Tag: casual-encounters

Bruce Gray - January 13, 2017

Top 10 Casual Cards From Aether Revolt

Casual Encounters- Top 10 Casual Cards from Aether Revolt


Hi everyone and welcome back once again.  Aether Revolt is just around the corner and everyone is counting down the top cards to be excited for. Well, I’m no different except that I’m not looking at Limited cards or Constructed cards.  No, what I want is some fun new toys to splash around with in some Casual decks and to really spice things up when I get to sling cards with my buddies around a kitchen table.  So, with Casual decks in mind, let’s look at the top 10 Casual cards that I’m eyeing from Aether Revolt.


  1. Ajani, Valiant Protector: I usually don’t put Planeswalkers on my lists because they are typically very good and clearly geared with Constructed decks in mind,  but this one is just my style.  Ajani, Valiant Protector is the face of one of the Planeswalker decks meaning he is undoubtedly under powered because the product is geared for new players and as introductory product to playing Magic.  However, he plays ideally into a recurring Green/White theme and that’s namely +1/+1 counters on creatures. With a pair of plus abilities that are likely both very relevant in decks where he is featured he provides both +1/+1 counters AND card advantage without losing any loyalty.  That’s big because you can steadily march him upwards to his Ultimate and likely use that to end the game in a quick and decisive way.  Is he flashy the way some Planeswalkers are?  No.  Could he be on theme and very useful?  Absolutely.  Casual decks all over are going to love this new addition.


  1. Kari Zev, Skyship Raider: Kari Zev makes the list for the sole reason that she makes a Legendary Monkey Token whenever she attacks.  She makes a Legendary Monkey Token when she attacks! How awesome is that? Her casting cost is very favorable at a mere 2 mana, but really, who cares?  It is all about that Monkey Token.


  1. Rishkar’s Expertise: I took one look at this card and wasn’t really worried about the second clause on this card.  The card had me hooked at “Draw a huge pile of cards”.  Let’s face facts.  If you are playing Casual Magic and you are playing green you likely have some very large creatures which essentially means you get to draw a big old pile of cards when you cast this.  The second clause is potentially very relevant too because you just might want to slam a second play after playing this, but I’m all in on the card draw effect in my Green decks anyway. Can you imagine this in a deck with Ajani, Valiant Protector after a couple of activations?  Oh, that sounds like FUN to me!


  1. Whir of Invention: Hello Chord of Calling for artifacts! I’m not going to suggest any combos because everyone will likely have their own, but the power level on this just can’t be missed.   Go find that big awesome artifact at the end of your opponent’s turn and then reap the benefits (end of turn Blightsteel Colossus anyone?) EDH decks love tutors and this one is going to be able to do some very powerful things in short order. It might see Constructed play to allow you to go and fetch a Gearhulk or something, but in Casual decks where the sky is the limit, this is going to be very spicy.


  1. Exquisite Archangel: The life swing on this alone is kind of nuts. I can imagine this finding an immediate home in an EDH deck where this is used as a way to totally negate all the damage you’ve sustained at the hands of your opponent by giving you back your starting life total AND to give you a powerful flying blocker to help secure the battlefield.  At 7 mana it is undoubtedly too expensive for a Constructed format, but this will have a very bright future around the Kitchen table for years to come.


  1. Maulfist Revolutionary:  This one is a little understated but the interaction it could have to in a deck interested in +1/+1 counters just can’t be missed.  However, the fact that it could potentially net you loyalty counters on your Planeswalker, or add to the Poison or Energy Counters in play is extremely interesting.  It gets even MORE appealing when you start to blink this guy in and out of play resulting in a whole bunch of triggers.  Sure, it is a little slow and potentially a little durdly, but it is exactly the sort of card a Casual player is going to scoop up and put to good use on  some Saturday night slinging cardboard with his buddies.  


  1. Trophy Mage:  This may as well read “Go tutor up your Sword of X/Y”.  EDH decks are going to love the ability to tutor up their Swords and so there is little doubt that this will see fairly steady Casual play.  Oh, it gets better if you can blink it and go and find more goodies in your deck. Really, what isn’t to love?


  1. Aethertide Whale:  This giant flier is a solid creature, but what really gets me excited is the amount of Energy this thing produces.  You get a whooping 6 energy whenever this enters the battlefield and that could be super important. You can even return the Whale to your hand for 4 energy and then re-cast it meaning that each time you do you are netting 2 Energy.  You could see yourself scoring a whole pile of extra Energy and doing some really powerful things  There are whole bunch of really neat things you can do with that sort of Energy production like Aetherworks Marvel or Gonti’s Aether Heart or casting a very large Harnessed Lightning.  Whatever you like, there are lots of fun options that this creature will enable making him likely a slightly under appreciated card heading into the pre-releases. If you are looking to make use of Energy in  a deck this is the sort of creature you are looking to include.


  1. Paradox Engine:  This just screams to be abused.  The ability to untap ALL your nonland permanents when you cast a spell is hugely powerful. I’m sure that there are people out there looking to break this card already, but the potential is dead obvious that you can’t miss it.  I kind of hope I get my hands on one of these in my pre-release so I can take it for a spin too!


1.Planar Bridge:  This is a very potent card for EDH decks.  As a repeatable creature tutor that activates for 8 mana, this is an amazing way to go and find that big bomb you have lurking in your deck and dump it straight on the battlefield.  However, the other thing this does is it allows your deck to go and play more like a “Tool Box” deck that is so acclaimed in other formats.  Now, R & D has assured that at 8 mana to activate this that it is not a Constructed card, but in EDH, if you need an answer to eliminate that terrifying artifact, creature, or enchantment, you now have a tool to allow you to go and find it at Instant speed.  It may not be the most efficient way to answer something, but if the alternative is you dying then I would rather take my chances with the expensive creature tutor.  The one thing I am glad of is that Planar Bridge puts them on the battlefield rather than “casting” them and thus avoiding all the nasty “When Cast” triggers like on Emrakul, the Promised End.   This is going to make EDH very interesting.  Also, the Masterpiece version of the art of this card is stunning and one of the few times I might be prepared to shell out for the premium version rather than a simple non-foil version.  A very fun and beautiful card and in my estimation the top pick for Casual Players from this new set.

Well, there you have my top 10 Casual Cards.  As always, these lists are highly debatable and there is no doubt that I could have added another 5 cards easily.  However, I have to draw the line somewhere and 10 feels about right.  What has caught your attention from Aether Revolt? If you’ve got something that has captured your attention or something that you are really looking forward to playing let me know in the comments down below or find me on Twitter.  As always, thanks for stopping by and be sure to stop in next time for another Casual Encounter.

Bruce Gray



Bruce Gray - October 27, 2016

Gonti, Lord of Luxury is Awesome

Casual Encounters- Gonti, Lord of Luxury is Awesome


Folks… something got my attention.  I found my new favorite casual card and it is awesome.  It feels SOOO good to cast this guy.  It does everything I want in a Magic card. I have found Gonti, Lord of Luxury and I am pumped!

Let’s get out in front of this: yes, I played at the Kaladesh pre-release and followed all the spoilers so I knew he was good.  Heck, I even picked Gonti as one of my top 10 Casual cards in the set.  Anyway, I was already aware that the guy was good, but HOW good was he?  Oh, he’s awesome.

Let’s fast forward to the other night when I got the nerve to step back into MTGO and draft Kaladesh. Well, my draft was largely uneventful and I had a B/R artifact deck that was no great shake.  However, Pack 3 revealed Gonti and I snapped him up.  As the draft unfolded he was by far the best card in my deck and was exactly what I wanted to cast every time.  I had a Diabolic Tutor in my deck and found myself often searching out Gonti even if I had larger creatures in my deck.  Gonti was too good to pass up and was a house for me all league long.  

After the event was all finished I sat back and thought about WHY I wanted to cast Gonti with such regularity.  I mean, his body isn’t great at 2/3 .  He’s not hyper efficient at 4 mana, and double black at that.  Deathtouch is usually just an annoyance and rarely a truly defining ability.  His ETB ability is interesting but not game breaking… right?  Wrong.  The ability is EXACTLY what I wanted.  His trigger to mess around with your opponent’s deck is just the sort of thing I want.

Gonti, Lord of Luxury, is quietly a 3 for 1 in most instances and leads to nasty stuff that really intrigues me.  Wait… yes I said a 3 for 1… at LEAST.  Let’s think about it: You cast Gonti and you get a 2/3 body on board, which is certainly a thing.  He attacks ok, is a nuisance if your opponent attacks you, and is generally just a solid creature. Next, Gonti lets you look at your opponent’s top 4 cards and exile one and can play it.  This often means you get to deprive your opponent of a key resource at the very least, and, at best, have the chance to use it against your opponent yourself. That is a powerful reversal of fortunes if you turn up something like a Gearhulk, Eliminate the Competition,  or some other powerful effect. So everyone can admit that, to date, this is a 2 for 1  easily enough because for casting this single card I get two cards worth of value.  Getting a 3 for 1 isn’t hard if the card you get off of Gonti trades for 2 cards itself.  So a 3 for 1 is pretty easy to get, but I would make the case that you could even get a 4 for 1 out of this scenario if you put a further good card on the bottom of their library further depriving them a chance to play it.  This isn’t fool proof if they have a “shuffle” effect, but making them put useful resources on the bottom of their deck is often as good as depriving them of the resource out-right because you are rarely going to have a shot to play a card on the bottom of your library. So, for 4 mana you get pretty close to 4 for 1 and can seriously chop your opponent down to size.

So, Gonti is a ridiculous Limited card.  Perhaps fringe playable in Constructed.  However, in Casual play the guy is just silly.  Let’s face it, in Casual formats people are likely to push for one effect and look to take it to an extreme either because their deck is themed around a given ability or because they enjoy causing their opponents grief. Regardless of what camp you are in, the chance to re-use Gonti’s ability in a Casual format is mind boggling.  

In a 60 card casual format you get to play multiples of this guy.  That is insane!  In Commander, where you can build this sort of card into the theme of your deck, the options are endless, and too appealing to turn up.  

So, Gonti is good…Blink him, mill him and re-animate him, make him your commander…and see for yourself.  My mind immediately took him to my Smuggler’s Copter Commander deck and he fits in perfectly.  Alesha wants to trigger her ability on creatures with power 2 or less and Gonti is a prime target. Triggering Gonti’s ability multiple times in the same game sounds awesome.     

Here’s the best part, Gonti is essentially a bulk rare.  You can find him at Three King’s Loot for $1.49*.  In a set where there are pricier cards like Smuggler’s Copter or Torrential Gearhulk or a Masterpiece, $1.49* feels pretty affordable.  You can likely pick one up in trade somewhere reasonably inexpensively making him a great bargain AND a really good addition to your deck.

So, what is the appeal?  I’m not 100 % sure WHY I like trying to make Gonti really good, but to me he feels like a slight variation on one of my other pet cards: Villainous Wealth.   I just love the idea of playing with my opponent’s deck and anything that let’s me do that is awesome. It feels deliciously filthy to beat them to death with their own things.  

As always, thanks for taking the time to stop in and read and please check back again next time for another Casual Encounter.

Bruce Gray


*Editor’s note: All prices are subject to change according to the whims of the multiverse.

Bruce Gray - July 15, 2016

Top 10 Casual Cards from Eldritch Moon

Casual Encounters – Top 10 Casual Cards from Eldritch Moon

Top 10 Casual Cards from Eldritch Moon

Oh boy, oh boy! It’s Christmas in July! Ok, maybe not, but it has been a very fun spoiler season for Eldritch Moon.  From the return of Emrakul, awesome Planeswalkers, the final Oath, a pile of neat, new flip cards and even Meld, this set is shaping up to be loads of fun and something that is going to leave us all with something to talk about. Who needs Core Sets in the summer when you get things like this?! It’s been a blast and today I’m going through my top 10 cards from Eldritch Moon  with an eye towards what Casual players are going to enjoy. Here we go:


Top 10 Casual Cards from Eldritch Moon

10. Mind’s Dilation: I’m not sure how truly good this is going to be, but the effect is very unique and seems very fun. The idea of casting the spells off my opponent’s deck for free is extremely appealing and could make for a totally fun and unpredictable card. Maybe you get a board wipe? A card draw spell? A Fireball (which would actually suck)? Something else that I haven’t conceived of yet?! This gets even more fun in a multiplayer format where you will get multiple triggers as each player takes a turn making this something really spicy. This sounds like it has SO much potential and is going to be loads of fun around the kitchen table.

Top 10 Casual Cards from Eldritch Moon

9. Prey Upon:  This isn’t that spicy a card, but the new art is so cool. The original Innistrad gave us Prey Upon and the art had a Werewolf attacking a soldier. Well, in this iteration the tables have turned and now the Werewolf is being hunted by an Eldrazi Horror Werewolf. It is just such a great new art that harkens back to our first visit to Innistrad and I’m excited to see it. It is call backs to things like this that make me love this block so much.

Top 10 Casual Cards from Eldritch Moon

8. Emrakul, The Promised End: If the titular bad guy of the set doesn’t make this list I’m probably doing something wrong. So many people have passed judgement on this card that one more opinion by little old me is not going to matter,  but here is what I know: she is going to be the lasting image of this set. If you remember nothing else about this set you are absolutely going to remember the set where Emrakul reappears. Beyond just the sheer iconic imagery of the final titan arriving on Innistrad, her ability to Mindslaver your opponent remains to be something that I yearn to do. I managed to cast Worst Fears in Theros block and that was cool, but that doesn’t come with a 13/13 spaghetti monster with it. This sounds MUCH better and  I can’t wait.

Top 10 Casual Cards from Eldritch Moon

7. Spirit of the Hunt: This is for all the Werewolf Tribal players out there. Tribal Werewolf decks now have another way to save all their guys as a combat trick by flashing this guy pumping all your dudes with a little more toughness to fight off that pesky Languish or other potent sweeper. It isn’t super special, but it is on theme and is vastly preferable to Ulrich because Spirit of the Hunt matters to all your other wolves and werewolves. I know my tribal deck will be looking to pick up one or two of these guys and I suspect I am not alone in that regard.

Top 10 Casual Cards from Eldritch Moon

6. Eldritch Evolution: This card just feels broken. It kind of feels like it is way to try and fix Birthing Pod. I still think this is too good for Constructed because it just allows you to tutor up whatever answer you need at that time. Don’t get me wrong, it is absolutely going to get abused in Constructed, but I wouldn’t be shocked if this gets banned fairly readily. However, it will be yet another fine addition to degenerate Kitchen Table Magic games everywhere. The possibilities are endless and the choices are ridiculous.  I just can’t believe they are printing this card.

Top 10 Casual Cards from Eldritch MoonTop 10 Casual Cards from Eldritch Moon

5. Docent of Perfection: The ultimate evolution of Delver of Secrets! I am very interested in seeing this card in action because we have now traced the development of this card through three iterations and each one has been super sweet. This final version is pretty wild because the Prowess trigger makes dudes, the dudes get pumped, and it makes yet MORE dudes. Who needs Thing in the Ice?  This is flavourful, fun, and makes Tribal Wizard totally a thing.

Top 10 Casual Cards from Eldritch Moon

4. Shreds of Sanity: This feels super powerful because there are lots of powerful Instants and Sorceries out there in Kitchen Table land and the ability to get them all back seems totally busted. Sure, you have to discard one, but with Madness still being a thing, is that even really a problem? I might be totally off my rocker here, but could there be a chance that a Storm deck is looking for one more spell to cast to buy back something, maybe as a form of insurance, to help them go off? I’m not sure, but I read this and could only conclude that this was extremely powerful.

Top 10 Casual Cards from Eldritch Moon

3. Bruna, the Fading Light:  Of the two Angels that make up Brisela, Voice of Nightmares, this is the one I expect to make a big splash casually. Gisela, the Broken Blade is a mini Baneslayer Angel and will get lots of play in Constructed. However, Bruna and her ability to buy back a creature and put it directly into play is insane. Think of all the really powerful reanimation targets? Angel of Serenity, Craterhoof Behemoth, Griselbrand (although I’m not sure where you’re playing these two together exactly), Prime Speaker Zegana, and on and on and on. Now, someone is going to say that she is pretty expensive at 7 mana. You’re right. However, this ability is usually very expensive. Defy Death, from Avacyn Restored  was a 5 mana Sorcery for a similar ability. Emeria Shepherd is also an expensive creature and requires an 8th land to even get an effect. You’re getting your Defy Death plus a 5/7 flier for 7 mana…I’m not about to complain. She’s going to be an awesome Kitchen Table card that is just going to make your opponents weep…or have Nightmares…whatever.

Top 10 Casual Cards from Eldritch Moon

2. Tree of Perdition:  Is anyone surprised? This one is ridiculous because in formats that have more than 20 life you’re tapping this to deal a whole pile of scary damage. People have pointed out correctly that in Commander that tapping this essentially deals 27 points of damage. Assault Formation or Doran, the Siege Tower makes this a hilarious card that is just going to be abused. Oh, and I’m just going to say Triskaidekaphobia.  The end.

Top 10 Casual Cards from Eldritch Moon

1. Harmless Offering: Much like the tree, this is just waiting to be abused much the same way Donate was abused. Demonic Pact is the most obvious place to start, but I bet there are loads of other fun ideas. I’ll leave the particulars of that up to you. On top of the fun little combo, that cute little kitten is worth her weight in gold, but don’t look too closely at her tail and see that tendril sneaking around. Once again, a complete and utter flavour win and the card that I am most excited about in Eldritch Moon.


Ok, ok…I know. No Liliana. No Tamiyo. No Gisela. These are all awesome cards, but there is no doubt in my mind that these will all see extensive constructed play because they are among the most powerful cards for their casting cost in the format. However, the cards I’ve highlighted today are the sorts of things that people around the kitchen table dream about playing and using to maximum effect. That’s why I selected a number of cards that are a little off the beaten path. They might be cards you overlooked, discounted, or forgot about but will get good mileage around a kitchen table some Saturday night with your buddies.  Give them a try and see for yourself.

Did I miss something? Is there something else that you have your eye on?  Let me know by leaving a comment down below or finding me on Twitter.  Good luck to all of you at your Prereleases and be sure to stop by next time for another Casual Encounter.


Bruce Gray – @bgray8791

Bruce Gray - July 5, 2016

A Smattering of This and That

Casual Encounters- A Smattering of This and That (MTG Impressions)

MTG Impressions

Lately I’ve been a little quiet on the writing front and there are a number of fronts where I’ve had some ideas or thoughts, but just not enough to pen a whole article. Today I thought I would go through some of those MTG impressions and put them together to make a whole post. I’ll be touching on things like the newest Eldritch Moon spoilers, further supplemental products, and even some cards that you should probably revisit because they are super useful. Well, let’s get started.


Eldritch Moon and Emrakul, the Promised End

MTG Impressions

Everyone has an opinion now that we’ve started to see new cards from Eldritch Moon. I’ve seen people posting about how they love it, others about how they hate it, and others how they are just really bummed that Eternal Masters has all dried up. From where I sit, Eldritch Moon looks like it is going to be pretty amazing and the number one reason is right in the Trailer video which is the new version of Emrakul. The new card looks sweet, the art is stunning, and the story across multiple blocks continues to converge which makes the card all that much sweeter. I’m not going to review big Emrakul right now, but if you’ve seen her you have to admit she looks very powerful and tons of fun.

MTG Impressions

The second piece of the trailer that got me excited was seeing the Gatewatch arrive on the scene to battle the Eldrazi menace. Now, I don’t suppose we’ll actually be able to get new printings of these Planeswalkers so soon, but the story should be very lively and interesting as our heroes struggle to save Innistrad. When the story is strong and interesting I always find that I enjoy the game a bit more.

One walker we are sure to see a new printing is Liliana and that’s totally ok. I fully expect her to be the black member of the gatewatch because we could clearly see that the cycle of cards was not complete from Oath of the Gatewatch and now that her adopted home is under assault it only makes sense. Now, we aren’t likely to see Liliana of the Veil any time soon, but some new iteration of Lili seems pretty sweet. Really, can they make a bad version of her? I seriously hope not.

MTG Impressions

The biggest thing with the arrival of Emrakul on Innistrad is that the Magic community seemed to groan collectively when they saw that the threat was the giant flying spaghetti monster. It had been hinted at for months, she didn’t show up in Battle for Zendikar block and was suspected to be elsewhere…and really, what other ultimate menace could really be left? Well, sure enough, we got Emrakul and everyone just groaned because we  were sick of the Eldrazi. We just had Eldrazi decks of all sorts run rampant in virtually every major format. Eldrazi were everywhere and were really good and the community was tired of them.

Now, I can admit that I have also had a bit of overload with the Eldrazi recently, but I’m still pretty comfortable with the arrival of Emrakul on Innistrad. The reason I’m pretty comfortable with it is that it continues the story telling arc that began when Sarkhan returned to Tarkir and saved Ugin. From that point on there was no doubt that there was going to be a march towards seeing our intrepid heroes confront the Eldrazi menace and the story has now stretched across three blocks. To my mind that makes for better storytelling than stopping and starting with each new block. I think part of reason that Theros block gets a bit of bad wrap is that it is entirely a self contained story across three sets but come the end of the block the story has met a resolution…an unsatisfactory resolution because Elspeth dies (sort of). Well, now we have a story that has stretched across three blocks (and arguably a Core Set too) and could still extend beyond if the Gatewatch is unable to slay Emrakul. I think that the longevity of the storytelling has made for a far more intriguing story and something that I want to tune in for week after week to see how it unfolds.

MTG Impressions


Spoilers from Eldritch Moon

There are some very interesting new cards that have been spoiled including Coax from the Blind Eternities which acts like a Glittering Wish variant but for Eldrazi. However, to my eyes the most interesting card is the new printing of an old favorite and that’s the new version of Thalia.  Thalia, Cathar Heretic, is a super sweet call back to her original printing and still plays a valuable game in disrupting your opponent by being a Blind Obedience on a stick. My intrigue with her is not so much for Standard because I have no doubt that she’ll fit in many of the Human decks running around, but whether or not she could find a home in a Modern deck. I understand that Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is an integral part of the G/W Hatebears deck that periodically puts up good results and this version is slightly different, but might be a viable option. Modern is a format where plenty of Non-Basic lands are played and being able to slow your opponent down a turn and have their lands come into play tapped might be a significant advantage that shouldn’t be ignored. Is she fast enough at 3 mana to have any real impact in Modern?  We’ll soon find out, but she seems interesting and fringe playable.

MTG Impressions MTG Impressions

Also, the new Meld mechanic looks fun but it appears to be something designed to advance the story rather than for playability. The Gisela and Bruna Meld card means you need to have a pair of pricey, rare angels in your deck, get them in play, AND not have them die in order to have them transform. That’s a bit of a stretch in any limited format and with Bruna costing 7 mana to play I can hardly imagine competitive Standard decks being keen to play her. Maybe a casual deck will emerge out there playing these two angels at face value and if you can flip them then you are laughing but that seems like a stretch. Even the Common Meld cards feel like a stretch, but perhaps there will be more that are more playable.  We’ll have to wait and see.

MTG Impressions MTG Impressions

MTG Impressions MTG Impressions


Cards you may have forgotten about

With Eldritch Moon just a few weeks there are a few cards that I’ve got my eye on that you might have forgotten about that might take on new playability because they work well with what we are going to find in the newest set.  Here are a few things to keep your eyes on.

MTG Impressions

From Beyond: this is a really interesting enchantment that is going to shine in EDH in a few years as an improved Awakening Zone AND a tutor, but for the time being it is an ingenious way to a) ramp some colourless mana thanks to those Scions b) help you FIND Emrakul in your deck and C) reduce the cost of Emrakul. People are going to say that From Beyond is too slow to be really playable, but let’s look at the facts.  If you really want to maximize the cost reduction factor on Emrakul you need a reliable way to get as many different types of cards into your graveyard. One type, namely Enchantments, can be tricky because usually you don’t want your Enchantments in the graveyard. However,  From Beyond lets you sacrifice it to go find your biggest Eldrazi meaning you are assured to get an enchantment into your graveyard. If you can keep this thing online for a turn or two, crank out a couple of tokens, and sacrifice those you have now reduced the cost to CAST Emrakul by up to three mana (maybe more) and that’s very significant. I think this has some very real potential to be a card that sneaks into a few decks and that people experiment with because I feel like it could be very good. And then in 3 years time you can use it when you play EDH to go and fetch your scariest Eldrazi and slam it to break your opponents. But that’s for another day.

MTG Impressions

Harbinger of the Tides: if the game plan looks like it could become a race to how fast you can get Emrakul into play then everyone is going to be looking for ways to fight said race. Harbinger of the Tides might be a reasonable way for Blue decks to slow down the activation of an Emrakul by being able to be played an instant speed without it being an Instant. It doesn’t solve the resolution of the Cast trigger and inevitable Mindslaver effect, but it might set an opponent who has stretched themselves too far to get Emrakul on line back far enough that they can’t recast it and saves you from contending with a 13/13 flying, trample, protection from Instants monster of doom.

MTG Impressions

Stasis Snare: this is exactly the same plan as the Harbinger of the Tides in a very different colour. This is already widely played removal in White and will likely to continue to be extremely useful to combat Emrakul.

Sanctum of Ugin: I don’t really need to remind you why this is here…this just goes and gets you your giant Eldrazi. End of story.

MTG Impressions

Surrak, the Hunt Caller: this beefy 5/4 for 4 mana plays remarkably well with something huge and scary like Emrakul because you could potentially give it Haste. That is a terrifying prospect and really gives me a reason to go back and revisit Surrak. On top of the unmistakable synergy with really big Eldrazi creatures, Surrak is ALSO a human meaning that Thalia’s Lieutenant and he are best buds. If G/W human decks look like they need to tussle a bit more and need a little more beef then Surrak could get another lease on life again there too.


I have to admit I’m very excited for the new Eldritch Moon set that is set to come out and the new possibilities that could take shape in the weeks to come. I can’t wait to see the whole spoiler and to the full effect of what is included in the set. Hopefully some new additions will breath new life into some other cards and really make the rest of the summer fun as we head towards Kaladesh and Conspiracy 2.


Thanks for stopping in to read my MTG Impressions and be sure to stop by again next time for another Casual Encounter.


Bruce Gray – @bgray8791

Bruce Gray - June 8, 2016

Eternal Masters Top 10 Cards

Casual Encounters- Top 10 Cards from Eternal Masters


    Well, it is that time of year again when we have had a new set of spoilers and all sorts of fun stuff get revealed for Eternal Masters.  Typically I go through my top 10 picks for Casual Play but that seems like a ridiculous proposition.  There are so many cards in this set that are ideal in Casual circles of all kinds that it is kind of like shooting fish in a barrel…you just can’t miss!  There are still countless cards that have got me excited for the arrival of EMA and I’ve got my own top 10 list that I’m going to share with you guys.  I have this sort of list mostly because I know that I won’t be opening much, if any, EMA product because the MSRP is as high as it is.  I should probably just buy a lottery ticket because the net effect is about the same. That said, I will certainly be looking to find some of these cards as singles in a few weeks.  So, without further ado, here’s my top ten list from Eternal Masters.


10- Mother of Runes:  What’s NOT to love about this card.  In any deck running white she is just a blow out waiting to happen and if your opponent isn’t aware then they could see themselves walking into a bad block and having Mom give it protection.  I love this for Commander and any deck running white will totally run her and just ensure that you have game against every colour in the format.


9-Necropotence:  I love nothing better than drawing more cards.  The more I play the more I’m prepared to spend my life points, sacrifice stuff, discard stuff, or jump through other hoops to draw more cards…and Necropotence is among the best cards for drawing extra cards ever.  If you are familiar with the history of Magic there was a time when this card was just a dominant force  because it allowed players to draw just so much more of their deck that the life spent was well worth it.  In Commander that still holds true and Necropotence can allow you to draw such a higher percentage of your deck that the advantage gained is often overwhelming. It is hard to imagine this card not being on my list.


8-Mystical Tutor : So, many moons ago I had a chance to cube draft with some of my friends and I had a truly weird U/G deck (and I wrote about here). One of the fun things I drafted was a Mystical Tutor…in a deck with a Time Walk. Just that thought alone, of instant speed searching up something crazy busted and taking extra turns, wrathing away the board, or some other very powerful effect is reason enough to be excited for this. I’m sure many of you all have your favorite targets already and can’t wait to sleeve up this little treat and to go crazy.


7-Regal Force: So, when i’m looking for bombs I love a big body with upside. However, when the upside says draw more cards, I’m totally in. Like, unbelievably in. Green is my favorite color, this has a huge body, and it draws me a boat load of cards. I’m in love…and I didn’t even know this card existed until I saw the spoiler. This just calls to my inner Timmy and there is just no shame in admitting it.


6- Green Sun’s Zenith: Banned green creature tutor. Ok. I’m totally on board and imagining all the sick things I could do with this. My first reaction is to pair this with Nykthos giving my EDH deck the ability to go find whatever I need in my deck…Like a Craterhoof Behemoth or a Worldspine Wurm. Just imagine going and finding all the biggest and scariest monsters you can think up. Sounds like fun to me.


5-Vampiric Tutor: This is just an awesome tutor and in any commander deck you will happily pay the life to get the card you really want. What more do you want? This is your ticket to drawing that magic silver bullet and having that knowledge feels amazing.


4-Toxic Deluge: I wanted Damnation. I think we all did. But for casual games and EDH this is more than satisfactory. I mean, three mana kill every thing (with the added cost of some life points…which we have in spades in EDH) is pretty awesome. Also, it can shrink down and kill indestructible creatures, can be used flexibly to leave you with the biggest, beefiest creature on the board and still wax all of your opponent’s stuff. It’s no Damnation, but it is still pretty exciting.


3-Deep Analysis/ Burning Vengeance: These seem pretty innocuous to be third on my list, but anytime I can get more utility out of cards in my graveyard I am totally on board. Both of these can be cast from my graveyard making them very valuable and can allow me to draw more cards and dig for answers.  Oh…and with a Burning Vengeance these are just hilarious. So, they may seem simple, but they are very useful and I’m excited to have renewed access to them for a whole range of decks I like to play including Pauper and Commander..


2-Maze of Ith: I’m excited for this one because I have an original printing of this from The Dark and love the card. Sadly, my version is slightly beat up, so the chance to find a new copy is kind of exciting. Add in the fact that it’s just a good card that just blanks so many creatures and you have something that is very appealing even if it seems somewhat underwhelming. Also, i’m pretty excited for the chance to search for it with an Ulvenwald Hydra and fetch it up because that feels like a fun interaction that no one really ever talks about.


1- Jace, The Mind Sculptor: This guy is number one when it comes to Planeswalkers. C’mon, the dude is banned in modern, has four abilities all of which are good, is a Legacy staple, and just feels unfair. I don’t play much Legacy, but when I do I want to play JTMS. The fact that the price might start being “just expensive” instead of “ungodly expensive” is reason enough to be excited. Honestly, if you had a chance to play Jace…would you? I know I would without a second of hesitation.


Well, there we have it. I know there are people out there that are pumped for the chance to get super pricey cards like Force of Will and Wasteland. For me, those cards are great, but they aren’t what gets me excited. I bet every player out there will have a slightly different list of what they like…and that’s the best part! I don’t think you can go wrong in a set like this from a gameplay perspective. I can hardly wait to see what new cards start making decks because they are now increasingly accessible and have a real impact on how games are played. It is going to be an exciting time.

Thanks for taking the time to stop in and have a read. Leave a comment down below or find me on Twitter to let me know has got you excited and if it looks anything like my list.  And as always, be sure to stop by next time for another Casual Encounter.


Bruce Gray

@bgray8791 on twitter

Bruce Gray - May 3, 2016

Embracing Change in MTG and Life

Casual Encounters- Embracing Change in MTG and Life


I don’t usually figure that I am the type of person that gets all reflective.  I very much live in the here and now. I  focus on what is in front of me, what needs to be done, and I try very much to not get ahead of myself.  However, every once in awhile something happens to me that forces me to sit back and really take stock of where I am and what I am all about.

As some of you may be aware, during the day I am a teacher.  I love my job.  I love working with my students as they grow into outstanding young men and women.  I relish their successes, and I genuinely feel for them when they falter and stumble. I wouldn’t trade the job for anything. If you aren’t familiar with schools, it takes a lot of planning year to year to be able to keep a school running and publicly funded schools need to ensure that they have the appropriate number of staff for their site.  In my school area we start that process in April and it doesn’t get fully resolved until August and even then can be a kind of up and down affair.  

A year ago, at this time of year, I opted to move from a safe and sure thing at a solid school in order to search out a new job and some new experiences because I thought my teaching was getting a little on the stale side. I landed a job at a small school and have been forced to not only take a much larger leadership role than anticipated, but also challenge myself with my teaching and new subjects that I haven’t taught before.  The experience has been healthy to say the least.  Sadly, the staffing process for next school year has just begun and I found out that my small school is shrinking a little bit further and that I am now supernumerary.  That means that I’m out a job and will need to look for a new job for next school year.

Am I a little sad to leave?  Yes.  I have been afforded some tremendous opportunities and I have really enjoyed my experience.  However, staring down the barrel of forced change doesn’t feel so bad.  I’ve done this before, just a year ago, BY CHOICE, and done well.  Surely I can find myself another new job now that I NEED to go and find a new job.  Desperation can be a very powerful motivator, but so is the prospect of change.  

Many of us resist change.  It scares us and makes us tentative.  However, I have seen that change can be extremely positive in my professional life leading to greater enjoyment of what I love to do.  Does it still scare me?  You bet, but I am learning more and more to accept this change and to try and use it to my advantage and to improve myself.  

mass polymorph

How does all this discussion of change pertain to playing Magic?  I think it is very straight forward.  Change in Magic is good.  We all love the change afforded us on account of rotation and a new block.  This is a type of forced change that impacts most of us who play this game and helps to keep the game fresh and interesting at every level. To see the recent  transition in Standard away from 4-colour insanity to more modest 2 and 3-colour decks has been refreshing. We see new cards, new combinations, and new abilities that will help redefine how we think about Magic.

We can also see this sort of forced change through things like the recent Bannings and Restrictions.  Adding new cards to the card pool of a format like Modern goes a long way to help freshen up a format an unlock new potential combinations that will make the environment more enjoyable.

However, for every instance of someone getting excited for change, we see other things where players complain about all sorts of changes.  I can scroll through my Twitter feed and see people complain about all sorts of Magic issues on a daily basis.  I understand that some changes may not feel positive, but I would ask players to at least keep an open mind.  Play points may not be all bad for MTGO.  MTG finance might be more predictable at some point down the road. Less coverage of GPs may not be a bad thing instead of competing with everyone on Twitch for the attention of Magic players.  But if we all complain about such things instead of embracing some of these changes, or at least giving the people who planned the change the benefit of the doubt, then we are limiting ourselves.

arlinn kord

Then there is the question of change that you have brought upon yourself by choice.  This might be the most difficult area because many times it is unclear how we, as players, can change and grow.  However, perhaps it is a matter of becoming more attuned with the story of the game and paying more attention in that realm to help deepen your appreciation for the game.  Perhaps it is uncovering a new fun podcast or website for inspiration.  Maybe you just commit yourself to spending more time playing a given format into to try and grow your skill and understanding.  Regardless of what you have chosen, making those first steps down the path of change can open up countless opportunities and be something that pushes you to be better.

For me, I look at the next few months of impending change as a positive.  Am I sad? Yes. I hate to leave my school. I’m also sad when I take apart old decks from formats that I enjoyed and had kept together for nostalgia, but sometimes those cards can be put to better use elsewhere. However, the new possibilities that can exist from this change can be very positive.  I like building new decks and I enjoy new challenges professionally.  Things will be stressful and tense in the next few weeks as I attend interviews, but that’s part of the challenge and one I look forward to facing. I can’t wait and I am hoping that there is a perfect dream job out there for me somewhere.  In the meantime I am going to enjoy the time at my current school, enjoy a little Magic, and get ready for whatever may come my way.

Bruce Gray

@bgray8791 on Twitter


Bruce Gray - April 20, 2016

Shadows over Innistrad Crack a Pack

Casual Encounters- Bruce Brews a Bad Deck


OK folks, I’m back and all excited for Shadows over Innistrad.  There is a just tons of sweet new additions in this set and new possibilities that are getting me all excited.  In the past I have started a new set with a number of Crack a Packs and approached them from a Limited perspective as if I was going to draft.  That is fun, but today I wanted to try something different.  I’m going to open up a pack and use as many of the cards in the pack to brew up something kind of fun and silly that might inspire you and get your brewers hat on and take a stab at brewing.  I won’t use every single card, and I will keep the deck Standard legal. It is invariably going to be a kind of a silly little deck that might have some play, but is more likely than not just going to falter.  However, I enjoy brewing decks like this and maybe something I do will inspire you to do the same.  Let’s see what I opened!

This is a pretty sweet pack.  Sage of Ancient Lore is a very strong draft card, but the card that got me really excited in this pack is Ever After.  The first time through Innistrad we got to see the power of Reanimator spells with things like Unburial Rites, and Ever After harkens back to some of that reanimator-type love.  So, what does a Reanimator-style deck want to do?  Why, it wants to mill itself, dump a ridiculous bomb (or several ) into the graveyard and then reanimate them at a considerable mana discount.  Now, Ever After is not a cheap Reanimator spell because it does cost 6 mana, but for that six mana you are getting TWO potential bombs, not just one.  So, let’s see what we can brew up with some of the cards in this deck.

The game plan is fairly simple.  You want to burn through your deck as quickly as you possibly can with things like Vessel of Nascency, Corpse Churn, and Crow of Dark Tidings as you dig for either your Inverter of Truths or the Bane of Bala Ged.  Now, Bane of Bala Ged is really a placeholder for just about any huge Eldrazi you want to cast and the bigger the better really.  If you can unearth an Ulamog, a Kozilek or any of the truly scary Eldrazi you are obviously going to target them with your Ever After or your Necromantic Summons, but Bane is a nice tidy budget option that can be run reasonably easily.  The real treat is the Inverter of Truth that is a very discounted 6/6 for 4 mana that I’ve been fooling around with since Oath of the Gatewatch dropped.  It could now be time for this ridiculous flying Eldrazi to shine now that we can mill our decks with surprising speed so we don’t deck ourselves.

    Some of the more interesting cards from Shadows Over Innistrad that are found in this pack are the Moldgraf Scavenger and the Pale Rider of Trostad.  The Scavenger is a surprisingly solid little creature that is an effective early blocker.  It blocks things with Skulk, survives Fiery Impulse and Fiery Temper, and when you hit Delirium can go on the offensive as an undercosted 3/4 .  Those are all very reasonable stats and make the Scavenger almost a reasonable addition to a Constructed deck that could play a similar, but different, role to Jaddi Offshoot.  Pale Rider of Trostad is a 3/3 for 2 mana which is a fine set of stats, but also gives the deck a way to discard something big if you don’t want to cast it yet.  I toyed with the idea of dropping something like an Angel of Deliverance  in this list to be discarded, but that felt very risky if I couldn’t actually cast the Angel. In the end I figured sticking to Eldrazi that could actually be cast seemed less risky.  

Sage of Ancient Lore is another really interesting card in this deck because it is an expensive rare card at 5 mana that has a ton of potential.  The fact that it says “draw a card” is the first dead give away that this is very powerful.  I have run much worse creatures that include that line of text and would happily do so again.  The real deal is when it transforms into a huge monster that can wreck the game.  This makes for another solid reanimation target, but is a little more volatile and riskier because it could flip back to being a human on any turn.  That said, it is a very strong card and would be another good target for reanimation.

The other cards in this list are just creatures that might allow me to hurry up and rush out some of my spells by ramping me, but also provide some measure of value if I need another valid target in my graveyard to make Ever After work.  Just about any value creature would work, but I opted for 3 Brood Monitors because 6/6 worth of stats across 4 bodies is very strong, but I could totally envision not playing this in favor of another value creature.  This slot is very much up for discussion and I would welcome some ideas if you had something  I could have run Gloomwidow as a form of aerial defense, and that might be a better option to give me enough time to hit enough land drops and be able to play an Ever After.

I weighed playing Vessel of Malignity and decided against it because exiling the cards from my opponent is not really what I wanted to do.  If I could have used it to target myself and discard something then I would have been more interested.  It would have been another discard outlet to allow me to pitch some other big scary creature, but alas, it exiles and can only be used on my opponents.  I can see Vessel of Malignity having a place in some decks because I feel like the hand destruction in this Standard format is very strong, but this is not that deck.

The rest of the pack is not on colour or theme for what I want to do with this sort of deck, but there is a little interest in some of those white creatures, notably the Apothecary Geist, and the Ghostly Wings because I think those might see a little fringe play if the right conditions are met.  

That’s all for tonight folks.  I hope you all enjoyed the different approach to a Crack a Pack. If you didn’t enjoy the weird deck and would rather I just crack a pack and focus on limited please let me know. Personally,  I enjoyed brewing something kind of fun and off the wall.  I know I might be stretching the self mill angle in the format with some of my selections, but if you are truly intent on milling yourself you do have some options.  Would you have used Ever After or would you have left it alone and opted to do something completely different? Share your brewing ideas down below in the comments or find me on Twitter.

Thanks very much and as always be sure to stop by next time for another Casual Encounter.


Bruce Gray
@bgray8791 on Twitter

Bruce Gray - April 1, 2016

Christmas in April

Casual Encounters – Christmas in April



Eldrazi Menace = Affordable MTG?

Usually I get excited for new sets during spoiler season, but something has got me super excited. Sure, going back to Innistrad seems cool and I can’t wait to find some more sweet werewolves for a deck I built 4-years ago…but that isn’t what got me truly excited. No, I’m super excited right now for the MTG world in which we live right now. Things are sweet and I want to tell you why.

Most people are bemoaning the fact that Modern sucks right now as we are overrun by Eldrazi and silly lands like Eye of Ugin and Eldrazi Temple. The pro tour was a bit of a train-wreck if you like to see a super diverse Top 8 because the format kind of got busted. Legacy hasn’t been far behind with the Eldrazi deck sliding over and giving everyone fits with super fast decks. I mean, any deck running an Endbringer and casting it on turn 3 tells me things are broken. The Eldrazi Winter is truly a thing and lots of players are pretty upset. These eternal formats aren’t supposed to be broken so easily…and yet thanks to Oath of the Gatewatch that is exactly what has happened.

Now, I’m not relishing the state of these formats, but I am super pleased that the MTG world has been so preoccupied with the Eldrazi and non-rotating formats that they have allowed Standard playable cards to tank in value. I don’t think I have ever seen so many excellent cards cost so little. Thanks to a focus on acquiring Modern staples and things that can port to Eternal formats, players have opened piles of OGW, (not to mention looking for the Expeditions,) and in the process helped depress the prices of OGW and BFZ. We’ll look at a few examples in a bit, but to a fringe constructed player or someone who plays casually this is music to our ears. Affordable MTG? Yes please!

A similar effect has happened with Battle for Zendikar and prices have been seriously reduced because everyone has been hunting furiously for the Expeditions and opened up tons of product. Mythics and highly sought after rare cards are affordable making rotation seem almost palatable.  C’mon, who doesn’t like having access to things like Drana or Undergrowth Champion at reasonable prices?  Right now these cards are indeed things that can be acquired without much trouble making piecing together what you want for a future deck much easier than in the past.

Similar effects are being felt in other Standard legal sets that are going through the usual pre-rotation lull before they leave Standard, but even in Dragons of Tarkir, a set that is NOT rotating out in a few short weeks, we are seeing prices drop to a point where they are reasonable. When premium, Standard playable powerhouses are falling to very reasonable prices you know something kind of cool is going on.

The one exception is Magic: Origins where prices have stayed high and continue to soar upwards.  Jace, Vrynn’s Prodigy alone continues to skyrocket and is listed at close to $90 a card! However, Pia and Kiran Nalaar, Liliana, Heretical Healer, and Abbot of Keral Keep are all quite expensive.  Some of the pressure on Origins  is tied to the fact that it was released mid-summer, historically a low time for sales, meaning not as much of it has been opened as some of the other sets and that is forcing the prices to be higher.  

So, what does it mean?  The combination of a focus on Eternal Formats, an over abundance of some sets on account of the “Expedition Effect”, and the Modern season with a number of GP’s has really helped to force the price of Standard cards down a lot. This is great news for budget-conscious players who play casually because you can jump in and grab a number of really powerful Mythics and Rares without putting a hole in your bank book.  Check out this list of Mythics from Battle for Zendikar Block that cost ~$3!

*Please note that the price information I am using is in Canadian dollars and is subject to change according to the whims of the multiverse. 

Crush of Tentacles 2.15
General Tazri 1.03
Inverter of Truth 1.51


Akoum Firebird 0.80


Greenwarden of Murasa 1.85


Omnath, Locus of Rage 2.54
Part the Waterveil 2.29
Quarantine Field 1.86
Sire of Stagnation 1.81


There is a whole lot of casual appeal to these cards!  And this trend seems to buck a trend even for kind of janky Mythics.  If you go and pull up a set from the last 4 years, like Gatecrash for example, you will see that the price of Mythics rarely sunk this low. Now, I know Gatecrash had no Expeditions, but in many regards it was a fine set that even had Shocklands making it fairly sought after, and was drafted as a stand alone set 3 packs at a time meaning it was opened in good quantity. Despite this,  Aurelia didn’t fall below $4 while she was in Standard.  Master Biomancer was a house and held good value! Even things like Lord of the Void seemed to hold more value.  Something wonderful is happening right now that is making BFZ block much cheaper for those of us looking to play casually or on a tight budget.  

Will it stay like this for long?  No.  I can’t imagine we’ll be able to grab these sorts of cards at this price for much longer.  Once Shadows over Innistrad starts to get spoiled everyone will start to focus back in on Standard again as players look to rebound from the new Spring rotation.  However, in the meantime we have the chance to grab a strong number of very playable cards to help settle your casual appetite and get you brewing all sorts of funky decks.

So, if you are a casual player, take advantage now while the prices are good and get the cards you’ve always wanted!  This is a pretty special time, almost like Christmas, and now is the time to jump in a get what you need.

Thanks for stopping by and be sure to stop by next time for another Casual Encounter.


Bruce Gray

@bgray8791 on Twitter