The anticipation is mounting! In just a few short days we will be getting our first chance to play Battle for Zendikar and I’m pretty excited. There are some amazing new cards in this set, and some terrific reprints that got some slick new art. It looks like there are going to be some bonkers new additions to just about every format, including Casual Kitchen Table Magic. Today I’m going to go through my Top Ten cards to bring to your next Casual Kitchen Table Magic game night and spice things up. Let’s get down to business.
10. Common Land Cycle ( Sandstone Bridge, Skyline Cascade, Mortuary Mire, Looming Spires, Fertile Thicket ). This common land cycle doesn’t look super spicy, but let’s be real, any time you can play a land card and have an effect that is normally created by a spell you have something that is deceptively powerful. There will be loads of decks looking to pick these up to replace just a regular basic land card, and the extra ability is always a solid trick. Now, let’s talk about how to abuse these (i.e. get more than one activation). In a Kitchen Table world you are constrained only by your card pool and the rules you and your friends have established, so finding fun ways to take advantage of these should be easy. Let’s start with the “Karoo” lands or “Bounce” lands from Ravnica. These were reprinted in Modern Masters 2015 making them pretty readily available and an easy way to get more than one activation of these. Emancipation Angel or Kor Skyfisher, or even Pearl Lake Ancient are also some of my favorites and could easily get you additional activations. Going a little more in the the history of Magic, Soramaro, First to Dream would be hilarious.
As if just getting the value off these lands wasn’t enough, don’t forget this set is packing Landfall meaning that you are very likely to net all sorts of value off of just playing these lands. That makes these things even more appealing. The nice part is that you will usually be pleased to see these guys, regardless of what stage of the game you’re in. Keep your eyes peeled for these small, but significant, additions.
9. Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper: What isn’t to like about this guy? He’s a 4/4 for 5 mana which is a pretty reasonable rate to start and you will not feel ashamed to run him out. His size also makes him surprisingly robust and able to tussle if the need arises. However, what is truly gross is his ability. You get free +1/+1 counters on your lands every time you cast an instant or sorcery…and in Blue and White isn’t that what you want to do anyways? I can well imagine EDH decks premised on this guy or just jammed in there for value. However, what I think might be truly busted is playing Jeskai and slamming this guy and Zada. Cast your instant on Zada, copy the spell a bunch of times, make a pile of Elementals, attack for the win…or something like that. Yes, that is magical Christmas land, but it’s fun to dream. I’m kind of excited to see this guy and try him out.
8. Omnath, Locus of Rage: I don’t know what to do with this guy…but I like the fact that Omnath is getting a reprinting, and this time he’s pissed. I haven’t got a clue how good he will be, or any deck built around him using elementals as a centerpiece, but this guy sure looks unhappy and ready to kick some butt. All he really asks of you is to play your land and benefit from an army of 5/5 tokens, but that feels a little too simple. Omnath makes the list because of his unbridled anger…and big scary tokens. For those of you out there with RTR block cards still kicking around, time to dust off those Populate enablers..
7. Catacomb Sifter: This guy is among my favorite cards in the set and the art is insane. That is spectacular art! The colours and contrast really stand out and makes this thing look super frightening. But enough about the art. This 3 mana creature packs 3/4 worth of power and toughness across 2 bodies which is a very good rate. I know I play casually, but I also really like efficient creatures…they help me get to the much less efficient but fun part of my deck! This is exactly the sort of thing I want to do. However, there is still more. This packs the Scry 1 ability that Reaper of the Wilds packs just because…umm…value? This is a very strong card and I can’t wait to get my hands on some of these guys and ride the Value Train.
6. Halimar Tidecaller: How is this NOT a rare? Can you just imagine pairing this with Noyan Dar and making FLYING land creatures? Wow. And you even get to bring another relevant spell out of your graveyard to replay and get yet ANOTHER land creature. Sure, it is a bit of a build around, but if you can successfully build around it this looks amazing! For a paltry 3 mana this feels as if it has been pushed to try and push an elemental theme…and I’m taking the bait! I can almost taste the Elemental Deck…Brews to come!
5. Defiant Bloodlord: Ok folks, this makes the list because you now have Sanguine Bond attached to a 4/5 flying body. This gives those janky “life gain” decks you see around the Kitchen table yet another win condition and NOW it gets to attack too! I’m just dreaming of casting this and Feed the Clan to maximum effect. The interaction between this and Gray Merchant of Asphodel seems like it could be potent too. All in all, there will be lots of ways to abuse this around the Kitchen Table so you had better buckle down.
4. Felidar Sovereign: Felidar Sovereign is yet another example of the power of alternate win conditions. This guy is a reprint from the original Zendikar block and became a staple in EDH decks all over the place as an alternative win condition. The issue WAS that Felidar was a $10-12 card that essentially exclusively saw play in Casual formats. By getting a reprint players will be getting a shot to grab this guy at a much more affordable $2 price point. Enjoy the savings Casual players, this one is for you.
3. Kiora, Master of Depths: Kiora made this list because her ultimate is nutty. Three 8/8 octopus tokens PLUS they get to fight your opponent’s creatures? Whatever…you win the game if you get this Emblem online. If you can look me in the eye and honestly tell me that you aren’t interested in doing that then you’re lying to yourself.
2. Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger: If the Eldrazi somehow didn’t make this list then I wouldn’t be doing my job. What’s NOT to like? It’s big, splashy, hard to kill, wrecks the game instantly, can be played in virtually every deck and looks to be about the best thing you can do with 10 mana. Also, because this version of Ulamog doesn’t come with the “feel bad” Annihilator mechanic your buddies around the kitchen table are more apt to agree to let you play it. Yeah, Ulamog is a thing and makes our list.
1. Zada, Hedron Grinder: Zada is getting lots of buzz and with good cause because her ability is just outright insane. Any time you can copy spells you have a strong effect. Zada will let you copy them multiple times for FREE! Magic players love the word FREE and so Johnnies around the world are setting up to break this. I’ve heard lots of players talk about casting Titan’s Strength or Become Immense on Zada and then pumping your team to significant effect, but I was going somewhere completely different. I was going to aim for Feat of Resistance and essentially allow your team to get protection from…oh…everything…and crash in for the win. But things at the Kitchen table can get better! Ranger’s Guile protects ALL your stuff. Rootborn Defenses fights off Board wipes. Retraction Helix allows you to turn all your creatures into Unsummon spells! Really, the possibilities are endless and this is why so many people are excited about Zada. There really isn’t much doubt, Zada is the real winner for the Casual Magic crowd.
Well, there we have our top ten cards for Casual Magic. I’m sure there are a few spicy things that I left off the list, but I have to draw the line somewhere. If you have something you think should be added to the list, send me a tweet and let me know. I’d love to hear what has got other people excited!
Thanks for taking the time to stop in and have a visit and have yourself a great MTG day!
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter
1st at SCG St. Louis Standard Open on Sep 6th 2014
1st Place at StarCityGames Standard Open on 6/21/2014
The deck is at its core a solid creature beats concoction with more then half of its slots devoted to them with an extremely low curve reminiscent of a brew we would expect from Legacy. The deck is chock full’o one drops loading up on value with them all. With two power for a single Red we find both Firedrinker Satyr and Rakdos Cackler coming strong out of the gate. We also have Legion Loyalist which with Battalion grands First Strike but more importantly Trample to your assault, and Foundry Street Denizen who when dropped on turn one can offer you so many turns of added value from each and every other creature you pop into play. On two mana you basically have the rest of the team starting on Burning-Tree Emissary to try and chain multiple creatures into play right away, Ash Zealot as a value drop with Haste to lay down the beats as fast as possible, and Firefist Striker with its Battalion trigger to neutralize any big blocker and ram additional damage down your opponents throat. There is also Rubblebelt Makka but he is really there as a cheap pump to ram through as much extra damage as possible working along side Titan’s Strength to take huge chunks out of the opponents life. The deck also has a trio of Shock and a pair of Searing Blood which help to ensure that the path to victory goes unhindered by opposing creatures.
It’s hard to say if the meta will continue to be soft to Red based decks but judging by all its success I guess you’d be a fool not to join in. I’m hesitant to say that this is the best strategy but it is always a strong strategy in the hands of a compitant mage. The only caution I would provide is that people are certainly aware of the deck and should plan accordingly. Also, don’t be one of the fools who says that it’s just a simple Red deck and I can pilot it like an expert without practice. This deck requires a precise use of its resources and knowing when to go all out as opposed to ensuring you don’t over commit is crucial. Just make sure you drive it around the block at least a few times, but most of all feel the burn.
Valentine’s Day has come and gone, and gifts of love have been exchanged.
But not all creatures are loved equally, and if there is any card that has been so utterly left unloved from the Theros set I would have to say that it is Spellheart Chimera. If you ever see your opponent play this card in draft you are pretty much guaranteed to win. If you see it in constructed you will probably be asking yourself what your opponent was thinking? Let’s take a closer look at it, shall we?
It has Flying and Trample and a static three toughness. It’s power fluctuates depending upon the number of sorcery and instant cards in your graveyard. It’s also aggressively costed at only three mana, a colourless, a red, and a blue.
Now in Limited this card is near unplayable because creatures are the name of the game, not spells. Your typical draft, or sealed, deck is going to be made up of at most five to seven non-creature spells. Which means that this flying roadblock’s Trample ability will be almost irrelevant as it’s power will be too low for it to matter.
In constructed however I may have found a home for it, in Block. If you read my “That’s Bull!” article then you already know what Block Constructed is, if not here is a brief description. It’s like any constructed format with a minimum of sixty cards in the deck, but you are limited to only a Block of cards. In this case we are using Theros Block, for obvious reasons.
Now the Block Constructed deck I started out with was based on the Scry mechanic. Every card in the deck had some interaction with Scry or had the Scry ability. This was the core of the design concept for the deck. Being able to rig your draws to be able to keep on curve or be able to ‘dig’ for the answers you needed to stop your opponent. If you look up all the cards that have Scry in red and blue from Theros alone you total seventeen, Born of the Gods adds an additional 8, bringing our grand total to twenty five different cards that have or use Scry.
Before the Chimera came to mind I was playtesting the deck online with the Flamespeaker Adept as it’s champion creature, and for good reason. With combat tricks like Titan’s Strength to make boost it’s power from the simple two to nine, and Aqueous Form to make him unblockable, he can be quite the little beatstick. On top of that if you can get the Prognostic Sphinx joining him in the air it makes for a near game ending combo.
That combo was what fueled this concept in the first place after I went undefeated in a Theros Draft after getting the Sphinx with two Adept’s a a couple of Magma Jet’s and Voyage’s End. It made me wonder if it was viable as a deck concept and that is when I decided to try it in Block Constructed. Let’s take a look at the deck
It’s initial testing was against blue green Prophet of Kruphix deck and was favorable as the creatures were weak enough to succumb to the first striking adept and it didn’t have enough to stop it in the air with the Sphinx. Next up was blue white heroic, which was too easily defeated with Voyage’s End and Sea God’s Revenge. The biggest test was going to be against naya monsters, which featured ramping with Voyaging Satyr and Sylvan Caryatid into Polakranos, World Eater and Stormbreath Dragon and Elspeth, Sun’s Champion and you get the point. Naya Monsters, at the time of this writing, makes up seventy-five percent of the online meta, which shows just how dominant it is.
Now the secret to beating naya monsters was to be patient and wait for them to cast their big creatures that they were relying on. They usually want to curve out and get their big threats in play as they expend all their mana, so cards like Dissolve and Stymied Hopes are great ways to combat them. Voyage’s End will buy you a turn, and the new Sudden Storm will buy you two turns, all while using Scry to set up your next big road block, or curve out, or threat.
And so after doing some testing with the original list I realized that Prescient Chimera wasn’t very beneficial and was way too expensive, but the deck couldn’t afford to lose anymore creatures. The deck was creature light already. And that’s where the Spellheart Chimera comes into play. The deck is using a lot of “counter/burn” to keep our opponent’s board in check, so why not have a cheap creature that can take advantage of all that. Spellheart Chimera is cheaper than the other chimera and grows larger as we cast more spells. What it doesn’t do is scry every time we play a spell, but that’s not bad because a lot of our spells already do that.
So let’s take a look at the new list.
It’s different, that is for sure and I can almost guarantee that nobody at your FNM is going to expect it and might even think you are crazy when you play out the Spellheart Chimera, but when you beat them with it you will make some people rethink what I though. Because, I never thought that the Spellheart Chimera would find a home, I thought it was absolute garbage. But, this redheaded bastard stepchild of the Theros set just might have found some love.
~ Gerald Knight
Extra Booty: Before you jump on me for that red-headed bastard comment, I was born a bastard, proud of it too, and I fathered a red-headed child who is now a step-child to my fiance. Don’t say that writers never talk about themselves!