Well, it feels good to be back! After a long hiatus, I am very pleased to be back and writing content for Three Kings Loot.
Yes, that’s right, I am BACK!
If you used to frequent the Three Kings Loot website, I had a series entitled “Casual Encounters”. I broke down fun, casual sixty card nonsense for your enjoyment. I have since taken a break from writing and moved on to other interests. My interests in other formats evolved, and life moved on. But now I am back and very pleased to be able to share my thoughts with you once again.
What do I play now? I have moved on to playing Commander, but I still play in a very Casual sense. Budget friendly decks are my go to, full of unusual, underplayed, or janky cards. I love to brew up decks of all sorts, but there are a few constants. First off, I usually avoid brewing with infinite combos. Many of the game groups I play don’t much enjoy those elements. Stax pieces that lock a player out of the game are also frowned upon. However, I still love creating decks that generate value through both combat and spell synergy.
So, what is this Epic Experiment business? Back in January 2020, I started a Commander-focused podcast entitled The Epic Experiment Podcast. My co-host and I talk Commander every week, discussing new Commander deck builds. We decided that in order to differentiate ourselves from some of the other podcasts that we would create a limitation that would set us apart. We wanted to keep cards accessible, and keep decks that we brew budget friendly for our listeners. Our one year anniversary is rapidly approaching and we are both so happy with how far it’s come.
The result was what we call ‘The Epic Experiment’ format, where only use cards that have been printed since the Return To Ravnica block. There are loads of super powerful cards that have been printed and are still accessible without forcing us to break the bank.
What you can come to expect from me in each article is some sort of theme or topic that is getting air time in the world of Commander. Regardless of the topic, you can always expect a deck list and a few highlighted card selections that should clock in around $100-$150 based on what Moxfield.com generates for card prices.
For my first article of 2021, I wanted to break down some of the ways in which I brew up new decks each week. I want to show that deck building isn’t as intimidating as one may think, and to help some new voices in the deck building world.
Let’s be clear folks, I am not making Tier 1 decks that win in a hurry. I aim to build a deck that is a modest power level that typically seeks to win through creature combat. I rarely put infinite combos in my decks, but prefer to create incremental advantage through a number of moving parts. Some call this sort of deck “Battle Cruiser”, others call it “Casual”. In the end, I just prefer having fun. Sure, winning happens sometimes, but I prefer to have my decks “do their thing” and enjoy my game instead of prioritizing winning.
The foundation of any functioning Commander deck starts with your ramp package. There is a direct correlation between spending more mana and having a chance to win the game. Therefore, ramping effectively is integral to any strategy. Now, as a player who looks to control his budget cards such as Mana Crypt or Mana Vault are far too pricey and so I need to make other budget choices. The obvious things are Sol Ring, Arcane Signet, and a host of other two mana artifacts. However, if you want to go off the beaten path, you can go down the path of favorites of mine like Spinning Wheel, Heraldic Banner, or Lockets from Guilds of Ravnica and Ravnica Allegiance, and other mana producing artifacts.
The choice of ramp options expand if you are a player in Green because you can play additional lands with a plethora of spells. Cultivate, Kodama’s Reach, and Farseek lead the charge, but other options exist. Grow from the Ashes, Circuitous Route, and Migration Path fill this second tier of options, not to mention the options available to you through a host of creatures to help you find lands of a variety of sorts.
While artifacts and additional lands make up the most common options, there is a growing suite of cards that create Treasures, or artifacts that produce a mana of any colour when sacrificed. There are very expensive options like Dockside Extortionist and Smothering Tithe, but budget players may be more familiar with things like Prying Blade and an unblockable creature or Pitiless Plunderer. This new option gives decks of all stripes a way to keep pace and cast some of those haymakers earlier than anticipated to hopefully sneak a win.
In each of my decks I dedicate eight-to-ten slots for ramp and I prioritize playing extra lands over artifacts. I put special value on creatures that have ramp effects because once the effect has been used, you now have a body to attack and block. Farhaven Elf, Solemn Simulacrum, War Priest of Thune and the like get my continued attention for exactly these reasons.
A functioning Commander deck must have ways to remove your opponent’s threats and so some form of removal is key. Again, I allot six-to-ten slots to address problems of all sorts, not just creatures. I play two or three board wipes, with the remaining slots are dedicated to targeted removal spells. I am very fond of creatures with these abilities, so Reclamation Sage, Ravenous Chupacabra, and War Priest of Thune are all big favorites of mine. That said, I do value instant speed interaction, so Murderous Cut, Heartless Act, Heroes Downfall, and the like always get a good long look before I declare a deck to be ready to be played.
Many other players talk about generating card advantage, namely in the form of drawing additional cards. But after having a guest on our podcast, I have broadened this idea and just call it ‘generating advantage’. This is a way for you to generate additional resources, and leverage them in some way to pull ahead of your opponents. It could be drawing cards off the top of your deck, or it could be saproling tokens or treasure. I have a good ten-to-fifteen sources of resource generation in whatever strategy I intend to brew.
Since I play very few infinite combos, I need to create other ways of winning my games. My trademark win-cons are hard to deal with permanents that will often end the game reasonably quickly. In some of my decks there are things like an Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger or a Craterhoof Behemoth, but more often than not it is something less typical and far more budget friendly. An example of something that I might try to use as win con from the most recent Kaldheim might be something like Koma, Cosmos Serpent, Scute Swarm from Zendikar Rising, or an Eldrazi like Deathless Behemoth that we make unblockable or flying. As we go through our articles, I will often point where budget options that will still make your deck fun to play.
The rest of the deck will have a variety of value pieces, pet cards, or other interesting selections. I will try to explore some of these to help newer and experienced players control their budget.
And now for the good part! This week’s deck submission:
This Maja Bretagard Protector deck is a Green/White looking to take advantage of the Landfall trigger built into Maja. This should help you generate all sorts of advantages and push your deck into the winners circle by virtue of the raw number of tokens you produce. This deck also highlights some of the tenets I maintain as I build my decks.
For example, the ramp package contains selections like Circuitous Route, Cultivate, Grow from the Ashes which seem like auto includes, but also Spinning Wheel, Avacyn’s Pilgrim, a Nissa’s Renewal. My favorite piece of ramp tech in this sort of deck is Sakura Tribe Elder and Emeria Shepherd because they work together to loop and allow you to get all the plains in your deck out in one fell swoop because of the Landfall interaction on the Shepherd. This synergy can very quickly help a G/W deck get ahead on mana and hopefully pull ahead in the game.
My advantage generation in this Maja Bretagard Protector deck is fairly self-evident because the commander is all about Landfall. But there are other ways in which you can get there. Mentor of the Meek is a solid addition that can allow this sort of token deck to refill its hand, as can Huatli, Radiant Champion. Avenger of Zendikar, Felidar Retreat, and Admonition Angel are other Landfall payoffs that this deck will leverage to great effect and can make sure this deck has plenty of bodies on the battlefield to make use of. However, the fun one here is a convoked March of the Multitudes and the hope is to cast it for about… oh… maybe a million (but if X=ten, I’ll be pleased).
The removal is pretty clear with Austere Command, Hour of Reckoning, and Realm Cloaked Giant playing the role of the sweepers. Then there is plenty of other removal in the form of Knight of Autumn, Beast Within, Generous Gift, and Acidic Slime playing the roles of targeted removal. While this is a little on the light side, it can deal with a variety of threats. This will hopefully buy you time to have enough tokens to take over the game with Maja Bretagard Protector.
Lastly, the win-cons in this Maja Bretagard Protector deck are a little different. The deck is built to go WIDE, so overrun type effects are your go-to tools for your end game. No Craterhoof this time, but his little brother End-Raze Forerunners makes an appearance along with spells like Return of the Wildspeaker, Shalai, Voice of Plenty, and Divine Visitation. If making a pile of large tokens isn’t enough, Divine Visitation is the start of a super powerful enchantment package that pushes up the power level of this deck, but also the budget. Regardless, making 4/4 Angels with Flying seems like fun and makes the grade as a potential win condition.
Overall, the Maja Bretagard Protector deck clocks in at $140 USD according to Moxfield.com and should give a newer player a starting framework that is hopefully within their budget and allows them to get into the game and enjoy playing Commander with their friends.
Well, that wraps up this week’s article. Look for me in the future to expand on some of the ideas raised here! Whatever you are doing, and wherever you are, stay safe. This is Epic Experiment Podcast signing off and wishing you all the best wherever you next play Magic.
Do you have suggestions of what to help boost this deck’s potential? Then leave your suggestions in the comments below!
Check out The Epic Experiment podcast where ever you get your podcasts!
Follow The Epic Experiment Podcast on Twitter! https://twitter.com/epicexpcast?lang=en
Read more of Epic Experiment articles like this on The Bag of Loot! https://www.thebagofloot.com/
Buy all the cards you need to set up this deck now at Three Kings Loot! https://www.threekingsloot.com/
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
Sir Mix-a-Lot would be proud of me. Perhaps not in the same way as his famous song, but I too admire a good back side. The bigger the better. Of course, when I’m talking about playing Magic I’m referring to the toughness of creature which is sometimes referred to as the creature’s “butt”. C’mon! What did you think I was talking about? Get your mind out of the gutter! Sheesh. Today I’ve got something a little off the wall that some of you might enjoy the next time you sit around the Kitchen table to battle it out. Let’s see what I’ve got on tap for you guys.
A couple of weeks ago I was playing a Theros Block sealed event on MTGO and opened up a busted pool. Elspeth, Ajani, Pain Seer, good removal in Black, solid creatures in Green…including a Scourge of Skola Vale. I ended up playing Abzan (also known as Junk) mostly for Elspeth and Ajani, however my deck was predominantly B/G. Yes, Elspeth and Ajani were amazing and they were the number one reason I won a number of my games. However, The Scourge of Skola Vale was my big hitter. The worst part was, when I put him in the deck I just imagined that he might be useful, but little did I know that he would be awesome.
The Scourge of Skola Vale is a rather janky rare from Born of the Gods that is 3 mana for a 0/0 Hydra that enters play with two +1/+1 counters on it and trample. Those stats are hardly overwhelming. However, tap Scourge of Skola Vale, sacrifice a creature, and at instant speed it can gain +x/+x counters where X is equal to the toughness of the creature that is sacrificed. That still hardly seems game breaking, but let me assure you, the ability can be very potent. The question is all a matter of timing. You declare a creature as being a blocker. That ensures that there actually is a block and you don’t get hit. Then, before damage is assigned, sacrifice your creature (particularly if it was going to die anyway) to the Scourge and boost the Scourge. In short order your Scourge of Skola vale is an unhealthy sized creature with Trample that no longer behaves like a 3 drop but more like a 6 or 7 drop.
The question remains, How do you maximize the number of counters you put on the Scourge of Skola Vale? Clearly you want to play things with high toughness , block with them, and sacrifice them to your Scourge. It seems simple, but the problem with most high toughness creatures is that they attack very poorly or not at all. What is a guy to do? Let’s see what I did.
The creature package is pretty straight forward. Elvish Mystic is going to be a big key to the game plan because it helps ramp you to some of the more expensive pieces in your deck. You really want to play one of these guys on Turn 1 to get you out of the gate quickly. On Turn 2 you really want to be playing an Archers’ Parapet to hold off any immediate threats and early drops that your opponent can get down and bash away with. Also, with 5 toughness, the Parapet is an ideal target to sacrifice to the Scourge. The curve is a little wonky because you don’t really want to play a Scourge on Turn 3 so you end up skipping and waiting to play a 5 drop. Nessian Asp or Pheres-Band Centaur are both really solid 5 drops. With either of these guys on board you can follow up with Scourge and still hold up mana for a Ranger’s Guile. It is pretty key to hold up the Ranger’s Guile the moment your opponent sees you tap out your Scourge is going to eat a removal spell. Ranger’s Guile pretty much laughs at targeted removal spells and ensures your Scourge survives. Sac just about ANY creature to your Scourge, protect it with a Ranger’s Guile and then rumble in for a huge pile of damage. Sound like fun? I thought so.
The other route this deck can take is a little different. You have a whole bunch of creatures that have been sacrificed and are in your graveyard thanks to your own Scourge and you are running out of ways to get through for damage. What can you do? Well, hello my old friend Nighthowler. Bestow this on just about anything with a whole bunch of creatures in the graveyard and you instantly have a menace requiring an immediate fix. The synergy between the Scourge and Nighthowler is unmistakable because as you power up the Scourge you are powering up future Nighthowlers. I love a good plan B!
The spells all exploit creatures with high toughness. Grim Contest is a neat take on the fight mechanic that will ensure that just about anything you fight will die thanks to the extremely high toughness stats on many of your creatures. Kin-Tree Invocation gives you yet another potent attacker so long as you have something sizable kicking around on the board. Fruit of the First Tree pairs really nicely in this sort of deck because if it is on a creature, sacrifice that creature (to Scourge no less) and then reap the benefits of gaining a whole pile of life, but more importantly, drawing a whole pile of cards. Green card draw is a little tricky to find and play, but the reward for using it like this is extremely high and could really dig you out of a jam.
There’s the deck. It isn’t very fancy, but it does take a bit of peculiar take on getting to your opponent. The best part is that the whole deck is really quite affordable. The rares are all $0.50 bulk rares, the other spells are also equally cheap and the mana base is ALL basics. Could it really get any cheaper ? Not really. There are lots of ways to upgrade the deck ranging from Scry lands and Life Gain lands in the mana base to Courser of Kruphix and Sylvan Caryatid in the creature package thanks to their versatility and high toughness. Also, some other potent creatures like Rotting Mastodon and Swarm of Bloodflies work well in this deck and could be added in as need be. There are also a number of other options available to you too that can help maintain this deck and help you to keep the cost down while still having a loads of fun.
This looks like something fun to take for a spin around a kitchen table. Will it have legs at a competitive event? No way. The curve is way off, the removal is suspect and is generally too slow. However, around the kitchen table with your pals this will get a giggle or two…until your Scourge of Skola Vale stomps a mud hole through one of your pals and then they will sit up and take notice. It’s cheap, is capable of some silly shenanigans and is totally unassuming from the outset. Time to play rope a dope and be crowned Kitchen Table Champ!
Thanks for taking the time to stop in here at Casual Encounters and Three Kings Loot. I hope you guys enjoy the deck and have a chance to go on out and give it a try. Until the next time, have yourselves a great MTG day and remember keep it fun, keep it safe…and keep it casual!
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
There are some people that only want to brew up top tier decks and if it isn’t first rate, then they don’t want to try and do anything else. However, I look at making up a new deck a bit as a creative experience. There are lots of people who paint or write or act but will never reach those upper echelons of the craft…but that doesn’t invalidate their creative efforts or lessen the pleasure they get from pouring their energy into their activity of choice. My creative activity of choice is making a new deck that is ostensibly only played around the kitchen table with my friends…and that is just fine. I will never join the ranks of the Pro Tour with any of my decks, but I will always enjoy the process of building a new fun deck to play with my friends. So, today I’m going to share my take on a fun Casual deck that I will be playing at our next Kitchen Table card night.
I’ve seen a number of pros talk about the power that can be harnessed with Goblinslide and Quiet Contemplation. These are very similar enchantments that reward you for casting non-creature spells and you can trigger them to have an additional effect. The effect is different, but both of them are 100% repeatable and impact the board enough that you could gain a pretty significant advantage. Both enchantments have been suitably potent that they have been used in a viable draft deck in the right circumstances.
With that in mind I set about building a deck that could exploit these two intriguing (and deceptively powerful) cards. But what sort of deck do you build around these cards? The obvious starting point would be a pile of Burn spells to eliminate threats and allow you to get the engine of the deck started. Burn out their creatures, tap the remaining ones, and make Goblins…seems simple enough. However, those Burn spells need to be quite efficient because you need additional mana available to trigger the Goblinslide or the Quiet Contemplation, so efficiently costed spells are key. However, the issue of card draw starts to emerge because unless you can burn out your opposition you are likely to run out of gas pretty quickly. So, there are a few interesting options that can be used to help with some additional card draw and preventing you from running on fumes. Let’s see what we’ve got:
Ok, well the creature package is pretty small, but the Windscouts, the Jeskai Elder, and the Riverwheel Aerialists all come with Prowess…meaning that they can often tussle with bigger creatures without much trouble. The Scaldkin are there as fairly useful fliers that can “Shock” something. It is hardly an earth shattering creature package but you do want a few critters to keep your opponent honest.
The Enchantments make this deck go because if you can start to trigger them regularly you can make extra Goblin tokens or tap down your opponent. That is basically the whole premise of the deck anyway, so ideally I want to see one (or both) of these in my opening hand anyway.
The instants and sorceries are the fun part because they are burn, card draw, or just plain old Trumpet Blast to help your little Goblins punch through for a pile of damage. The newest treat for this deck is Collateral Damage which suits this deck perfectly. Can you imagine casting Lightning Strike, dealing three damage to your opponent, triggering Goblinslide for a mana, and then casting Collateral Damage for an additional three damage, sacrificing the Goblin token you just made…and then activate Goblinslide a second time and STILL having a Goblin Token on the table? That feels very achievable…and 6 points of direct damage is nothing to sniff at. Sure, it feels a little clunky but it just might get the job done around the Kitchen Table.
The deck hardly looks over powering, but for a deck packing no rare cards it feels like it could do some pretty powerful and hilarious stuff. Who doesn’t want to flood the board with a load of Goblins and over run your opponent? Seems like it might be legit little deck. It also meets most of my key components…it is a) inexpensive to build b) uses spare parts that I have in some my boxes and c) looks like it could be a load of fun. Sounds like a win to me!
Well, that’s all for today…thanks very much for taking the time to read!
Until next folks…have a great MTG day.
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter
With the banning of Cruise and Dig Through Time I thought I might take a bit of a stab at Modern. The format seems SOOO intimidating because it is just so powerful and with so many truly ridiculous archetypes that even getting into the format seems very challenging. Now, I don’t have the money to jump into the format with one of the Big Boy decks, so I end up having to brew my own budget deck just so I can play. Today, I thought I would share with you guys what sort of budget Modern Brew I’ve been working on.
Budget means different things in different formats. To most of us a budget deck at Standard means that the deck costs less than $100. At Modern that threshold changes significantly and puts you well into the hundreds of dollars, but considering that some of the Modern decks floating around can cost THOUSANDS of dollars, this still seems like a bargain. The deck I have for you today costs a couple of hundred dollars and thus falls into this realm and could be a lot of fun to play.
Sometimes there are decks that you brew for one format that you like so much that you keep them together as they roll over into the next format. That is the case for this deck that I ostensibly built for Standard during Return to Ravnica and Theros Block. It wasn’t a mainstream deck by any stretch of the imagination, but it was a deck that I liked to play and it could do some awfully powerful things and steal a win out of nowhere. Let’s take a look at the deck list.
Ok, a number of people are going to look at this list and just scoff because I have things like Plasm Capture…and I agree…but part of the idea behind this build was to do something a little off beat…and I think I’ve got it. This deck is trying to do a number of things, and that might be its downfall. It wants to be 1 part control deck, 1 part Hexproof, 1 part Enchantress and looks and feels a bit clunky, but with some streamlining could be really fun. Let’s have a peak at some of the cards.
The Hexproof package is the Aqueous Forms, Ethereal Armor, and Unflinching Courage and the game plan is pretty easy. Suit up a Witchstalker and go nuts. The Lone Revenant was something I found in a janky binder and tossed in just in case I needed another target because I wrathed away the board…and the additional card draw is kind of a sleeper addition to the deck. Ajani is in here for his 2nd ability, to give a Witchstalker flying and double strike and it can well and truly end a game in a hurry.
The control package is the trio if Plasm Capture and Render Silent along with the Supreme Verdicts. This is pretty straight forward in terms of concept but the choices I made are pretty unusual. Counterspell and Plasm Capture are both likely too slow for Modern, but if there is going to be a 3 mana counter spell to run, Render Silent feels like a good option because it is Counterspell and a Silence stapled together. Plasm Capture is just a greedy spell that gets passed over, but even nabbing one spell with one is a huge tempo swing. This package could no doubt be streamlined, but they provide for some interesting options and are spells your opponents would NEVER expect to contend with. Sphinx’s Revelation is just a powerful card draw spell that can’t be overlooked and some number larger than 0 felt like the right call.
The Enchantress package is powered by the ever popular Eidolon of Blossoms. I took one look at the large number of enchantments, particularly Auras, and decided that nothing makes an Aura based deck run better, and ruin more opponents, than cantripping into your other spells. So, in went the Eidolon to abuse all those enchantments and off I went.
A few other pieces that are useful in here don’t fit with any real theme, but are versatile utility creatures. Qasali Pridemage is great example as he wrecks other enchantments and can provide a meaningful boost to a solo attacker. The original interaction of this deck had Fleecemane Lions but with those still being played heavily in Standard I made a suitable substitution. Courser of Kruphix is another useful card that jives well with the Enchantress theme, but would likely get run anyway because it just provides so much value. Thassa, the Charioteers, and the Bow of Nylea all offer similar utility for differing reasons, but all could be replaced without much trouble.
At Modern the Shocklands paired with Fetchlands are indeed the way to go so the mana base is most of the way there. The Scry lands aren’t ideal and the “buddy” lands would be preferable…particularly the Hinterland Harbour and Glacial Fortress. However, those are fairly modest adjustments to the mana base.
Render Silent and Plasm Capture are both targets for an upgrade provided you have a suitable option. Mana Leak, Spell Pierce, Remand all come to mind, but some of those are more expensive. The permission shell has room for improvement and there are a number of possible ways to go.
I could run Slippery Boggle and Gladecover Scout as Hexproof one drops instead of the bulkier Witchstalker, but I like how the stalker could be used to punish Black and Blue decks who want to play on your turn. Those +1/+1 counters accelerate the clock in a suitable way for sure. It might mean that the deck is too slow, but I’ll need to test it out and see.
The Lone Revenant is likely FAR too expensive…but I think he’s a funny card and something that could be an interesting solo threat.
Well, that’s my deck…it may not be much good and could most certainly be streamlined with a bunch of other options, but it is a fun and interesting deck.
Thanks for reading and until next time, keep it fun, keep it safe…keep it Casual.
Regards.By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters @bgray8791 on Twitter
Being a budget brewer is usually a tough proposition. The mana base for most decks is usually so prohibitively expensive that it is very difficult to make a deck for a reasonable cost. However, the beauty part with Khans of Tarkir is the inclusion of the Refuge Lands. These inexpensive, common lands are super important to helping to keep the cost of your deck in line. Since they are also in all 10 colour pairs, it makes for an opportunity to really build some interesting decks without breaking the bank.
One of the most interesting mechanics that came out of Khans has been Delve. It has allowed Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time to see play in virtually every format because the reduction in cost created by the Delve mechanic is hilarious and disgusting all at once. I wanted to take my own stab at a Sultai deck powered by Delve and the common cycle of Refuge lands to provide a budget conscious deck that is capable of some ridiculous game states and power. Let’s see what I’ve got cooking.
The lands cover off your bases as well as possible. Opulent Palace ensures access to all three colours and run about a $1 a card. The other Refuge lands are all pretty inexpensive additions as well and the basics fill out the land requirements for this deck relatively effectively and cheaply. Nice deal. This land base runs you under $10 bucks but still gives you access to the colours you need!
The creature package isn’t as large as I usually run, but the ones that I do run are important.
Let’s start with the 3 Satyr Wayfinders in this list. These little guys are ridiculously useful because they fill your yard for your Delve spells and fetch you land. The best part with the Wayfinder is that if you hit ANY land card you can pick it, not just basics. In a deck running so few basics and so many dual and tri coloured land that distinction is huge. At roughly a dime a card these are cheap, effective, and very useful.
Nyx Weaver is a vital part of the deck because it also helps to fill your yard, and by consequence power out those Delve spells even faster. However, sac this little guy and regrow that important resource you just milled away. Nothing is funnier than recasting that Villainous Wealth you just burned, getting your Kiora or Jace back, or finding that blocker you need to try and stem the tide. Also, at a mere $0.40 a card they are a bargain for something so useful.
Sagu Mauler: Why not? He’s huge, hard to handle, and requires an immediate answer or you die to the ridiculous 6/6 trampler with Hexproof. Also, at $0.50 a card he’s a steal.
Chasm Skulker: This is legitimately an experiment. I feel like this card could be very good, particularly with the amount of cards I can draw off things like Treasure Cruise, Dig and Interpret the Signs. He produces value if he gets killed and is otherwise just a growing bomb to dismantle your opponent. He’s also very cheap, meaning he also helps keep the cost of the deck down.
Rakshasa Vizier: Honestly, a pair of feels fine in this deck to reap the ridiculous benefits of Delving away loads of cards and making a huge behemoth. Also, a 4/4 for 5 is just fine base stats anyway. Oh, and it’s cheap…so…Budget Brew away.
Necropolis Fiend: This is the big finisher in this deck. A 4/5 with Flying is pretty awesome…but the ability to repeatedly take care of creatures with its tap ability is huge. The casting cost has no real bearing because of the ridiculous Delve potential with this deck meaning it can hit the table without much trouble and at $0.30 a card you can’t go wrong.
With all the budget cards we’ve played in the lands and creatures there is lots of room to splash around with fancy spells.
Jace, the Living Guildpact: Did anyone notice that Jace’s new first ability jives with Delve incredibly well? I haven’t seen him in any lists at all so far and I’m wondering why not? His second ability is very relevant as well and totally protects you or him if used properly. Yes, his ultimate might curtail your plan somewhat, but wrecking your opponent’s hand and you drawing 7 is ridiculous. This could be the best $4 card in the deck.
Kiora, The Crashing Wave: Wow, has the value of Kiora plummeted recently. What was once a $20 card is now $8.50…and she’s amazing for this deck. Her first ability is very useful because she nullifies their best creature every turn. The second ability is amazing to draw yet MORE cards and then dump extra land to ramp to Dig, Villainous Wealth, or Necropolis Fiend. Her ultimate is an inevitable win condition. She’s pretty sweet.
Villainous Wealth: I want a full playset of these guys because I think this card could be the real deal. It’s an absolute game breaking spell. Yes, it’s greedy, yes it’s expensive…but you only need to hit one and the game just about ends on the spot because it attacks them on an axis that they likely aren’t expecting. Look at the deck…it looks like it wants to beat down with the Vizier, the Mauler, or the Fiends, but one of these for 6 or 7 totally changes the perception of the game. Add in the fact that it is about $0.50 a card as well and you have a budget all-star.
Dig Through Time: Well, this let’s you assemble EXACTLY that piece you were missing. What more needs to be said. It is an awesome card. It is not cheap at $7.50 to $15 a card…but it is well worth it.
Interpret the Signs: I have to admit, I stumbled across this and love it. With all the very high casting costs in this deck you can hit this for 6, 7, 8 or even 9 cards without much trouble! That’s bonkers. And at a mere $0.15 a card is just perfect mass card draw for this sort of deck.
Sultai Charm: Ummm…Removal. Nuff said.
Scout the Borders: This acts as card filtering AND as a ritual type effect because it dumps itself and 4 more cards in your yard…meaning that you are most of the way to casting Treasure Cruise by turn 3 and turning things up to high gear. You don’t need too many of them, but a pair seems like the right number.
If you are really keen on playing this deck it would be mighty easy to get a few more pricey treats for this deck. Currently the price tag for this deck is running somewhere shy of $75…but there are lots of pricey treats to sub in that will drive the price tag way up.
The obvious place to start is with 4 Polluted Delta. That’s $80 in Delta’s. Sure, they thin your deck, feed your Delve and are generally pretty useful, they are hardly key lynch pins in the strategy. That said, I would love to have a playset of these guys to rock in the deck.
Yavimaya Coast and some more Scry Temples might also be considerations for this deck help improve the mana situation. I’m less convinced on these guys, but the added value of the free scry or more untapped lands might be really helpful.
I would be prepared to entertain a discussion about NOT running the Dig Through Time, not because it is a bad card, but because Interpret the Signs might be the better spell. This deck is usually looking for just mass card draw and Interpret the Signs is a sleeper pickup that could be insane. I would need to test both options.
I could TOTALLY make a case to sub out the Viziers for a pair of Sidisi…and with her bring in a couple of Whip of Erebos as well and emulate the Sidisi Whip decks out there. There is no doubt that it would be a powered down version, because it lacks the Hornet Queen or the Soul of Innistrad, but it could be pretty potent.
There are a number of treats from Fate Reforged that I might be prepared to try out in this deck but there aren’t an over-abundance of them. I would be willing to splash around with Temporal Trespass because any time you can grab an extra turn it seems busted. Also, Torrent Elemental can totally be game breaking because of its ridiculous ability AND the fact that it can be cast from exile if you Delved it away. While the rest of the Sultai cards look interesting they don’t really do what this deck wants to do and so these will be about the only things I would be looking to experiment with.
You can’t afford to be too cautious with this deck. As much as this deck wants to get to the later stages of the game to try and use more of its resources, you are in a race, not with your opponent, but with yourself. The fact remains that you could be in real danger of decking yourself without much effort, so once you get a foothold and can leverage out some heavy hitters you need to make good and close out the game. Your graveyard is absolutely a resource that is there to be utilized so don’t hesitate, but you need to be mindful of how quickly you burn through your cards. Otherwise, the deck is super fun and able to do some truly ridiculous things and accelerate to get to some mighty powerful spells.
So, if you are looking for something pretty fringe to try at a FNM, or just kicking around with your buddies around the Kitchen table, this sort of Budget Sultai brew might be right down your alley.
Thanks for reading…and as always keep it fun, keep it safe…keep it casual.
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters @bgray8791 on Twitter
Folks, I have to admit, it has been a long time since I sat down and set about to brewing up some new decks. With the excitement that Khans has provided I have been engrossed watching the new top tier Standard decks take shape and getting primed for the draft format. This means I have not spent nearly enough time brewing my own wonky concoctions for fun…but that has finally changed. I sat down and put together some new decks that I want to share with you for your next casual game. Will these EVER win you anything at a Constructed event? Not a chance. But around a kitchen table they are loads of fun and well worth the time to put them together.
The impetus this time was that my friends and I had our casual night a couple of weeks ago and we agreed to play Hobo. For those who are new here on Three Kings Loot, Hobo is basically the name my friends and I gave to playing decks with no rares or mythics…just commons and uncommons. This is often called Peasant, but we thought the name was lame and preferred the name Hobo. This particular time the extra restriction we set was that all the cards needed to be from Khans or M15 in an effort to force us to play new cards.
Most people brewed heavily with Khans because many of the cards are just more powerful than what we find in M15. However, I decided to go the other route for one of the two decks I put together. I figured that many of the M15 uncommons would be unplayed, giving me the chance to surprise my opponents and come at them with a bit of a curve ball. The first card I wanted to brew with was Brood Keeper. I really feel like the potential upside of this card has largely gone unexplored and I wanted to do something with it. Well, the deck was a mess and I affectionately called it “4 colour mess”…and it was terrible. I’m not even going to bother to post the list because I took it apart so quickly, but it did lead me to attempt number 2 on the Brood Keeper deck. Here is what I’ve got.
The plan behind the deck is dead simple. Cast a Brood keeper and then hit it with an aura or two in order to produce the Dragon token it makes. The token (a 2/2 flying dragon with Firebreathing) is a real card…Furnace Whelp was an uncommon in M13. Dragon Whelp has been a thing since the beginning of Magic…and Brood Keeper just produces them as value. Wow. That’s mildly insane. Everything else in the deck is designed to help you get there. Heliod’s Pilgrim allows you to fetch up an aura if you don’t have one in hand. Sightless Brawler can be used to Bestow it on the Brood keeper or play it as a dude. Bladetusk Boar and Eagle of the Watch give you suitable targets to cast auras on if you don’t have a Brood Keeper and both come with a form of evasion. The auras are cheap and many cantrip for more cards or have some other upside to them being in the deck. It isn’t a fancy deck, but the curve is low, Brood Keeper is most certainly a thing, and it feels like a much more reliable build than a 4 colour mess.
The other deck I ran was an unadulterated Sultai deck. I feel like the Delve mechanic has been breaking formats since Khans hit the shelves and I wanted in on the plan. The deck wants to dump a ton of cards in the graveyard and then do broken things with the extra resources. At Hobo night the deck fared quite well because it just could make more use of its resources than many of the other decks. I mean, Treasure Cruise for 1 blue mana (+ a bunch of cards in the exile pile) is pretty solid card advantage and leaves you wide open to cast any spells you picked up when you drew off the top. It proved to be a very potent combination and left many opponents unable to handle the relatively potent spells that I could follow up with. Here’s the deck list.
Essentially I’m not paying the full casting cost for all my most powerful spells on account of the Delve mechanic or the Convoke mechanic. Satyr Wayfinder and Sultai Soothsayer dump cards in my yard that I will then turn around and Delve to cast something else…and then in the next breath tap them to pay the Convoke cost of the Feral Incarnation I want to play. It really was kind of disgusting and a couple of opponents just looked on, in bewilderment, as I paid the Convoke cost of Feral Invocation and then in the next turn played Overwhelm meaning that things got crazy fast. It was a fun build and one well worth keeping together and fixing up to make it more…I’m not sure…spicy?!. Ok, more spicy.
The last deck I have for you is an update of an R/W heroic deck that I was running several months ago and I wrote about here on Three Kings Loot. I like the deck, but with Standard rotating I wanted to freshen the deck up somewhat. My build around piece was Preeminent Captain and the ability to play soldiers without paying their mana cost. The deck is full of soldiers and combat tricks to protect the creatures or to trigger Heroic and get in there for big damage. Here’s what I’ve got.
The game plan is to play my Preeminent Captains, protect them with a Gods Willing or Feat of Resistance and attack to drop another soldier card from my hand for free. Since I can play the creatures for free I can use my mana to play the tricks in my hand to make combat miserable. The addition of the Refuge lands from Khans has been a neat twist and really enabled the playing of Ajani’s Pridemate, which is a terrific card. Play it for free and have it pile on counters each time you gain a life is a nice boost. Dragon-Style Twins and Fabled Hero are just the sort of hammer you really need should things start to get out of control and can seal up a win in short order if you can fire off a few tricks. Along that same vein, Flying Crane Technique really serves the same role to just snatch a win out of nowhere by making your team Double Strikers with Flying. Oh, and the Ainok Bond-kin is a terrifying little creature because this deck can pile up +1/+1 counters very quickly…making the Bon-kin super useful to give my team First Strike and just make combat totally miserable. Will this deck wow the world at the neck Standard event? No. But it is a lot of fun, particularly if you can get the Captain on-line to play creatures for free. And it isn’t even that expensive to build! Nice value!
Well, there we have it, three new brews to share with you guys. These may not be Standard worthy, but they have given me plenty of enjoyment around a Kitchen table and letting me to do some pretty silly things. The best part, many of the decks I have here are relatively kind to your wallet, which is always a secondary consideration when playing Magic. No one likes to be broke, so why not try to keep the costs of playing this hobby down a bit.
So, until next time, keep it fun, keep it safe…keep it casual.By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters @bgray8791 on Twitter
Well, we’re back to school and back to the grind. For some this is the worst time of the year because it signals the start of the boring and mundane for yet another year. For others it is a time of excitement as things start all over again with fresh beginnings and fresh options. For those of us who play Magic, the specter of rotation and the imminent arrival of Khans means there is lots of buzz in the air. The end of September can’t come fast enough!
This isn’t an spoiler article because we are hard at work here at Three Kings Loot prepping our review, but we’ve got good stuff on the burner. However, with Khans being on the horizon and Constructed being in a bit of holding pattern until the rotation, I thought this would be a perfect chance to highlight some casual decks I’ve been rocking, some relatively inexpensive and fun decks to liven up your Casual games. These are all 60 card decks that are perfectly viable in a duel situation, but are better suited to playing a multiplayer setting. Let’s see what I’ve been brewing.
The first deck is my take on what can only be called a Modern Mono-Green Devotion deck. A number of months ago I posted a decklist for a budget Mono-Green Devotion deck here on Three Kings Loot. It has done reasonably well for me since then, but decks are like living organisms that change and evolve and this deck is no different. With cards like Chord of Calling, Genesis Hydra, Hydra Broodmaster there are yet more powerful options to sink a ton of mana, there is no reason not to change a few cards to do a few more powerful things. However, the addition of a card from an older set is REALLY what I wanted to add to the deck…and that was Craterhoof Behemoth. This just smacks of being the best thing you can do to dump a ton of mana either by hard casting it, Chord of Calling for it, or Genesis Hydra for about a billion and grabbing it too. Here’s the list.
I was rocking this is in a 4 person free-for all game and was in the driver seat. My opponents had allowed me to resolve a number of creatures, a Voyaging Satyr and a Nykthos. I had all the tools needed to start going off and just needed some huge mana sinks. Sure enough, up comes a Polukranos and we’re off to the races. I cast “Big Polly” and get set to Monstrosity him…but sadly have to target the stupid Biovisionary in the stupid combo deck my pal was playing, a Fleetfeather Cockatrice because I had no flying defence, and some other random creature. Stupid Cockatrice and the Deathough ability. Oh well. I get my turn back and top deck… Hydra Broodmaster! OK! So, cast it, and then set up the Monstrosity…and make 10 10/10 Hydra Tokens! OH YEAH! Let the beat down plan begin. I start smashing stuff around and just making a wreck of the board. Then, out of nowhere, my buddy slams a second a Biovisionary, casts Polymorphist Jest, and turns his mana dorks into Biovisionaries…and we all lose. Damn it! Lesson learned…kill the stupid combo deck…no matter how durdly the combo is.
Next, I shuffled up my Mono-Red Goblins deck. I have no real expectation that Mono-Red Goblins will fare well in a multi-player game. They are far too fragile and just not suited to trying to fight a number of opponents. However, things are going my way. I land a Foundry Street Denizen, Legion Loyalist, and then…KRENKO! Oh yeah. A couple of Krenko activations later and I have a ton of goblins, had just smacked one opponent for 20 points of damage and was in good shape to start taking the game over. Everything changed with one card…Scouring Sands…and wipes out all the Goblin Token…and I get thumped. Ok…I know Goblins are fragile, but it is a terrible feeling to have your board wiped out by Scouring Sands because NOBODY plays Scouring Sands. However, I lost to Scouring Sands and I wanted to cry (well, not really).
The last deck today is one that is clearly a Casual build because it is such a silly concept and packs such a ridiculous mana base there is no way to describe it. Here’s the list and I’ll talk about it afterwards.
This deck plays on the interaction between Kor Skyfisher and Spark Trooper. Most opponents won’t bother to block what amounts to a Ball Lightning because they know that it will be sacrificed at the end of the turn. Sure, they eat 6 but they are banking on the creature no longer being a threat. However, during your second main phase if you can cast the Kor Skyfisher you can return the Spark Trooper and re-use it. Once I established that interaction it became a matter of digging up a host of creatures who a) return stuff to my hand to be re-used or b) have good enter the battlefield triggers. Now, this is a very mana hungry deck so playing it in a duel is suspect, but in a slower multiplayer game it is just perfect.
Well, I shuffled it up and suggested a couple of minor adjustments to our game. I suggested that we all play at the same time and play with a Howling Mine effect. The Howling Mine is hardly earth shattering, but the “everyone plays at the same time” is…interesting. It makes resolving spells really tricky, but boy was it fun! So, we had 1 player eliminated leaving 3 of us still playing. It was a tricky situation but I decided to throw caution to the wind and swing to take out the opponent to my right. The whole team went and was delivering somewhere up to 35 points of damage…but in the process the opponent to my left hit me. All the while, the opponent to my right wound up and lashed out with Nefarox with some ridiculous amount of Exalted triggers caving in the guy to my left. So, all in one turn all three of us just straight up die ending the game in a weird finale. It was a fun variant and something we will do again, but most definitely not the way to play every single time.
All three of these decks would fall into a pretty budget friendly category and highlight how you can make some fun decks with just a pile of funny cards and do some damage at your next Casual Night. The Mono-Green deck is probably the most pricey of the decks on this list, but the cards on it can totally be substituted for and can revert back to the Budget deck list I had previously. However, the new twists on it could make for a fun deck because of the powerful things you can do with the crazy amount of mana that can be generated. The UWR Skyfisher deck is pretty unreliable because of the wonky mana base and the fact that half the plays in the deck set you back, but when it works…dear LORD…does it work. And Goblins…well…they’re Goblins and will always be funny. When they work, they work awesome. When they fall flat on their face, they fall flat on their face hard.
There we have it, three fun builds, three fun games, and some random feel bad stories about how to lose a game despite being in a dominant position. I’m not sure what lesson to draw from the last two apart from perhaps playing the politics game a little more, but regardless of the lessons learned it was fun. It was refreshing to sit down and just sling some card board and relax with some friends with nothing on the line. I’ll have to make a point of playing this way more often just to keep things fresh.
Thanks for reading again this week…and until next time keep it fun, keep it safe…keep it casual.
by Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters @bgray8791 on Twitter
Spring is here! Thank goodness because winter felt VERY long. The sun feels warmer, the snow is all gone and the excitement of summer is just around the corner. It is also the time of change. New flowers, new leaves, new clothes, new activities, new plans…ah…new plans…here’s an idea.
The Spring set is here with Journey into Nyx. Standard will start to evolve with the new cards, but rotation is only 4 months away with a new block on the way that will change the complexion of the Meta-game completely. Players who aren’t already committed to this Standard format but are looking to get into playing Standard have a very serious conundrum. They COULD run around and track down the chase rares to put together a strong Standard deck, but that can be pretty pricey for a limited 4 month window where the cards will be well and truly playable. And if you are on almost any sort of budget, well, now we are talking a near impossibility. So what is an aspiring Standard player to do? Well, let this be a sort of a road map to help you find your way to getting ready to play Standard. I’ll lay out a series of steps that an aspiring Standard player on a tight budget could follow in order to get ready to join the ranks of competitive Standard players at any Local Game Shop.
Once again, here is my usual disclaimer. There will be some players out there that won’t heed a single word of this. They have the deep pockets needed to pick up all the Standard playable staples they need. I however have players with a limited budget each month. What exactly is that budget? I have no precise number in mind, but the basic tenets will remain the same. Players with slightly larger budgets can likely accomplish the steps more quickly, but even those with tighter budgets can hope to get there following these steps. So, without further delay let’s see what we’ve got.
As uncool as this sounds, the mana base is the backbone to every deck. I have often maintained that the mana base can’t win you the game…but you sure as heck can lose the game if you don’t have the right mana. Now is the time to track down full play sets of all the Scry lands, Nykthos, and Mana Confluence as these will be key lands in every two colour (or more) deck once rotation hits. The nice thing with the mana base, from a monetary standpoint, is that they at least seem to hold their value once you’ve invested in them. So, once they rotate out, you can probably still find a taker who will be willing to either allow you to trade for reasonable value or a shop that will give you decent (notice…decent) value off their Buy list.
Now, this is absolutely an investment. Lands don’t come cheap and the scry lands all look to run at least $5 a piece (more for some of them), but if you can find someone willing to trade with you for them ,or a decent price on them somewhere, your budget will be wisely spent on these. Don’t worry if you get fleeced a little on your trade. If your end goal is to play Standard, then you will need the lands to play, and if you have other older cards that someone is willing to trade for to give you those lands, well, guess what? You’re doing it.
One of the biggest traps that players fall into is that they want to “crack packs”. I love cracking packs…we all do…but the numbers don’t play out very well in your favour. So, how else do you get cards? The answer is easy…draft. For your entry fee into a draft you get the equivalent of 3 packs of cards…AND you get to try those cards out in game play. This is the perfect place to try out that kind of unusual rare card you opened, just to see what it does. Maybe you want to try out a different colour combination that isn’t your all time favorite in order to get a feel? Draft is a great place to get your feet wet experimenting and trying out new ideas. Heck, you might even win a few prizes along the way to further expand your pool of available cards without costing you any extra. Don’t bank on the prizes because you are out experimenting, so your decks may be somewhat less streamlined than other players, but every once in a while a little prize support is a nice bonus for your night of drafting.
Now, the danger with draft this time of year is that soon the new stand alone set will be out. Last year it was Modern Masters, this year it’s Conspiracy. These cards aren’t Standard playable, so if you do sit down to draft these, this won’t help you much in terms of getting you ready for Standard post-rotation (although it is fun!). So, be sure to be familiar with the format you will be drafting and the sets that will be used.
It has already been said by Gerald right here on Three Kings Loot that one of the best ways to prepare yourself for the NEXT Standard format is to sit down and make a conscious effort to play block constructed. Whether that is with your buddies at a kitchen table, or at a shop if they host a Block Constructed event, the experience of limiting your key card pool will be a huge factor in determining how prepared you will be for the next Standard format. You will see what cards emerge as cards that were underplayed in the current format and that might make a splash once rotation hits. So, Herald of Torment…time to shine big guy!
The biggest difference with Magic in 2014 versus when I started in 1996 is that the amount of information available to players is staggering. Between all the various discussion groups, websites, articles, podcasts, and videos there is no shortage of information for the average player. I would strongly suggest that you take the time to sit down and read the thoughts of players and writers you like and respect. As we near rotation many of these players will have the advantage of sitting down and doing their utmost to figure out the best strategies in the new format and can give you some helpful tips to help you along…just by reading the internet.
The other great asset is all the coverage of various events available. Between the Pro tour coverage and coverage from other events around the globe (and watching MTGO for those who have time) you can not only see the deck lists of these many top players, but you can actually see them in action. This will give you a chance to see the decision making processes tied to each choice made. This is super useful so that you can make optimal use of whatever strategy you like best. Let’s be honest, many of the guys on the Pro-Tour are going to get maximum bang for their buck with each card and it is undoubtedly helpful for us less experienced players to see them in action. The same can be said of watching players at your local game shop that you respect and like the way they play. Yes, it can be nerve wracking to sit down and watch someone live and in person at a store, but if you start talking to them you might find that they are quite willing to sit and talk shop with you to give you some pointers
It takes a lot of time in order to get really good at something and Magic is no different. If you want to play Standard, and presumably if you are playing on a competitive (or semi-competitive ) basis you would like to be as good as possible, then you will need to sink time into this. This is by far and away the hardest part of making this transition. Up until this point you can do most of the steps I’ve laid out with some money you’ve saved up or for free on open sources on the internet. However, there is a finite amount of time in each day and unless you are independently wealthy or playing Magic for a living, there will be other things that will drain your time. This will mean evening trips to the game shop to sit down and play. It likely also means some weekend as well. You will need to sit and read about changes to the meta game and how it will impact your deck of choice. And most of all, you will need to play. Play lots. Play lots against just about anyone. The more you play, the better you will get at playing your deck and the choices you will need against each other archetype. Time is absolutely a commodity and something else you will need to gauge closely if you hope to perform to the best of your abilities.
So, these are the 5 steps that I’ve seen and other players I know take in order to climb into the realm of Standard competitive Magic. For some this works out great because they are prepared to invest wholeheartedly. For others, this process is difficult for a number of reasons. Needless to say, these 5 steps each have their own pit falls that must be navigated and may not come easy. This is part of the reason making the transition from playing Casual Magic to Standard is tricky. Not impossible…but it is tricky. Needless to say, it can be very rewarding once you get yourself into the format, but it is not for everyone, and that’s ok. Not everyone on the planet needs to play Standard…there are formats aplenty for each and everyone.
Thanks everyone and I hope that some of you find this helpful. If there are aspiring Standard players out there I hope I haven’t made the process seem too daunting. It is achievable, but it does take a plan. This is just one of many ways to getting to your end goal. In the mean time, I’ll go back to brewing up silliness and see where my Casual meandering takes my Magic and my decks.
Take care and until next time Keep it fun, Keep it Safe…Keep it Casual.by Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters @bgray8791