Welcome back folks! It’s been a while since I sat down and provided you guys with some fun new decks for your next casual card night, so I thought I would sit down and share with you what I’ve been brewing. The good news for you guys is that I’ve actually got TWO decks here for you and who doesn’t love a 2 for 1 special? Even with all the talk of Battle for Zendikar being less than thrilling from many perspectives, there are still loads of fun and interesting things you can do. Let’s take a look at a couple of things that I’ve brewed up and see what you think.
Budget U/B control
One of the biggest things about the current standard environment that makes it so prohibitive to get into a top tier competitive deck is the sheer value of Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. Any deck playing Blue wants a playset of Jace! Let’s face it, the card is extremely powerful and likely worth every penny you pay for it if you grind out lots of matches. Sadly, I can’t afford the $320 for a set of four. However, there was another Blue mythic from Magic:Origins that no one even talks about and I can afford. I’m thinking of none other than Disciple of the Ring. I had the chance to draft this guy in back to back drafts and this guy was amazing. He has almost every relevant ability you would ever need on a creature stapled to him and if you fill your yard with Instants and Sorceries you can dictate the terms of the game fairly easily with an active Disciple of the Ring. So, the question is, can this be a big deal in some other environment than just draft? I suspect the answer is yes. Here is the list I put together.
The game plan seems simple enough. You want to push into the late stages of the game by answering their threats through bouncing them, countering them, or just outright killing them. Using your spells to handle their threats should allow you to pile up a bunch of fuel that you can then use with Disciple of the Ring to either further deal with their threats or to take the fight to them. It wouldn’t take much to pump the Disciple into being a very real threat and a quick clock.
Let’s suppose that your opponent can deal with your #1 threat like the Disciple. Did you notice any other backdoor wins? How about Demonic Pact and Disperse as being a potentially deadly way to really cinch down on your opponent? Get max value off the Pact and then bounce it, recast it and then repeat…seems pretty good to me. Also, don’t forget Damnable Pact and the Mage-Ring Network. If you get into a situation where you have available land at the end of their turn, charge up the Network and wait to be able to fire off a massive Damnable Pact at them, make them draw a whole pile of cards and die as a result of the damage. Nothing quite like a Black “Fireball”! The last trick is Learn from the Past which acts as a way to deck your opponent if you need to get that far.
The only cards that are expensive in this deck are the 2 Languish, 2 Crux of Fate, and the Demonic Pact. Even those are fairly modestly priced in most respects and available right here at Three Kings Loot. Otherwise, the Disciple is about $1/ card, Damnable Pact is about fifty cents, and everything else is super inexpensive, even the lands.
Now, there are lots of good upgrades to run that can still be budget friendly. Ultimate Price is a strong removal spell that is much cheaper to cast, but it doesn’t handle multicolored creatures like Siege Rhino, Anafenza, Mantis Rider or Atarka. Yes, Reach of Shadows is bad 5 mana removal, but at least it can handle those big time threats instead of being a dead card. Murderous Cut might be upgrade on both counts, but exiling your yard isn’t ideal when you want to fuel the Disciple. Of course, you could full on upgrade to Ruinous Path, but that is one more sorcery speed spell and that just might be too slow, or too expensive for the old pocket book. Cancel is eligible for an upgrade with a Scatter to the Winds, but as a rare that may not economical. Spell Shrivel would work almost as well in most situations but I would rather have the hard counter as opposed to the conditional element as part of Spell Shrivel. Reave Soul could stand to be upgraded to Complete Disregard and the only reason I’m running Reave and not Disregard is that I don’t have any more in my box…they are already all in decks! Reave Soul is fine, but the same issue surrounding casting it at Sorcery speed crops up again.
My early version of a sideboard would include 2 copies each of Encase in Ice and Self-Inflicted Wound as very solid sideboard options. I think I would also opt to run 2 copies of Mire’s Malice as a way to force discard and clear out their hand. Malice can also work to give you a late game threat with an Elemental should you need it. There is no doubt 2 copies of Dispel would make the grade as well simply for a little insurance. There would need to be some other serious considerations, but these would almost assuredly make my first 75 for this deck.
You could rock this with your buddies on a Saturday night and feel fairly assured that it could be a real pain in the derriere, but I don’t think you would be ashamed to sling this at FNM either…and the impact on your pocket book would be very manageable.
My second deck runs a couple of the same cards, but whereas the Control deck played these cards as an alternative win con, this time it would be a major key to victory. Let’s take a look at what I’ve got this time around.
The game plan this time is a little different. This acts very much like a token swarm deck. Cast a bunch of dudes, make some Scions, and then pump the team for the win with a Joraga Invocation or a Tajuru War Caller. Now, if that doesn’t work or you can’t find the Overrun style effect, Zulaport Cutthroat could be a win con if you just sac all your dudes to drain out your opponent. However, the really greasy way to get it done is to sac all your tokens (hopefully with the Cutthroat in play) to cast yet another massive Damnable Pact to close out the match. If you don’t have enough Scions feel free to power up the Mage-Ring Network and then just go mana crazy when it’s time to finish off your opponent.
The issue with this sort of deck is that it is extremely creature reliant meaning that a board wipe pretty much shuts this one down. Oh, and by the way, there are LOADS of wraths in this Standard format. However, decks looking to trade 1 for 1 with a token deck won’t be too happy to play you because their exchanges will invariably be much worse. If this deck can get online, go wide, and maintain pressure then this deck could be a real pain in the neck for some decks out there.
Now, I need to confess, I haven’t had a chance to put these through much of the way of testing. My wife and I had a new baby boy about 6 weeks ago, so testing has been somewhat limited, but I am 100% prepared to take both of these to battle at my next casual night and see if I can’t grab a few wins by casting Damnable Pact AT THEM. It just sounds glorious! And the best part is both decks are cheap so I won’t feel bad if they need to be scraped or adjusted.
Well, thanks for stopping by and having a read. If nothing else I hope my brews have given you a little inspiration to sit down and do a little brewing on your own. I get the sense from people out there in the MTG community that the relative let down of Battle for Zendikar is suppressing some brewers because they aren’t super enthused with the quality of the cards. However, as you can see, there are still lots of other fun things you can be doing with Battle and still enjoy the experience.
So, until next time, have yourselves a great MTG day and be sure to stop by next time for another Casual Encounter.
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
Well, welcome back to our continuing Crack a pack MTG Series here at Casual Encounters and Three Kings Loot. I’m very happy to say that this is crack a pack number 20 for me! I can’t believe that I’ve got to 20. It seems like not all that long ago I was pitching the series to the guys at Three Kings Loot. The goal for 2015 is to continue writing these and hopefully build up some more readers who are keen to get into a discussion about the cards and the selections. So, let’s see what we’ve got on deck for today!
Today we’ll be opening a shiny new pack of Fate Reforged. Remember, as Fate Reforged enters the draft environment we are now drafting one pack of Fate and 2 packs of Khans meaning you will still be pretty heavily Khans focused. That said, Fate Reforged dove tails pretty well with Khans so it should move pretty seamlessly. Here we go.
Oh boy…we just opened something pretty spicy in Crux of Fate. People have been calling for a re-print of Damnation for a long time and this may be as close as we ever get. This is an awesome mass removal spell in Black, something that doesn’t come along in every set. The fact that this is modal could be relevant in Draft if you have a couple of the uncommon dragons on board and need a way to punch them through, but you will mostly look at this as premium mass removal that you will grab first almost each and every time.
Valorous Stance is a tremendously versatile card and both modes are very relevant. It is extremely efficiently costed at 2 manaand just does exactly what you need it to do every time. In most packs this would be first pickable, but today it’ll like slide to the 2nd pick in this pack.
Neutralizing Blast is a very underwhelming counter spell. The fact that it only targets multi-coloured spells is a huge issue because the number of such spells is quite low. Think about it, there were some in Khans, but many of those were Morph creatures (that aren’t multi-coloured if cast face down) and a cycle of uncommon spells like Ride Down. In Fate, there is once again a cycle of common spells and the cycle of Rare Dragons. That means that there aren’t a lot of relevant targets for this…so you’re likely just best to pass this and see if you grab it late as a sideboard option for the greedy 5 colour deck that the guy next to you is building.
Shifting Loyalties is a super powerful effect and could really turn the tide quickly as you trade you junky creature for their awesome one…but the variance on this is high. If they only have a Gore Swine do you really want to spend 6 mana and trade you Jeskai Sage for it? Likely not. So you have a dead card in hand. If you have a Jeskai Sage and they have Atarka…well…that’s different. I’d be careful with this one and wouldn’t prioritize it too highly because it could really backfire and just sit dead in your hand.
Sandteppe Outcast is a very useful 3 drop. 3 mana for a 2/1 creature and a 1/1 flier OR a 3/2 creature is nice versatility. I imagine the 1/1 flier is the most likely mode you’ll pick, but I could make a case that you really want the 3/2 if you have the Abzan Falconer or Abzan Battle Priest on board. Either way, this is very good and efficiently costed and could be a first pick if you were hard pressed.
Write Into Being is an interesting take on Manifest. It is a sorcery that only costs 2 and a Blue for a total of 3 mana. That is on par with Morphs…so that’s a perfectly acceptable casting cost for a 2/2. However, the fact that you get to look at the top two cards and pick which one gets Manifested is actually excellent value. You can essentially craft exactly which card you want turned over as a 2/2. That gives you a lot of control and could allow you to play some very fun head games with your opponent. Not a first pick, but a nice spell that likely goes in the early half of the round.
Fierce Invocation is another Manifest Sorcery. I like this one less, but it is still a 4/4 for 5 mana which isn’t bad…and if it is a creature…you’re in business. This is a mid-round pick up.
Douse in Gloom is Pharika’s Cure…just slightly more expensive. This is another early pick in this pack because it deals with everything from facedown creatures to Alpine Grizzly without any difficulty. This one isn’t flashy, but is the backbone of most limited decks.
Cunning Strike feels too expensive and just not good enough for 5 mana. At 5 mana I want to do something AWESOME…this just feels slow and awkward. Couple that with the fact that it is two colours and there is no doubt that this will table. I’d pass and only take this as a last resort.
Arashin Cleric…and the consensus is…NO. It doesn’t do enough. It can’t block Morphs and Manifested decks profitably, the life gain is fairly modest, and it gets outclassed quite quickly. No, don’t take this, you can do better.
Collateral Damage is a spell I really like. In a tokens strategy, or heck, just with that dumpy Arashin Cleric, sacrifice the creature for 1 red mana (at instant speed) for a Lightning Bolt. That seems fine to me. Not a crazy high pick, but very reasonable once you establish your colours as a mid-round pick up for some inexpensive removal/damage.
Gore Swine is just a 4/1 vanilla creature. I’m not going to dump on this creature because it can be quite serviceable, but if I have better options I’m taking those long before I take this. All that can be said for this thing is that at least it triggers Ferocious.
Bathe In Dragonfire is an excellent red removal spell. The 4 damage is very useful and deals with most threats. I’m not a fan of the Sorcery speed on this thing because it won’t catch Dash creatures, but you can’t expect too much from a common. For the record, this continuing the trend of seeing removal slowly become more and more expensive…so while this is pretty reasonable it likely would have been cheaper had it appeared in a set 3-5 years ago.
This is pretty much a no brainer…you grab Crux of Fate and move on. There really isn’t anything that would match up well with Crux, and if suggested anything else I would out right lying to you. So, while the other cards are pretty good…Crux is the hands down winner.
Wow…that was easy.
Well, thanks for reading folks and thanks for coming along for the ride to get to 20 Crack a Pack MTG. 20 may not seem like a lot to you guys, but let me assure it has been quite the trip. Let’s see if we can get to 30! Thanks for reading and until next time may you open nothing but Mythic rares.
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter
So, I’ve already gone and taken a look at Fate Reforged for Casual play…how about we explore a little Constructed play…namely Standard? Let’s get right into this and take a look.
10– Valorous Stance– This is similar to Reprisal in many regards because it can be used as a removal spell to whack big stuff. Now, 4 toughness can be a bit of hurdle to leap over, but there are many bigger creatures that pack 4 toughness that this efficiently mops up. Butcher of the Horde, the Dragons, Polukranos, Courser, Siege Rhino, Wingmate Roc and a number of other threats all get taken out by this. On top of that, the other mode might make it more relevant than Ajani’s Presence…and the fact that this card can do BOTH things is what truly makes it a solid addition to Standard play. I expect this will certainly see sideboard play, at a minimum, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see this creep into the main board of a few decks.
9- Silumgar, the Drifting Death– I can make a case for this one creeping into a B/U or Esper control build as the win condition along side Ashiok, Prognostic Sphinx, or Pearl Lake Ancient. The evasion, hexproof, and a nasty ability puts this into the realm of discussion and I expect that people will give it a try. What I will remind people is that while this is 3/7 it tussles with other creatures very effectively because it essentially can fight through 4 toughness creatures meaning that Wingmate Roc, Butcher or the Horde, and even a Stormbreath Dragon are hard pressed to block this effectively. The 7 toughness makes it very difficult to kill via combat meaning your only option is a board wipe (or I suppose a Sacrifice outlet) and the control deck ought to have enough counter spells to make that threat fairly minimal. Expect to see this dragon lurking around in Standard for the foreseeable future.
8- Flamewake Phoenix– Temur or R/G Monsters just got one sweet addition to really turn up the pressure. Chandra’s Phoenix was extremely solid last year and this looks no different. It is 2/2 for 3 mana, flies, has Haste, and serves an almost identical purpose. The caveat where you need to attack each turn is no biggie either because if you are on the deck that wants this guy in Constructed then Blocking isn’t really your thing anyway. The trigger to get this guy back is a little different and might be a little harder to trigger depending on the deck, but with things like Ashcloud Phoenix, Savage Knuckleblade, Polukranos and Stormbreath Dragon being in the potential home for this guy it might be feasible. Here comes the nuisance that is a repeatable burn source to Standard.
7- Dromoka, the Eternal– This is intended to be the Abzan curve topper that we could see replace Wingmate Roc. With the Abzan Aggro decks looking to curve out by playing a 2 drop, a 3 drop, a 4 drop and then a 5 drop, this could slide right in. The fact that it can also pump your other creatures can’t be overlooked. Sure, Wingmate Roc can trigger some additional life gain, but the sheer power of a 5/5 flier that adds counters just can not be dismissed. People will certainly test this one out and see what this can do.
6- Wild Slash– Hmmm…an upgrade on Shock you say? Well…Shock has been very good for a long time, so I expect this one to be good too. It will find a way into every single deck playing Red burn spells and no one will miss a beat. At Limited, it will be good too, but it will not win you the game out right. You will need back up in order to seal up those wins, but Wild Slash will be a nice addition to your deck because it pairs well with Ferocious OR Prowess. Enjoy some more first rate burn.
5- Reality Shift– : Is this Blue Removal? It sure looks that way…because you just exiled their Butcher, or Dragon, or God, or …or…ANYTHING and replaced it with a 2/2. I think that’s a good trade in most situations. This looks like it could get insane and really give Blue the ability to deal with relevant threats after they hit the board. So much for respecting the Colour Pie! Blue Removal to the rescue!
4- Soulfire Grand Master: Jeskai Burn/Wins decks just got insane. This unassuming “Bear” just makes Burn decks plain old ridiculous. Your spells get LIFELINK?! You can get them back in your hand?! Good grief. The Lifelink is the back breaker here because it gives burn players a longer lease on life with which to find that all needed burn spell to finish you off by gaining 3,6 maybe even 10 points of life depending on the sequence of spells you can cast. The secondary ability is disgusting, the get your spell back, but it is a pricey cost to pay and most burn decks won’t really be interested in that. I mean, do you really want to spend 3 mana on your Jeskai Charm to burn him for 4…and then pay 4 more mana to get it back? You just spent 7 mana on the spell. If you have 7 mana to play around with in your Burn deck (and you haven’t won outright) you are doing something wrong. So, because of the high cost on the secondary ability I don’t think this will creep into Modern as anything more than a sideboard card, but in Standard I feel like this could take the Jeskai Burn decks to a whole new level.
3- Crux of Fate: I saw this card and said “well, there is your functional reprint of Damnation everyone. Sure, Damnation is 4 mana…and this is 5…but face it folks, you aren’t getting wrath effects at 4 mana any longer. We’ve seen that trend and Wizards has admitted as much. So, 5 mana Black sweepers is the best you can do…and really, wasn’t Damnation just a 4 mana Black sweeper à la Day of Judgment? So, here is your “updated” Damnation card that is Modal. Whatever. No biggie. Now, the 5 mana cost essentially prohibits this from seeing play in Modern or any format where Damnation is legal because Damnation is likely just better in every circumstance, but in Standard, for EDH players looking for a Black wrath effect, and in Limited this will do just as well. Decks rocking Black…thank R & D. That is all.
2- Mardu Shadowspear…So the B/W tribal warriors deck might be good enough to see play in Standard moving forward. Fate Reforged has given us a ton of new Warriors to complement the already disgusting amount of Warriors already available. If you look at the abilities of these new Warriors the deck could take on some frightening abilities and really punish slower decks. The Shadowspear and his Warrior buddies will just run wild and will surprise a lot of people…and while I’m headling Shadowspear here, the truth is he will have a whole pile of his friends that will coming to the party right along with him and will be bringing down the house.
1- Ugin, the Spirit Dragon– And now for the elephant in the room. Is Ugin good enough for Standard…well, he’s certainly good enough, but can you get him onto the battlefield. I figure lots of people are going to try and why not? He’s colourless, ridiculously powerful, and just plain warps the board. This guy is an absolute menace and his ultimate is just plain wrong. His –x ability wipes the board…so why wouldn’t a control deck try and play him? Mono Green Devotion would be keen to give him a try as well, because if you hit that ultimate, what could be more fun than dumping Hornet Queen and Polukranos onto the battlefield for free? No, people are certainly going to try and make Ugin work for them so be ready to have Ugin see play in Standard for a while.
Well, there we have ourselves some of the sweet new treats that Standard is going to get to rock out with. Let’s see how many of these make the cut…and what ones I missed. The Middle set of a block can always be tricky because the cards need to fit into an existing mold and we’ll see just what shakes out in the weeks to come.
Thanks for reading…By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters @bgray8791 on Twitter
Fate Reforged pre-release will introduce special promo ‘Time Shifted Cards’. During the event you get to pick your Tarkir Clan and will also receive a special ‘Ugin’s Fate” booster pack which contains a Token, a Land card and certain amount of ‘Time Shifted Cards’ from a pool of 40 holo foil stamped cards with alternate art which demonstrates how the plane of Tarkir has changed. The PAX Australia panel showcased three of these cards.