By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
Welcome back to another Crack a Pack with Bruce. Over the last couple of weeks we’ve cracked a pack from each of the three sets of Theros block and had some interesting selections. However, M15 is still a week away before it becomes the draft format of choice leaving us with a weird one week window where we just aren’t sure what to open. Well, now is a perfect time to open up a pack of Conspiracy to check it out and see what I would pick. I’ll be honest, I haven’t had a chance to actually play Conspiracy yet but it seems super sweet and I want to have a look at some of the cards in the set. Let’s check out what we’ve got.
Having not cracked a lot of packs of Conspiracy but being relatively familiar with the set, this feels like a bit of an average pack…and that’s just fine. There are plenty of interesting choices to consider and some very solid and playable cards in this pack. The first thing that I notice is that this pack is LOADED with good removal. If this is the average pack then creatures don’t stand a snowflake’s chance in Hell of living for long…but perhaps in a multiplayer game you end up burning out your removal early and creatures stick around. Let’s look at what catches my eye.
The rare is Decimate and this is spicy. For 4 mana you get to destroy an artifact, a creature, an enchantment, and a land. That works out to 1 mana per target, which is pretty good bang for your buck. Also, the fact that it can target different thing means you could get something from each of your opponents. Here’s where the strategy sets in: if you hit each of the other 3 players with this I can assure you that you will have 3 players battering down your defences in short order and leaving you on the side of the road in bloody heap (proverbially speaking). No, this card is almost best used to set 1 opponent back as far as you can get them and then leave them to be picked over by the other players. This is a very solid selection and something that I like. I also usually like playing some sort of Green deck, so this would suit me just fine.
The next card that grabs my attention is Volcanic Fallout. 3 mana gets you an Instant that can’t be countered and deals 2 damage to each creature and player. This is a mini sweeper that can’t be countered. The ability to not be countered is actually pretty huge, but I expect that to actually be something for Legacy burn decks more than this format…but you never know. The 2 damage to all creatures is pretty vital and can clear the board of those pesky “bears” quickly. I really like this card as it feels powerful and very solid.
Next we have Tragic Slip. This was a premium removal spell in Innistrad and absolutely nothing has changed. 1 mana to give something -1/-1 is good, but that Morbid ability basically assures you that you’re killing something. This is cheap, efficient removal and very solid. Not flashy…but solid.
Next is another removal spell in Brimstone Volley, yet another piece of Instant removal that deals 3 damage to target creature or player for 3 mana. Trigger the Morbid ability at it deals 5 damage. Just like Tragic Slip you want to make the Morbid a thing when you go to cast it, but it is just straight up good removal. Umm…for those keeping score at home…the first 4 cards I’ve looked at have all been a form of removal…just…you know…keep that in mind.
The next 2 cards both grab my attention for entirely different reasons. Flamewright is 2 mana 1/1, which is a little on the weak side. However, the ability to make 1/1 defender tokens and then sacrifice them to deal 1 damage seems strong. The fact that this generates tokens means you could get some incremental advantage out of this guy. The creature type seems all wrong because Human Artificers should be Blue and not W/R, but I’m not one to quibble. Liliana’s Specter also grabs my attention for the ability to force EACH opponent to discard. That’s big and nets you a sizeable card advantage. You play 1 card and your opponents collectively lose 3. This likely means that you’re going to take the beats as they are all slightly upset with you, but the 2/1 creature is unlikely to truly scare any of them meaning they should quickly get over you.
Lurking Automaton is an interesting card, but he isn’t an early pick in this pack because of the ability. He’s a real bomb in the middle of the pack when 5 or 6 cards have already been picked, so if you see him early, be mindful that someone further down the line is going to grab him and put him to good use.
Galvanic Juggernaut seems like a pretty solid 5/5 for 4 mana, but I’m not a fan of the conditions imposed on him. Attacking each turn isn’t a big deal, but the staying tapped feels like it could be an issue. Maybe there will be lots of things dying and I get to untap him, but that feels a little risky which pushes him down the pick order.
Sakura-Tribe Elder is nice little piece to help with your ramp and will get some consideration in the mid-rounds.
Enclave Elite is interesting because of the Multi-kicker and the Islandwalk. 2/2 for 3 mana is solid and pump a little more into him and you may have a pretty solid creature to take out a player with the Islandwalk ability. It isn’t flashy and other players with Islands may not be too appreciative, but it feels like a solid card in the Mid-rounds as well.
Compulsive Research is the Divination of this set and is actually a little bit better. Divination simply draws you 2 cards. That’s nice. However, for the same price, Compulsive research allows you to dig 3 cards down and then evaluate what you need. Can you afford to pitch a land? If you so, late in the game, you might be able to grab all three 3 cards and really work to find that answer. It’s an intriguing card, but like Divination in most sets, it’s a mid round pick at best.
Guardian of Zendikon seems interesting in that it enchants a land and makes it 2/6 defender. When the land dies you get it back. I’m hardly excited, but in the late rounds this would an interesting choice.
Pillarfield Ox is a vanilla 2/4 for 4 mana. He’s a body I guess.
Plated Seastrider is 2 blue for 1/4 vanilla critter. I’d probably pick this ahead of the Ox because it is cheaper, but they are both pretty lacklustre.
Power of Fire is just bad and will almost assuredly be the last card picked out this pack.
I would seriously be considering just 2 cards in this pack. I’d be looking at Decimate or Volcanic Fallout. The Fallout is neat because I like the board sweeper effect and that it can’t be countered. However, the potential upside to just blow an opponent out with Decimate is just too appealing. I want…no…need to see the look on the face of the opponent (or opponents) when I cast this and blow up a bunch of their stuff. It would be awesome! Also effectively spending 1 mana for each of those 4 targets is very appealing and very economical for the amount of mana spent to cast it.
Both of these picks are a tad risky and the much safer play would be to take sure fire targeted removal like the Tragic Slip and Brimstone Volley. However, remember what this set is. It is a fun casual set that is full of shenanigans and I want to get right into the mix of things. As a result, I’m going to grab the Decimate and go down the rabbit hole to “Magical Christmas Land” trying to blow up a ton of stuff.
Well, there we have it…another week…another Crack a Pack. I really enjoyed this pack and it left for TONS of interesting things to consider. There would be very few cards in this pack that I wouldn’t be excited to pull and play. I can’t say that about every set. I can hardly wait for my chance to sit down and test this little set out and see what it is like to play. It seems super diverse and plenty of fun.
What would you guys have picked? Would you have gone with the Decimate too? Volcanic Fallout? Sure bets like the Slip and Volley? Something else all together? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Send me a tweet and let me know what you think!
Thanks for reading. Next week we’ll have a pack of M15 for sure and bust it open to see what we can find. Until then, may you crack nothing of mythic bombs!
Bruce Gray @bgray8791
I had an interesting discussion with someone over the weekend about a previous article I wrote. I have long maintained that getting into Modern doesn’t have to be overly expensive, as I have explained in a previous article right here on Three Kings Loot. However, people still don’t seem to believe me. So, I set myself a little challenge to show another, different way to get into playing Modern.
The Duel Decks, for those that aren’t familiar, are a pair of themed decks sold together with the intent of being played against each other. This is for those players who are somewhat familiar with the game play of Magic, but aren’t really comfortable building their own decks yet. The nice part about the Duel decks, particularly those built around Planeswalkers, is that there is a surprising amount of value and very playable cards contained within each. You can’t argue when decks contain foiled Planeswalkers, solid cards like Underworld Connections, premium creatures like Hellrider and Reaper of the Wilds, and splashy counter magic like Remand. So, I periodically pick up these Duel decks, sometimes because of the sweet alternate art on the cards, or because I’m actually pretty jazzed about the cards that they contain. The only issue with the Duel decks is that, because they are pre-constructed, they contain a large number of single cards as opposed to the more powerful 3 or 4 of certain cards that get used in other constructed decks made by players. This means that your deck has a high degree of variance each time you draw. This is fun if the other deck has an equal amount of variance, but if the deck is more concentrated and loaded with high powered spells then the reality is that you are likely to get blown out. What can you do about this?
My solution has been to take two of the Duel Decks and to mash them together to see what I can brew up as the best deck. My starting point was to take the Tibalt deck from Sorin vs Tibalt and then to take the deck made for Vraska out of Jace vs Vraska. This means that you get R/B/G deck in terms of colours, which is normally referred to as Jund. Now, my limitations were that I could only use the cards contained in the decks. You’ll see I violated this a little bit, but that I’ll explain what I did and I don’t really think that I violated the spirit of the deck. I will also go through some of the options you could make in order to spice up this new deck that I have affectionately taken to calling Jund Mash-up.
First off, let’s review the deck list for each of the decks I’m using for the Mash-up.
Here is Tibalt-
Now, for Vraska.
These two decks give us quite a number of options to take any Mash-up in, but there are some very obvious cards that are too good to pass up. First off, Tibalt and Vraska need to make the cut because they both offer us some very powerful abilities. Both of these Planeswalkers get a bit of a bad rap, but only because there are others out there that are far more powerful. That doesn’t mean that these two can’t be solid additions to a deck such as this. Next, Underworld Connections is too good a card to leave out simply because of the card draw ability. Reaper of the Wilds and Hellrider are extremely powerful 4 drops that can’t be ignored. Terminate is an extremely efficient removal spell and Browbeat allows you to do two things you want: either draw cards, or make your opponent take damage. So let’s take a look at what I slotted in here to make up the 60 cards in the Mash-up deck.
Jund Mash-Up deck
So, there is the 60 card list. You’ll notice that the only additions I made were to add an extra Reaper of the Wild, because I had an extra, an extra Treasured Find (for exactly the same reason). I substituted Night’s Whisper and replaced it with the improved Read the Bones. Finally, Last Kiss was replaced with the virtually identical Pharika’s Cure. For the Read the Bones I was prepared to pay the extra colorless mana to Scry 2 and then draw 2 meaning my card selection was vastly improved. For Pharika’s Cure I decided that the double black in the casting cost was preferable to paying three mana (2 colourless and a black) because I could have access to it earlier.
So, with only minor substitutions I have created a Jund Mash-Up deck that can do a little bit of everything. The heavy creature removal package pretty much assures everything dies to my spells. The Underworld Connection and Browbeat and Read the Bones allow for additional card draw to keep up the pressure. Blightning is the only real source of hand disruption, but with the ability of Treasured Find I could replay this card and make use of the ability again…and I could go and craft a sideboard out of the remaining cards that will assuredly pack some pretty good discard options. Lastly, the curve of creatures is pretty reasonable. Jund decks have the ability to get out early and this deck is no different. With a number of 2 drops early pressure is almost a guarantee and by 4 mana the real heavy hitters are hitting the battlefield allowing you to really take charge. All in all, the build “feels” pretty decent, if still a little high on the variance order due to all the single cards in the deck.
The easiest way to spice this deck up would be to tinker with your land base. Now, I’m not going to go for pricey lands because you may not have the high price lands like Shocklands from Return to Ravnica. However, there are still a number of options available to you still in the form of Guildgates, namely Rakdos, Golgari and Gruul. The issue becomes if you add in these 12 Guildgates a lot of your land comes into play tapped…which is a perfectly valid observation…but with a tri-colour deck such as this you may put more of a premium on the lands that produce 2 colours instead of just playing basic lands. It also means Tainted Wood may not be a strong choice because you may not control a swamp to allow it to produce green and black mana. Other options are more of the Zendikar life-gain lands like Kazandu Refuge or Akoum Refuge. These inexpensive lands still give you access to both colours of mana, but at least you get a life when it enters the battlefield. Of course, you can keep going on down the line and find plenty of expensive lands if you want, but if the goal is to try and keep your deck cost down and at a reasonable level these choices are perfectly acceptable.
For those interested, the Duel Decks themselves run about $25 for either the Sorin vs Tibalt or the Jace vs Vraska decks at your local game shop, so you would need to shell out about $50 in order to put this together. All in all, that’s pretty decent value and gives you a starting point from which to begin to build your Jund deck to make it more competitive. This shell will give you enough of the key ingredients that you can play and not look out of place, but as discussed, you will miss out on the consistency due to the much higher degree of variance in the cards in your deck. Still, it is a beginning and a fun stepping stone to get you into Modern and ready to play…and gives these Duel decks a new lease on life outside of just being decks primed to face off against each other.
So, before you turn your nose up the next Duel Deck you see, take a second and give it a deeper look. Is there something more you could be doing with this collection of cards? What pieces could you put together in order to maximize what you get out of these deck lists? The possibilities are just about endless even with such a limited card pool and it won’t break the bank…and has plenty of fun available when you play.
Thanks very much and if you guys have any feedback or suggestions on things you would like to see me explore, I’m all ears and would love to hear what you guys want to see me dig up and bang on next.
So, until next time, Keep it fun, keep it safe…Keep it Casual.
Pick. Plot. Play. Experience a Magic format where the intrigues begin long before the first spells are cast! Revolutionary new abilities impact every part of the play experience, starting with the draft itself.
The first-ever multiplayer-focused booster set has new Magic cards with new mechanics that enhance multiplayer play. Returning favorites from throughout Magic’s history round out the set and cultivate an environment of deception and treachery. The Magic: The Gathering–Conspiracy set is designed to be drafted with six to eight players who then split into groups of three or four players for free-for-all multiplayer games.
Conspiracy Drafting Video
Conspiracy Booster Box
Conspiracy Booster Pack