and the Modern season with a number of GP’s has really helped to force the price of Standard cards down a lot. This is great news for budget-conscious players who play casually because you can jump in and grab a number of really powerful Mythics and Rares without putting a hole in your bank book. Check out this list of Mythics from Battle for Zendikar Block that cost ~$3!
*Please note that the price information I am using is in Canadian dollars and is subject to change according to the whims of the multiverse.
|Crush of Tentacles||2.15|
|Inverter of Truth||1.51|
|Greenwarden of Murasa||1.85|
|Omnath, Locus of Rage||2.54|
|Part the Waterveil||2.29|
|Sire of Stagnation||1.81|
There is a whole lot of casual appeal to these cards! And this trend seems to buck a trend even for kind of janky Mythics. If you go and pull up a set from the last 4 years, like Gatecrash for example, you will see that the price of Mythics rarely sunk this low. Now, I know Gatecrash had no Expeditions, but in many regards it was a fine set that even had Shocklands making it fairly sought after, and was drafted as a stand alone set 3 packs at a time meaning it was opened in good quantity. Despite this, Aurelia didn’t fall below $4 while she was in Standard. Master Biomancer was a house and held good value! Even things like Lord of the Void seemed to hold more value. Something wonderful is happening right now that is making BFZ block much cheaper for those of us looking to play casually or on a tight budget.
Will it stay like this for long? No. I can’t imagine we’ll be able to grab these sorts of cards at this price for much longer. Once Shadows over Innistrad starts to get spoiled everyone will start to focus back in on Standard again as players look to rebound from the new Spring rotation. However, in the meantime we have the chance to grab a strong number of very playable cards to help settle your casual appetite and get you brewing all sorts of funky decks.
So, if you are a casual player, take advantage now while the prices are good and get the cards you’ve always wanted! This is a pretty special time, almost like Christmas, and now is the time to jump in a get what you need.
Thanks for stopping by and be sure to stop by next time for another Casual Encounter.
@bgray8791 on Twitter