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!
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
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