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
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.
Throttle: Cheapest removal going. Murderous Cut would be better…but there are only so many cards in the yard to Delve away…so Throttle seems just fine in the interim.
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.
Treasure Cruise: Don’t have a Dig but need to refill your grip of cards? Yup. Lean on everyone’s favorite busted Blue common. Need I really say more?
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
Today I’m going back to my roots…and going someplace new…all in the same article. One of my favorite parts of Magic is building new decks. I enjoy building a new deck as a creative enterprise that could also see the light of day if the deck is half decent. I usually make a conscious effort to build decks that are budget conscious because we all play within some sort of limitations. Some have deeper pockets than others, but there is always a limitation. And, I build when something gets me started.
I have long maintained that I like playing 60 card casual multiplayer games and as a result that is usually where I focus my energies. 60 card decks reduce the amount of variance of your deck because you usually have a higher number of copies of each spell that you want to cast. This is not news, but the difficulty in a multiplayer game is that your 60 card deck doesn’t have answers to EVERYTHING…just the things you face most often. So long as you understand that trade off, you should be all good. So, I’ve gone back to those 60 card decks and brewed one up that is fun, super cheap, and basically can blow out an unsuspecting opponent quite easily.
The inspiration for this deck came from two places. The first was watching the draft coverage of Pro Tour Magic 2015. I watched in amazement as one of the players attacked with his Sungrace Pegasus. Easy enough…and a cute little 1 point life gain with the Lifelink. Then, he cast Living Totem that dumped an extra +1/+1 counter on the Pegasus. THEN he cast Hunt the Weak on it giving it another counter. Now he had a 3/4 lifelinking Pegasus, which is pretty solid. Now, this isn’t a hard feat to reproduce, but I want to create a creature with +1/+1 counters faster and better than this…and then I remembered a couple of cards. Common Bond and Reap What is Sown act very similarly, but are worded a little differently, but both place additional +1/+1 counters on creatures. Mix in a few Heroic creatures and some combat tricks and you have all the makings for a nasty little deck that will make life miserable for the unsuspecting. Let’s see that list.
Replace the 2 x Seraph of Dawn to make the deck standard legal.
The game plan is pretty aggressive and straight forward with a host of flying creatures and growing them with a Reap what is Sown or a Common Bond. The Akroan Skyguard is a perfect target because it quickly gets huge and just rains down pain. The Sungrace Pegasus and the Seraph of Dawn pack Lifelink to push our life total out of danger and make you extra difficult to put away. While I’m on the topic of Seraph of Dawn, this could easily be Dawnbringer Charioteer if you wanted to play a Standard legal version of this deck instead because they are almost identical, but I had a couple of Seraph’s lying around and am a little low on Charioteer’s right now. Chronicler of Heroes digs you deeper with extra cards and Sunblade Elf is just a blow out waiting to happen with his activated ability. The REAL blow out happens when you, out of nowhere, slam Brave the Elements giving all your White creatures (which is basically ALL of them) protection from the colour of your choice…and then back it up with Sanctified charge. The damage in those two cards can be absolutely explosive even if you are packing just a bunch of little fliers. So, the deck is nothing fancy, but it’s quick, it’s cheap to build, and can clobber an unsuspecting opponent very quickly. Those who have some Temple of Plenty, Temple Gardens and/or Mana confluence should replace some of the Forest with them.
Now, I have never really gotten into playing EDH, but you can’t escape the interest in the Magic community. Everywhere you go someone is talking about EDH. Many of the Local Game Stores support it as a format with regular game nights and highly attended events meaning that someone must be enjoying the format. While I’ve never really got into EDH I’ve been intrigued by the format…because who doesn’t want to play all the coolest spells from the history of Magic? Now, I don’t think I have a set philosophy for building an EDH deck the way I do for a 60 card deck, but I do feel like an EDH deck ought to be made of things you already own. It feels bizarre to me to think that people are rushing out to buy loads of cards for EDH decks and prompting what effectively amounts to an arms race for a format that is intended to be casual, relatively inexpensive and fun. Don’t get me wrong, trading and finding the cards you want is part of the game, but I hate to think people are rushing around dropping tons of money on EDH decks so that they can “keep up with the Jones’”. To someone who is still on the outside looking in at the format, well, that feels not quite right and against the spirit of the format. Maybe I’m wrong and I’d love to hear from the EDH community out there (and there are lots of people in that community), but that’s my early impression of how the format is.
So, as a first attempt at an EDH deck I thought I would take a deck that I have and adapt it to EDH play. This feels like a natural evolution of deck building and when the deck already has a couple of Legendary creatures floating around inside it, I have a built in general of two I can access. I have a W/U deck that looks to exploit the Detain mechanic from Return to Ravnica and have mixed in some of my other cards to produce a 60 card deck that can fare very well in a multi-player game because it can answer just about every sort of threat. It packs a splash of removal, counter magic, artifact and enchantment destruction, and spells that just play havoc with combat. All in all, the early makings for an EDH deck. So, with some adaptation, the deck can be built to make a move to the more robust world of EDH play. Let’s see what I’ve brewed up.
This feels like a pretty straight forward build that is looking to defend itself by seriously slowing down an opponent with the detain ability or “freezing” the opponents creatures. It has a little bit of everything in terms of counter magic, creature destruction and other useful tidbits. The piece that floored me was the number of mass removal effects that I had in my binder and box of spares. Between just plain destroying everything and mass bounce spells, there are plenty of cards that make life miserable for my opponents. The last thing is the ability to break a dead lock. I feel like EDH can stall out a little bit, particularly if all the players have the mana they need and their life is relatively stable, that you need some sort of way to break open the board stall. This is where Whispersilk Cloak and the Rogue’s Passage come in handy (and the Aetherling just for kicks) to allow something you control to sneak by and bash without fear of being blocked. This may not be enough, but it’s a concession to the fact that I could be in for a grindy game and will need a way to close it down.
So, there we have something old, and something new. What do you think? For my first attempt at an EDH deck, how have I done? Have I forgotten something or overlooked a card you think needs to be included in the list? As someone who is new to building an EDH deck, the feedback would be amazing and something I would really appreciate from our terrific readers here on Three Kings Loot.
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.
Here’s a situation we all face in this game. Magic is a collectible card game. As such, you are always collecting the cards and looking for the next card you want and need to add to your collection. Some of those cards you want for a new deck, others you want because of the cool art, or because they are foils, and other cards are just cool to collect. Along the way you accumulate all sorts of other cards. Many of these cards are commons and uncommons that seem to multiply in short order. Others are chase rare cards that you REALLY want to add to your collection. Others are still rare, but aren’t very good…in fact, many of them are terrible. These are called Bulk rares. They are called “Bulk” because you can find them in the “bulk” bin at your LGS (Local Game Shop) and just sitting there doing nothing.
What to do with these bulk rares? For many they sit in a binder and just…be. They don’t get played. They hardly get LOOKED at. They just sit in their sleeve. No one will actually trade for them. Few stores will take them off your hands with their buylist. No…these are truly cast away cards. Even commons get more of a lease on life with Pauper formats. However, Bulk rares just sit and do NOTHING.
Well, this is where I come along. I’m always looking for some way to brew up a new deck without costing myself much in the way of money. Let’s be real here…I have BOXES of stuff that I’m not playing. That’s thousands of cards that are just sitting there and not getting played. Surely, somewhere in amongst all those cards there are 60 cards that I can eke out into a deck. Well, today I think I’ve managed to make it work…and surprise…I think I even found a way to slide in a couple of M15 beauties. I call this Casual Masterpiece…American Bulk (rares)…BEHOLD!
This deck is actually very simple in terms of game plan. Play a dude…suit him up with Bestow creatures. Smash. There are some of the best Bestow creatures in Hopeful Eidolon, Everflame Eidolon, Ghostbalde Eidolon and Thassa’s and Purphoros’s Emissaries that can all make combat just miserable. Fencing Ace is another unheralded critter with Double-strike that can just make an opponent cry if he gets suited up. The Ordeals have long been good, and Purphoros’s ordeal is a perfect fit. No, generally the game plan is very straight forward and not unlike the plan from many a Draft deck, however, mix in some bulk rares for variety’s sake and we can make for a spicy game with some interesting twists and turns.
The first piece of wonky deck-tech is Daxos. This guy is so close to being good…he can let you play your opponents cards, has a form of quasi evasion and a 2/2 for 3 mana is just a shade under the curve meaning he’s playable…sort of…but just not quite. However, suit him up with a Bestow creature and suddenly he becomes far more interesting and more of a nuisance. He can outclass 2 drops meaning your opponent will need to block with multiple creatures (which always feels bad) or have you start nabbing stuff off the top of their deck. Perhaps it says something about the sort of player I am, but I really, really, REALLY enjoy beating up my opponent with their own creatures and spells.
The second piece of truly bizarre deck choice is Fated Retribution. 7 mana board wipes are completely unplayable in 60 card decks right? Well, I for one am willing to give this one another lease of life. It’s actually a very powerful spell, and at Instant speed could really be back breaking. I’m willing to give this a try and see whether or not it can cut it.
Perplexing Chimera is another odd choice, but there’s no mistaking that the ability to switch owners of a spell is intriguing and the fact that it sits there as a threat, waiting to de-rail a spell is enough for me. I think this is a very funny card and really can shake things up as your opponent attempts to play around it.
Silent Sentinel is yet another odd choice but when you consider the context of the deck it quickly becomes apparent why he’s in this little build. Whenever he attacks you get to return an enchantment from your graveyard to your hand. This is quite a powerful ability when the bulk of the creatures in the deck are enchantment creatures. A 4/6 flier is also pretty handy even though he’s a greedy mana sync, but as a one of is quite reasonable.
Boonweaver Giant and Spectra Ward are my latest discoveries. This pair from M15 just scream “PUT ME IN AN ENCHANTMENT DECK!”. So I did. The absolute best part about this combo is that if you cast Boonweaver Giant you can tutor up Spectra Ward from almost ANYWHERE! Graveyard? Sure thing. How about in my hand? No Sweat! What about in my library? Go nuts! Then, once you get Boonweaver all paired up with Spectra Ward you have a 6/6 creature with protection from basically everything. It’s actually gross. Now people say “but it costs 7 mana!”…and I simply respond “it sure does…but when I’m digging up a 5 mana aura to attach to it, it’s like I’m casting 12 mana worth of spells and really only spending 7. That’s a bargain if I’ve ever heard one”. Besides, there are very few things that actually outclass a 6/6 creature with protection from EVERYTHING, 7 mana or not.
The last piece of truly bizarre deck-tech is the choice to run Pyxis of Pandemonium. This is usually a terrible card and something that you don’t really want to play…unless you’re simply using it as disruption to throw your opponent off their game plan. Many decks are developed to play a certain way and with a large number of Scry abilities want to set up their draw steps very carefully to maximize each and every time they draw. However, slide this card into your deck and just start screwing with their scrying and exile the top card of their library. You have no idea what you just exiled from their deck, but I bet they probably wanted it. As for this deck, with 28 permanents and 24 lands you don’t really care what gets exiled because when you sacrifice the Pyxis you’re reasonably assured to get most of it back. Besides, you’re playing a souped up draft deck with some bulk rares…who CARES what you exile…it can likely be replaced by something. I just think this card makes for a hilarious random game and just puts such a monkey wrench in the game plan of so many decks that I just need to find it a slot.
How does this deck fair? Well, as it is fairly experimental I haven’t had a chance to play it against too many people. I had one of my friends stop by to play one evening and the deck fared very well. The life gain that can be achieved by Bestowing a Hopeful Eidolon on something can really push a game and make it very difficult to dispatch this deck. Attach the Eidolon to something with Double Strike and things get even better. Also, the flexibility of having Bestow creatures actually lowers the curve where you can get out and play a number of smaller threats early and then later in the game, as you draw others, allows you to suit up one as you ready for the kill. Sea God’s Revenge is just a blow out waiting to happen and Voyage’s End is just a very versatile way of holding off an aggressive opponent. Is it a finely polished deck ready to take down a PTQ? No way…but as a cheap and fun casual brew I think it fits the bill and can do some funny things to keep things interesting.
Well, there we have yet another funny Casual Brew for you to test out at home. Give it a whirl…I’d love to know if you have the same success I’ve had. Also, go ahead and flip through that binder and see if there are any bulk rares you can use to spice up a deck. No one said that every deck you make HAS to be tier 1 competitive ready…sometimes brewing fun Casual decks like this can be just as fun.
Well thanks for reading and until next time, keep it fun, keep it safe…keep it casual.
by Bruce Gray – Casual Encouters @bgray8791
by Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
Since I started writing for Three Kings Loot back in February I’ve highlighted a fair number of decks. The one thing that most of these decks have in common is that I would describe them all as being “budget” decks. This means that I am interested in trying to find a relatively inexpensive way to build a deck that is still powerful and presents a number of problems for my opponents. These decks aren’t usually Tier 1 competitive decks, but they can surprise someone who underestimates what the deck can do. Today, I’m going to showcase some budget substitutions that will allow you to build your own budget deck and help you to keep your cost down. We’ll look at land, creatures, and lastly other spells in an effort to briefly touch on all the key elements of your very own budget deck.
If you routinely stop by here on The Bag of Loot you know that I have a thing for land. Basically Magic is entirely dependent on the land you draw. I don’t care how many awesome spells you have in your library, if you don’t have the land to cast them you are likely sunk (unless you’re playing Legacy/Vintage in which it seems possible to play with no land). Without access to the correct land it doesn’t matter what spells you have, you’re likely to lose. As a result, this is one of the few areas where you really can’t skimp too much. You can use things like Guildgates and Life Gain lands from Zendikar if you aren’t fussy on format, but most people want to play Standard. If you want to play Standard you need the lands. It becomes even MORE apparent in the realm of Modern where Fetches and such are super expensive. Bottom line, unless you play Casually and you and your friends don’t mind you mixing in different things, you’re probably on the hook for having the “right” land for your deck. Temples. Shocks. Mana Confluence. Nykthos. Guildgates. Pain Lands. There is a large variety of lands available, some more expensive than others, but if you want to play you need to get the right ones for you and your deck and cheaping out and just running basics just won’t cut it usually.
While you can’t cut corners on your land, you most certainly can make up ground with the suite of creatures you opt to run. Basically, at almost each and every converted mana cost along the curve you can run a variety of choices. Now, the creatures that are very expensive in a given format are expensive because they are the optimal creature for that converted mana cost in that colour. That doesn’t mean that alternatives don’t exist. These alternatives are typically much cheaper and can help keep your cost down. Don’t believe me? Let’s look at a few examples.
Let’s start with Stormbreath Dragon. 4/4 flying for 5 mana and has haste, protection from white, and a Monstrosity ability. There’s no doubt this is a premium creature and well worth the $15 a card you’ll pay as a single. However, there are other options available to you if you really wanted to run a creature at the 5 spot that was more inexpensive. Hypersonic Dragon is the same 4/4 with haste and 5 mana (although a blue and red are part of its casting) meaning it could fit the bill. Scourge of Valkas from M14 fits those stats pretty well too and is still a dragon. Both of these options are red, can fill the same hole in your deck and cost you significantly less in terms of money to pick up.
Blood Baron of Vizkopa is another 5 mana creature, this one is 4/4 with protection from white and black, lifelink, and can trigger some ridiculous bonus if you have enough life, or your opponent is running low on life. Some other options at 5 cmc are Serra Angel (which is unexciting, but still perfectly viable), Keepsake Gorgon, and Celestial Archon. These are all very playable at five and are even in Black and White so they can hold a spot in your deck. Don’t let me fool you…Blood Baron is the optimal choice, but if you’re budget is tight, these guys are viable options.
Polukranos a 4 mana for 5/5 hydra with a ridiculous Monstrosity ability. This one is tough to replace because 5/5 for 4 mana AND has an ability is pretty ridiculous. However, there are a few options available like Deadbridge Goliath. This is probably the closest from a statistical standpoint, and isn’t a bad card and makes a suitable alternative. If you can splash another colour, Reaper of the Wilds is another solid option and much cheaper as well. A 4/5 for 4 mana is pretty close and the abilities on it make it a tricky critter to deal with…and costs a fraction of what Polukranos costs.
Soldier of the Pantheon– The aggro decks out there are not immune from having some pricey cards too. Soldier of the Pantheon is a $2 card that is a 2/1 for 1 mana. There is no doubt that they are an optimal 1 drop to kick start your beatdown with an aggro deck, but $8 for four 1 mana creatures leaves me scratching my head and my wallet empty. You could opt instead to run Favoured Hoplite or Satyr Hoplite, both 1 drops that can lead the beat down band wagon for you in place of the Soldier. They need a little more work than the Soldier, but with their Heroic triggers might give you a bigger beat stick with which to bring the pain. If you really wanted the 2/1 for 1 you can instead turn to RTR block and grab the Dryad Militant as an inexpensive option.
Boon Satyr – This super awesome 4/2 for 3 mana is a staple in Green decks, but can also Bestow for a very reasonable 5 mana…oh…and has flash. There is really nothing else that approaches this level of versatility, explosive damage, and just being down right nasty to play against. No wonder it’s $1.50 a card. However, you could run Feral Invocation if you were looking for the Flash aura effect. If you wanted the Flash effect on a creature, Briarpack Alpha probably comes closest as a 3/3 for 4 mana and a fun Enter the Battlefield trigger.
Brimaz, King of Oreskos– King Kitty is a huge threat at 3 mana and the abilities packed on him are just full on value…no wonder he’s $20 a card. However, if you wanted a card with just about as much devastating punch, Fabled Hero runs you about a $1 and packs double strike and heroic. Things can get out of control very quickly with our Hero…and the extra money you saved will bring a smile to your face as well.
Now, these are just some suggestions for substitutes in your deck to help keep the cost down. All the substitutions have significant drawbacks compared to the optimal creatures in the deck. I fully admit that a Serra Angel doesn’t stack up with Blood Baron very well, and that Fabled Hero is a poor substitute for King Kitty. However, if you’re wallet can’t handle the $80 to pick up a playset of Brimaz, Fabled Hero can do in a pinch.
Spells are a little tougher to replace. The super expensive spells and staples of a format are that way because they don’t have a substitute…or at least not exactly. The thing is spells don’t leave behind a body that can be utilized after they have been cast, so you need the impact of the spell itself to be pretty terrific. However, there are a few options for some of the spells.
Thoughtseize– This Legacy playable piece of hand disruption just crushes decks by stripping away all the most important pieces of your opponent’s hand. It really is crippling…and it is going to be in rotation for another 14 months! Yikes. However, at $20 a card is a little steep. Duress is probably the closest option and is regularly reprinted. It is a little more limited in terms of what it hits, but let’s be honest, you are almost always going to take an instant or sorcery spell from your opponent because you can find other answers in your deck to deal with creatures and planeswalkers. So, Duress is a reasonable substitute. Brain Maggot is another possible route, and it even gives you a body. Sin Collector is the last option, but for 3 mana is significantly slower and not as optimal.
Supreme Verdict- Premium 4 mana wrath effects are always key to a control player’s strategy. Supreme Verdict really has no equal because it also can’t be countered…meaning that you hit it and your opponent cries every time as they watch their board disappear. However, at $8 a card this can burn a hole pretty quickly in your wallet. The only REAL option is Planar Cleansing…but it’s a 6 mana sorcery…which feels kind of yucky. Fated Retribution is another option…but it’s 7 mana (although thankfully at instant speed). These can do in a pinch if you really want to play the control game, but you may have to alter you game strategy because you’ll need to get to at least 6 mana to have either of those spells come online.
Sphinx’s Revelation- Ok, there is no equal to this card. Mass card draw AND life gain is a Control player’s dream come true. However, the most important piece is always the card draw because it gives you access to more resources. Divination is the cleanest way to get access to some of the card drawing power of Sphinx’s Revelation, but Jace’s Ingenuity from M15 will be another option that draws 3 cards for 5 mana at least at instant speed meaning you can jam it on your opponent’s turn. After that, you can play poorer spells like Inspiration, or the more expensive Opportunity, but you’re still longing to get a Sphinx’s Revelation and run it.
Hero’s Downfall- Instant speed spot removal of creatures AND Planeswalkers is huge. However, Black has lots of good removal right now ranging from Ultimate Price to Bile Blight to Doom blade. This means that Black decks should have no issue dealing with creatures…pick your removal spell of choice and go to work. Planeswalkers are tougher, but you can always resort to fighting them directly which always gives you at least one option.
Planeswalkers- I have no substitute for a Planeswalker. Honestly, they represent 3 (or 4) potential different spells and abilities that you just can’t replace in your deck. You can try but prioritizing which of the abilities are most pertinent to you and your deck and substituting for cards that recreate that effect, but you still need to pay for it while the Planeswalker can replicate that effect for free turn after turn. No, there’s no real option to playing these guys if you want to emulate a Tier 1 deck, but lots of decks can also run just fine without a Planeswalker (just look at Mono-Black Devotion decks that typically run no Planeswalkers).
Well, there we have some options to help limit the damage done to your bank account while still allowing you to play and have fun with some solid decks. Of course the options available go up significantly when you start shifting formats from Standard to Modern, but so do the price tags on the optimal cards. I hope this was helpful to you guys and that it gives you a few options to go out and brew some of your own decks using some of these alternative pieces.
Thanks for reading and until next time Keep it fun, keep it safe…keep it casual.
Bruce Gray @bgray8791
I like to sit down and try my hand at brewing all sorts of formats. Pauper, sure…I love it. Modern…of course (although I don’t think I’m all that good at it!). Casual Tribal. You bet! Standard. Yes, sometimes I like to try and brew Standard, but with a budget twist. Today I have a “budget” deck list that isn’t as budget as usual. Flipping through my boxes of Standard goodies I came across a number of spicy cards that will make the deck a little pricier than normal…but I’ll suggest some alternatives to try and make some substitutions if you are playing on a tighter budget than this deck would normally allow.
I’ve been keen to see how the format has changed with the influx of Journey into Nyx cards and I’ll be honest…I’m a little disappointed. Journey into Nyx has afforded a few new tricks into some of the meaner and leaner decks, but most of the decks running around are the same old archetypes that have been dominant for months now. Mono-Black. Esper Control. Boros Burn. All of these decks are everywhere in Standard and they all have something in common. Can you see the common thread?
The common thread between all the decks is that are all packed with a gross amount of removal. Mono-Black and Esper can draw on Hero’s Downfall, Bile Blight, Ultimate Price, Doom Blade and on and on and on. Basically these two archetypes are packed with all the best removal and if they see a creature, they kill it on sight. To make matters worse, if Esper really gets in a jam, out comes a Supreme Verdict to clean up the mess. No, these decks are for sure the two main boogeymen on the scene. Boros Burn or R/W Burn, whatever you prefer to call it this week, is also jammed full of removal but of a different sort. Anger of the Gods, Magma Jet, Magma Spray, Lightning Strike, Warleader’s Helix are all viable in the Burn Deck and can burn out creatures with alarming speed and then turn their sights on you. Essentially the removal package of all three decks is what makes them so viable in the format. It’s tough to lose a game when your opponent can’t keep his or her creatures on the table. Now, there are a few decks that are capable of fighting through this barrage of death, namely the Monsters variants and sometimes Mono-Blue, but it’s a tough uphill battle for these deck on most nights. So, how can you top decks that can turn so many creatures into flaming ash? Hmmm…
One option is to play no creatures. This is why Burn decks are experiencing a relative degree of success right now. They have little to no creatures to target with removal and so Mono-Black and Esper both have a number of dead cards in game 1 before side-boarding. You could go the route of playing Planeswalkers…notably Elsbeth because she alone can produce more creatures than most decks can handle. Ashiok is another viable alternative to completely mill out your opponent and deny them the chance to play their spells by having them land in the poubelle . These strategies work…but they aren’t everyone’s style.
The other alternative is to try and out aggro them by just giving them SO many aggressive targets that they are overloaded and can’t cope. This strategy is dicey at best because the format is so removal heavy from our top three contenders, so the aggro decks need to have a really strong way to punish these decks (and fast) if they hope to succeed…thus why Monsters is able to pull it all together because leaving one Polukranos or Strombreath unchecked will basically cost you the game. However, I feel like the deck I have here could sneak in and surprise a few of the big boys by overwhelming their removal suite and then making blocking near impossible. Let’s see what I’ve got.
There’s nothing earth shattering in this list. We have a number of aggressive 1 drops in Dryad Militant and Slitherhead and some ramp with the Elvish Mystic. At 2 we have Brushstrider, Kalonian Tusker, and Burning-Tree Emissary. At three we have Fanatic of Xenagos. All of these creatures are designed to put significant early pressure on your opponent and can then turn the table and smack them if they can’t deal with them quickly. Going up we have 1 Rubblebelt Raiders. This guy is actually a fun little treat that can get pretty nasty if you can get him to attack with some buddies, or give him haste with Ogre Battledriver. Ghor-Clan Rampager is a solid 4 drop, but it can also be used to pile through and give you extra reach with the trample. Finally, Savageborn Hydra is that mythic rare that everyone has forgotten about. His double strike ability is off the charts powerful and the ability to sink extra mana into him to do extra damage is key. To think, you can put 2 mana into him and up his damage by 2 points every time! Load him up with some evasion and you have a winning formula. Finally, Xenagos, God of Revels, is in here because his ability to grant something haste and boost the damage done is ridiculous.
Some would argue, why no Experiment one? I opted to replace the Expriments with Slitherhead for the simple reason that they would be a useful resource to me even if they got killed. An experiment one with 1 counter on it is still a dead experiment one, where a Slitherhead in my graveyard means something else can be bigger next turn. Also, Fanatic of Xenagos is a terrific little addition at the three slot because it comes with trample and can either be a 4/4 or a 3/3 with haste and +1/+1 until end of turn. In either scenario, I’m just fine with this card and am happy to run it.
The spells are also pretty straight forward. 4 Madcap skills make blocking an early threat near impossible and can really take a bite out of your opponent. Turn 1 Dryad Militant into Turn 2 Madcap skills and swing for 5 is stiff. They’ll need to burn early removal spells or risk ending up in big trouble. Giant Growth is in here to add some extra reach if they opt not to block thinking they are safe for a turn. Armed // Dangerous can be devastating at the right time to lure your opponent to block a patsy while the rest of your team slices and dices. Finally, as a concession to the fact that we want to be attacking lots and other aggro decks may be looking to take advantage, a single copy of Fog could very well spell the end for them.
The strategy for this deck is simple: Attack. Attack all the time because you don’t have the spell suite to sit and posture. You are banking that if you get out early and apply a bunch of early pressure that they will need to expend a lot of removal resources on your game plan instead of establishing their own…and in the process give you the chance to top deck into one of your monstrous threats to close out the game. Now, that’s the game, but let’s be real, many of these top decks have seen this game plan before and I fully prepared for it. So, don’t be surprised if you find yourself down and out to these top tier decks. However, if they draw below average, or you play a deck that DOESN’T pack as much removal you might be in good shape. We can talk about the psychology of losing, but to keep it simple, this is deck premised on an old tried and true strategy that the top tier decks in the format come prepared to deal with. You might lose out, but if you surprise them or they draw poorly you’ll make them pay…and really with a budget deck isn’t that the best part? Smashing apart a finely tuned deck with a budget deck brings great joy to my life…how about you?
Now, as I said, you may not call this a true budget deck, but most of the value is in the mana base. Stomping grounds are steep. Temple of Abandon also cost a pretty penny. However, you can sub out the mana for Gruul Guildgates and basic lands if you need to without much difficulty. The other high priced item on this list is Xenagos, God of Revels as he could run you somewhere near the $6 range depending on where you are looking. This is usually more than I want to spend on a single creature in a deck, so I could replace him with Gruul War Chant to make blocking totally ridiculous and near impossible if I wanted to give this more of a true budget feel. Otherwise everything else on the list is somewhere shy of $2 a piece meaning the deck is generally pretty affordable and packs a pretty mean bite.
So, before you head off to your next FNM and want to give something a little different a try…something that seems like it’s missing from the Standard Meta as the big boys all eye up each other, you might want to give this Gruul Aggro Budget a try and see if you can surprise a few of them. I know that I can hardly wait to try it out.
Thanks for reading and until next time keep it fun, keep it safe…keep it casual.
Bruce Gray @bgray8791
We all watched the Pro-tour with baited breath not all that long ago. For starters, Congratulations must go out to Patrick Chapin. I doubt he’ll ever read this article, but the truth is what he accomplished is tremendous. To defeat the world’s best players and win a Pro-tour is the stuff dreams are made of (although he made it look frighteningly easy!). However, in amidst all the talk of Block Constructed decks, did anyone notice that there were hardly ANY of the mechanics from Theros block on display? A block committed to the Devotion mechanic by virtue of being tied to the Gods of Theros…and it was virtually totally ignored. There were very few creatures carrying the Monstrous ability. Constellation got some love…most in the form of Eidolon of Blossoms. Inspired? Tribute? Bestow? These hardly even got a sniff. In the end it was wars waged as Elspeth tokens crushed Elspeth tokens and Thoughtseize and Brain Maggot crippled the hands of countless players. No…the mechanics of Theros were sadly underplayed and it felt…I don’t know…deflating.
Well, I’m here today to try and restore our faith in the little used mechanics of Theros and present a budget worthy Casual Brew that can grind down an opponent (or multiple opponents as the case may be) and find a way of getting you a win from seemingly out of nowhere. The mechanic I’m thinking about is the Inspired mechanic because it is so tempting…so poised with potential…that to not attempt to build a deck would just be wrong.
Now, we have seen that some of the mechanics in Theros are very powerful. Devotion powered out crazy amounts of elemental tokens with Master of Waves, drained buckets of life with Gray Merchant, and pumped out dizzying amounts of mana with Nykthos. No, Devotion is pretty safe. Monstrous is the same way. With Stormbreath Dragon and Polukranos running around still Monstrous is a thing and they may be joined by Fleecemane lion as staples of this mechanic. Bestow and Heroic have shown to be invaluable in Draft giving these decks new reach and greater power than ever before. No, these three mechanics are just fine despite not being played much at the Pro-tour. However, Inspired and Tribute, both Mechanics from Born of the Gods have hardly got off the ground.
It makes perfect sense for why Tribute has been largely ignored. In almost every instance the cards carrying Tribute present an option for your opponent to dictate the terms of the creature. This means that you are no longer in control and if you are looking for a desired effect, well, I can assure you that you won’t get it because your opponent is out to put the screws to you. Snake of the Golden Grove is a perfect example because you either get 4 life…or a 7/7. Let me assure you, 100% of the time you will give your opponent the life gain. However, if you REALLY needed a 7/7 to help you block…well…tough, you are out of luck.
Inspired on the other hand actually holds some promise. This is actually an ability that you could use because the only requirement is that the creature untaps. Simply untap. It seems so simple…but yet getting your card to actually untap is pretty tricky. The most common ways of tapping it is by virtue of attacking with it and then on your next turn untapping it. The problem is that usually if you go into combat, something dies meaning you could very well lose your inspired creature. Other options exist like Spring Leaf Drum, Retraction Helix, Epiphany Storm and Claim of Erebos which all allow the creature to tap without combat, but this is extra work for you and harder to set up. So, how to maximize your chances of Inspired without as much set up cost to your deck?
I have long been a proponent of making combat as absolutely miserable for my opponent as I can manage. This means I pack decks full of combat tricks, death touch, first strike, double strike and haste, basically ensuring that my opponent really has to think twice before blocking ANYTHING. Well, Inspired gives you even MORE incentive to pack your deck as full of nasty tricks as you can find so that no one is keen to actually block. With this theory in mind let me share with you a little deck list that I’ve put together to exploit the Inspired mechanic.
The game plan behind this deck is actually pretty straight forward. You are looking to do everything you can to drain off the life of your opponent without attacking , but the creature base in the deck is actually aggressive enough that you can start on the beat down path and not actually take your foot off. All the while you are looking to exploit the Inspired Mechanic as much as you can wrangle.
For 1 drops we have Tormented Hero which is a solid 2/1 for 1 black. Sure, it comes into play tapped, but play him turn 1 and attack turn 2 and you’re pretty golden. Also, when he is targeted he does exactly what you want the deck to do and that is drain the life of your opponent. At 2 we have a couple of bears, namely Sun Guide and Pain Seer. These are both aggressive enough that they can come down early and swing in, hopefully triggering the Inspired trigger on either of them. Baleful Eidolon and Spiteful Returned are technically 2 drops, but are really there for the Bestow ability to basically make something totally unpalatable for your opponent to block. Spiteful returned is also triggered just by attacking, making him just extra value. The last 2 drop is Cartel Aristocrat because when you are missing a way to sneak through, Sacrifice a creature and get in there. At the 3 drop spot we have the bread and butter. Scholar of Athreos is an awesome mana sink and a solid blocker to plug up the ground. Servant of Tymaret is a wily little 2/1 with regenerate that I WANT to block with and need to regenerate in order to trigger the Inspired ability when it untaps after regenerating. The 4 drops are really there as Bestow creatures apart from King Macar, but at 5 we have Gray Merchant and he is a sure fire way to drain out a bunch of life all at once. The spells are pretty tame in a Gods Willing to protect something or more importantly to allow a creature the ability to sneak in for free. Necrobite presents an awful combat trick for your opponent. He will need to play around a situation where you have 3 mana up or risk trading something for a deathtouch creature…who now regenerates. Whether this is Tormented Hero’s heroic trigger, or regenerating a Pain Seer, there is going to be value generated. The last one is Asphyxiate which is a poor man’s Hero’s Downfall. Same casting cost…but much slower and more conditional. Not my first choice, but acceptable considering the financial cost of a playset of Hero’s Downfall.
Some would say that this looks like an Extort deck from Gatecrash and I can’t disagree…except I prefer this model to relying on the Extort mechanic of Gatecrash because Extort rewards you for durdling around with spells and paying the extra mana to drain the life. In this deck there is no need to durdle around. If you have open mana sink into something…like your Scholar of Athreos, attack with your Servant of Tymaret, or cast a Bestow creature to make blocking totally undesirable. You are being proactive and engaged instead of being rewarded by casting derdling spells and hiding.
This deck is weak to decks packed with fliers or with control elements like counter spells and plenty of targeted removal. Oh, and it still gets run over by the pack rat/desecration demon game plan prevalent in Standard, so don’t take it there. Where does this deck shine? Multiplayer variants of all sorts. Free for all, Two Headed Giant, Grand Melee…if any of these formats match what you like to play then this is a cheap and efficient deck that will do work. Life drain is absolutely brutal in multiplayer matchups and this deck is no different.
So, I have done my part to restore faith in the mechanics of Theros…particularly Inspired. Now it is up to you to go forth and Inspire that same belief in your opponents and drain the life right from their souls…without ever attacking! Enjoy frustrating the heck out your opponents because you can bet I’ll be enjoying every minute of it.
Thanks very much…and until next time keep it fun, keep it safe…keep it Casual.
Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters @bgray8791