Crack a Pack with Bruce 23. 4th Fate Reforged
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
Hard to believe that Fate Reforged will soon be paired with Dragons of Tarkir and we will be saying goodbye to Khans of Tarkir for draft purposes. In the mean time, let’s open up another pack and see what we would take in a draft pick 1, pack1. Here we go!
Where to start? There are some very solid cards in the pack, so let’s start with our Rare. Mardu Strike Leader is a super sweet little addition to the collection of Black/White warriors. A 3/2 for 3 mana that gets a 2/1 warrior whenever it attacks? If this gets left unchecked this is a menace because that 2/1 warrior is a full card. The token trades with Morphs and most 2 drops in the format, meanwhile the Strike Leader is taking sizable chunks out of your opponent. If you can slot him into that B/W warriors deck he is an all-star, but even on his own he’s very useful and well worth the pick up. I would be pulling him to the front of my pack as an early favorite for our first pick.
Mistfire Adept is another pretty sweet card. This is essentially a Hill Giant on the Vanilla Test…and that’s just fine. However, you want this guy for his Prowess ability and the ability to make something fly. Essentially, in a Prowess build, this guy can act like a 4/4 flier (or better) and really cause havoc. He’d be pulled forward because I really like the Jeskai/Prowess deck, but I’m not sure he’s better than the Strike Leader. He takes a few more pieces in order for him to really shine while the Strike Leader is just good all the time.
Fruit of the First Tree is not a first pick. The set up is far too high on it, it doesn’t impact the board nearly well enough, and really isn’t what I want to do with my deck. NOW, in a janky brew…sure…I’ll play this, but in a draft this would be a long way down my list. I’ll save this to the end and see if one of the other players around the table wants to play it.
Marang River Prowler is card I like very much. His ability to keep coming back and to be unblockable is really solid. Sure, he’s only a 2/1, but that puts your opponent on a clock that if they can’t finish you off then the Prowler is going to slowly get the job done. If you can add on a little augmentation, like maybe a +1/+1 counter from a Bolster trigger, that clock just gets that much quicker AND you don’t really feel bad if it dies because it comeing straight back. There are decks that don’t really want him, but he’s quite strong and more often than not he’s a solid addition. I don’t think he’s a first pick, but he is a solid card and will usually make the cut in most deck lists.
Sandsteppe Outcast is something I’d be grabbing quite readily. Quite literally he’s the best common in this pack and plays into that B/W warrior deck. Pair this with Harsh Sustenance and you immediately have some terrific interactions. He’d be up to the front on the pack as well, but I think the Strike Leader is still better.
Mardu Runemark is not something I want. I don’t like the Runemarks and it sets you up to lose 2 cards for 1 with a simple removal spell. The Jeskai Runemark is really the only one of this cycle I like (which is in this pack too) but the Mardu Runemark doesn’t offer me enough except being two for oned. I’ll pass.
Hunt the Weak is not a first pick, or even in the top five cards in this pack, but it always seems to do good work. I won’t turn it down if I’m in Green. Nothing brings a bigger smile to my face than playing a Morph on turn 3 and then turn 4 fighting their Morph with Hunt the Weak and winning combat. That feels really good. This is a solid mid-round pick up.
Smoldering Efreet is for those Red aggro decks. I’m not a big fan, but I can see that it has its place. I would be prioritizing this pretty late once I start to get a bit of sense where my deck is going, but it isn’t usually my play style. I would let this go and wouldn’t think twice about it.
Douse in Gloom, however, is exactly what I want. Inexpensive removal that just gets the job done. This would be a fairly early mid-round pick up in my eyes.
Abzan Skycaptain is something I rather like as well. The fact that it Bolsters when it dies is pretty nice and makes your opponent decide if it would rather just let it connect, or kill it and run the risk of the extra +2/+2 landing somewhere that isn’t pretty. At 4 mana he’s a tad on the steep side for a 2/2 body, but I think there is enough upside that I won’t mind running him. Likelihood is that this would be an early mid-round pick up for me.
Sultai Emissary is a very reasonable 2 drop that feels like it gives you a 2 for 1 because it replaces itself when it dies. That extra Manifested creature can be very useful. I’m not crazy for it, but I would be very interested in seeing it in the mid-round. Maybe if I’m lucky it will wheel and I’ll get a second shot at it.
Lotus Path Djinn is just a reasonable dude. You aren’t crazy excited to see him, but you aren’t sad either. He flies which is always nice, but otherwise there isn’t much to say. He’s just another serviceable body to run in your Prowess deck.
Harsh Sustenance is just fine, but it isn’t an early pick because it is 2 colours. Once I have established that I’m playing Black and White I would consider this because it plays really nicely with some of the other cards in this pack (if I can get them). Mardu Strike Leader, Sandsteppe Outcast and even the Sultai Emissary work well with this card and can make for a big turn. However, to take this early and over commit to a pair of colours could strand this in your sideboard and have it never really see play or leave your deck weak and floundering.
First pick is pretty clearly the Mardu Strike Leader. I like the Adept and the Outcast, but I would rather have the Strike Leader by virtue of the extra beefy tokens it can produce. If it goes unchecked it can quite easily take over the game. I’m sad that it isn’t a 3/3 because 2 toughness means it dies to lots of things, but a little augmentation and this is just going to be menace. I would be slamming this first pick and then really looking to see if the Douse in Gloom, Sultai Emissary or even the Abzan Skycaptain don’t wheel to give me a shot at the B/W deck as I head into the Khans pack. At least, that’s the theory. Sometimes you can’t get stuck on that flashy rare and if Black dries up I would be pretty prepared to hop colours to something that is more available.
Well, there we have it folks. Thanks for taking the time to stop in have a read here at Casual Encounters and Three Kings Loot. Feel free to drop me a line below or hit me up on Twitter. Have yourself a great MTG day!
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
Welcome back! Another busy MTG day for all you readers out there so let’s not waste any time. Let’s crack open that pack and see what we would take pick 1 pack 1 in a draft. Here we go.
Let’s start with the Rare. Flamerush Rider is pretty solid and from a quick look around, it looks like the strongest card in this pack. I’m not in love with the card and by no means am I in love with Red in this set, but it is a strong card that makes combat very difficult for your opponent. I would certainly be pulling this one to the front of the pack and seriously looking at this first.
The uncommons are all a little underwhelming. Fearsome Awakening is interesting, but by no means good. It is certainly not good enough to first pick. I might look at that once I have a dragon or two in my deck just to see if I can make it work for me, but otherwise I might just leave this one to wheel around the table until the very end.
Reality Shift is a decent card and can be a useful removal type spell in Blue, but I’m not keen on leaving behind the Manifested creature. That extra 2/2 could be just about anything and that’s usually an unpleasant surprise when it is something that is good for your opponent. Also, it doesn’t really clear the road the way most removal does and you still need to work around the Manifest on the battlefield as you rumble in for combat. I wouldn’t be grabbing this first, but I’m interested in the card and figure it could be pretty interesting to take if I’m in Blue later in the round.
Humble Defector is another interesting card that can be abused pretty easily. There are a number of cute plays you can make with this guy to abuse the activation followed by the loss of control of the card, but it isn’t a first pick. I like a good laugh when you get to go off with this one, but I would rather do something a little more powerful than this.
The only real card that I like from among the commons here is Aven Surveyor. Yes, he’s expensive, but the bounce effect is extremely potent and well worth the cost of playing this one. I’d be pulling this one to the front for a close look as well.
Typhoid Rats are nice. I like those guys. I wouldn’t take them first pick, but if I was to be in black 2 or 3 picks in I would happily grab them.
Cunning Strike does a number of things, but it does them all modestly well. It deals some damage, but maybe not enough to kill something. It “shocks” your opponent for a pair of damage which may be relevant. It draws you a card to replace itself. All of this for the bargain cost of 5 mana. I know, I know. That’s 3 effects for 5 mana. That’s not so bad. And it even triggers Prowess. But I’m not in love with the card and would rather keep moving.
Frontier Mastodon could be a 4/3 for 3 mana…which is a steal. That’s a sizeable upgrade in toughness on an Alpine Grizzly because now it doesn’t die to Cunning Strike, Douse in Gloom, Wild Slash or one of the other many two damage spells floating around. However, it could just as easily be a 3/2 for 3 in which case you are highly underwhelmed. This is likely a late pick up and might not make the cut for you 22 or 23 card deck.
Alesha’s Vanguard is a card I’ve discussed earlier in my review of commons and uncommons, but to sum up it is a Hill Giant that dodges sorcery speed removal but burdens your board state if you choose to Dash it because you will have not developed your board any further. It’s a fine card, but I’m not excited.
Gore Swine is another fine vanilla creature. It’s not an early pick up, but it’s fine to help fill out your creature package.
Abzan Advantage is card that people keep talking about as a playable trick. I’m not excited, but the ability to remove their Siege AND Bolster one of my creatures seems good. Even if they don’t have an enchantment to sacrifice, the Bolster is quite nice. It’s by no means a first pick, but it has improved its chances of being played in recent weeks by just being an effective card that has some reasonable upside.
Arashin Cleric is very low on my list of priorities here. It just doesn’t do enough to warrant a mid round pick. This might get forced at the end of the pack and will rarely make your deck unless your creature count is very low.
Sibsig Host is another reasonable creature, but I’m not jumping up and down for it. It does block reasonably well and helps fuel a little Delve, but let’s not go overboard here. It is a fine card for a deck playing Black but it is not a high pick.
For me the first pick is Flamerush Rider because I feel like it has more upside and a higher overall power level than the rest of the pack. I’m not in love with red and if the following packs didn’t have strong commons/uncommons to support the Flamerush Rider I am more than prepared to move colours and ditch the Rider altogether. I could make a really good case for the Aven Surveyor because it is an outstanding common and if you grab a couple of them then you are well and truly set to make life miserable for your opponent. Typhoid Rats is just a very solid creature because nobody is really keen to trade with it. The Rats just about always manage to get you good value by taking out a more expensive creature and that means I want to grab it sooner rather than later. Further down the list I get to the 5th card and I am unsure if I would rather take the Humble Defector or Cunning Strike. I decided the Humble Defector was likely the pick on the grounds that it is a mono-coloured card rather than a gold card like Cunning Strike.
On the whole, the strength of this pack is pretty weak. The rare is just ok, the uncommons are not particularly good, and the commons start off quite strong but trail off quite significantly. I feel like that is one of the traits of the set and this represents a fairly average pack. I’ve tried enough drafts on MTGO and watched enough other people draft that this seems to be the trend. It is good to know for those rare times that you find a bonkers pack to keep it in mind that this is not the norm.
Thanks for taking the time to stop in and read today and good luck in your next draft.
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
Good morning and thanks for stopping by here at The Bag of Loot and my Casual Encounters column. For those who are new here, I will be cracking a pack of Fate Reforged and looking at what I would select first if this was Pick 1, Pack1 in my next draft. Let’s take a look at what I’ve got.
Fate Reforged seems a little more heavy with bombs than Khans was, so let’s start with the rare. Yasova Dragonclaw is a pretty strong starting place. She’s efficient to cast as a 4/2 for 3 mana and comes with Trample making her pretty solid from the outset. She triggers Ferocious if that matters to your deck as well, which is always a benefit. However, I get most of those same stats with an Alpine Grizzly so what makes her so appealing? Her ability to effectively Act of Treason one of their blockers each turn is actually really difficult to handle. Even if the creature you’re pulling aside isn’t a huge bomb, it can really upset combat math to pull aside their blocker and then swing in. The only catch is that she can only target a creature with power less than hers. That may or may not be ideal because you might only be pulling aside a Wetland Sambar or an Ainok Tracker. If you can find a way to Bolster her or to augment her to steal something larger then you might find things will get a little out of control. I’ve played against one in a match and while her ability is kind of tricky, it certainly is beatable. However, she’s still a very powerful card and would be pulled straight to the front of the pack for some careful consideration.
Mistfire Adept is a very nice uncommon and has some solid stats. The basic body is that of Hill Giant, which is quite reasonable. However, the Prowess and the ability to grant something Flying is the real perk here. You cast a spell and suddenly you have a 4/4 flier. That’s nothing to take lightly. There’s not really a whole lot of downside here because this is a useful to just about any deck playing Blue and would be getting a long hard look as well.
Renowned Weaponsmith is underwhelming in every regard. The artifact theme is not strong enough to warrant this guy, and the ability to tutor up a bad artifact is also not overly relevant. His base stats are a little on the poor side as well because he gets quickly outclassed. Sadly, this guy isn’t very good and will likely a late pickup for filler to someone in Blue.
Hewed Stone Retainers feels like a downgraded version of Illusory Angel. If this had Flying, or First Strike, or anything really, you’d consider playing it, but at a vanilla 4/4 the answer is probably not. Don’t get fooled by the casting cost, the fact that you need to cast this as the second spell this turn increases the cost of this and unless you have a deck with some cheap spells to fire off this might get stranded in your hand for a while.
Write into Being is a card I quite like. One of the concerns I have with the Manifest mechanic is that I often feel like I don’t have much control over what gets manifested. It might be that land I really need, or that super efficient removal spell, or that hyper expensive creature that I was really hoping to find in the late game. In all of these of situations having the card get Manifested is less than ideal. Write into Being gives you some measure of control over what spell you end up getting and that is very useful. The casting cost puts it right on curve with other Morphs and the fact that is a non creature spell helps provide you with fuel for Delve spells and triggers Prowess. While this is a long way from being a home run it is a deceptively powerful card and is ultimately very useful.
Temur Runemark is NOT something I like. Most auras are a surefire way to get yourself in a situation where you lose out in a 2 for 1 situation. Unless the Aura is really powerful, it is usually a better idea to play cards that stand on their own merit. I’m not going to say I won’t play an Aura, but I’m certainly not looking to play those auras unless I’m pretty desperate.
Collateral Damage is a card that I like in certain decks, but is usually not something I’m too keen to grab. I never like sacrificing MY board state to deal damage, so sequencing this spell just right to have maximum impact is tricky and pretty important. If I can’t find a way to sacrifice something that is being blocked (and dying anyway) to take out something else I’m just not overly keen to play this. The ONLY other way I play this if I have a tokens strategy where I can use the tokens as fodder, but even there I’m not going crazy with this card. This a tricky card and something that certainly has a benefit when played correctly, but not always available in the optimal way.
Whisperer of the Wilds was in last week’s pack too and I’m still a fan. I’d be flipping this to the front of the pack, but likely won’t be first picking this at this point.
Gurmag Angler is the sort of aggressive mid-round pickup you just love to see. The big body on this one is very appealing and the fact that the casting cost can be significantly reduced with Delve makes this very appealing. I don’t think I really want to first pick this because if you are in on the Delve plan you have a limited number of cards slots that can be devoted to delve cards and this guy may not be the best way to go. However, he is a very nice early pickup and a big body to sure up the board.
Typhoid Rats are one of those common cards that you always overlook, but it always makes your deck. Nobody likes attacking into or blocking a 1/1 deathtoucher and the rats just do some much work. It isn’t a first pick, but it certainly is a good mid-round pick.
Grim Contest is interesting because it is an unusual take on the “fight” mechanic that green usually gets for removal. The part I like about this is that it is at Instant speed meaning that you can use it on your opponent’s turn and leaving you to do whatever you like with your mana on your turn. Sadly, it is a gold card and fits into fewer decks, but if you have Green and Black in your deck I see no good reason not to take this mid-round and see if you can make it work for you. This would have been ideal in M15 Limited with Rotfeaster Maggot, but that is a digression. This is an interesting spell and something that will garner mild interest, but is in no way a first pick.
While a number of the cards in this pack are pretty interesting, there is no doubt that I would be taking Yasova from this pack with my first pick. I feel like Green leaves you open to go into some very powerful combinations by making Abzan, Sultai and Temur all available and her raw stats are very solid. Her two toughness is an issue because she dies readily to Wild Slash , Douse in Gloom and Debilitating Injury but there is plenty of upside to her because her repeatable “Act of Treason” is quite powerful and will really mess with combat. I don’t think she’s an insane bomb the way some of the Legendary Dragons are, but she’s very good and a cut above the other cards in this pack.
Thanks for stopping in today here at Casual Encounters and taking the time read. I hope you guys have an awesome MTG day!
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
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
Well, I’m back after having spent a lovely holiday season with my family. Santa was very generous to my little guy and there are now plenty of trucks and farm animals to scatter around on the floor. The only real unfortunate part about the holidays is that I don’t get much chance to sit down and play much Magic. Sure, I can sneak a little bit of time here and there, but I would like to pour a little more time into it and really sink my teeth into a few things…building decks, playing, or drafting. So, now that things have settled down a little I can take a few minutes and take one last kick at Khans of Tarkir pack before we have Fate Reforged arrive on the scene and force us all to adapt pretty heavily. So, let’s crack a pack and see what we get!
Well, let’s start with the rare in this pack. Rakshasa Vizier…hmmm…I really like this guy and feel like he could be an absolute menace. A 4/4 for 5 mana isn’t a bad stat line and if you have any Delve sources things will get pretty out of control as you just have a pretty big beat stick. However, I’m not a big fan of taking him with my first pick in pack one because of the fact that it forces me into playing three colours right off the hop. It’s just too many colours too early in the draft. I’ll let this guy go and see where my picks lead me.
Hordeling Outburst: This is a premium spell and generates effectively a 3 for 1. Whether you are Jeskai, Mardu or just a 2 colour Red deck, Outburst is the sort of spell you want to be running all day and all night. This would get thumbed straight to the front of the pack for sure.
Abzan Guide and Ponyback Brigade: These are both first rate Morphs in this set and can really turn the tide of battle for you, but just like the Vizier, they are too many colours too early in the draft. So, I’ll need to let these go and establish my colours…and THEN see if these wheel around and give me the chance to grab either one of them.
Swarm of Bloodflies: This is a very strong creature in Limited. It is mono coloured, casts for a single black, is evasive, and has upside. All of these abilities make this a prime target to take first. It gets pulled to the front of the pack along with the Outburst.
Watcher of the Roost: I’m probably higher on this guy than most people, but I feel like creatures that un-Morph very inexpensively (like this guy) can’t be overlooked because of the synergies you can create and extra value your deck can eke out. Also, add in the fact that it is an evasive creature is never a bad addition. My only regret with this guy is that he has 1 toughness, meaning he dies to a stiff breeze. So, while I like him and might be prepared to take him in the first half of the draft round, there is very little chance I’d take this guy first.
Jungle Hollow: We have seen the value of the mana fixing in this set become a high priority…and with good cause. With so many 3, 4, and 5 colour decks the mana needs to be available in order to make those all work. Jungle Hollow is fixing and is very reasonable. Based on the fact this pack is relatively weak, the Hollow would get a good long look too and so I’d probably pull it to the front for consideration.
Savage Punch: Quality, cheap removal in Green. While the art is awesome, the truth is that I will not be taking this first because it isn’t that sort of good. I would be looking to find one of these late in the draft and see what comes from there.
Weave Fate: You might take this in the very late portions of the Draft, but you aren’t happy to do so and you don’t want to run it. You would only play this if you didn’t grab a Treasure Cruise and even then you might opt to leave the 4 mana card draw spell in your sideboard because it just isn’t that good. I’ll keep looking and largely ignore this.
Feed the Clan: Nope. Bad spell. Don’t waste your time.
Barrage of Boulders: We’ve seen that this can do some good work and bust up those board stalls that develop and let you force through the damage you need to close out an opponent. It isn’t a first pick, but if you are in Red you certainly will not mind running 1 or 2 of these in amidst your spells just to open the floodgates and close out the game.
Kheru Dreadmaw: I know this is a 4/4, but really, this feels like a bad card because it is a defender. If only it could attack! I’m not on board taking this even if I am in Black and Green, and I’m certainly NOT taking it first!
Whirlwind Adept: The fact that this guy has Hexproof and Prowess makes him interesting, but with no evasion I’m not really keen on this guy unless I need filler. He is certainly playable, but you likely aren’t happy to do so.
First Pick in this pack is a little dicey, but I figure it really comes down to either the Outburst or the Swarm…and I’m taking the Outburst. I feel like the Outburst and the fact that it produces 3 tokens is super useful and can be used to enable all sorts of things. The Tokens chump block readily in a pinch, can double up and take out a Morph, get Trumpet Blasted to make a mess of your opponent and are just very versatile. The Swarm is good too, but 5 mana for 2/2 initially is not exactly what I want to be doing and it needs work in order for it to be good. I’d rather have the 3 tokens and move on. Also, the Outburst has ramifications for Constructed decks if you want to play Jeskai Tokens or the like, so the double application (much as it really isn’t a consideration for me too frequently) is kind of nice.
Well, there we go. I will be honest, I’m looking forward to mixing up the Draft format a little with Fate Reforged because I have largely stunk at Khans Limited in all its varieties. Maybe, with some fresh cards and a shake-up of the format I will see some more success and better results from my decks.
Thanks very much for taking the time to read. Enjoy your pre-release events and I look forward to opening up some Fate Reforged for you in the not too distant future. Until next time, may you open nothing but Mythic bombs.By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters @bgray8791 on Twitter
Well Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you are enjoying the time with your friends and family…and maybe opening a few cool new treats that Santa left for you! It’s a pretty busy time of year for everyone with visiting family, big turkey dinners, and generally being festive during the Holiday season. However, I know that those of you who are Magic players can’t wait for Fate Reforged to drop in a couple of weeks and for the Draft format to get totally turned on its ear again, so I thought what better way to start getting ready than to crack open a holiday treat a little early and see what we find. Let’s take a look.
Well then…we opened ourselves up a Mythic…and a pretty good one at that. Zurgo is pretty devastating bomb to open up in limited because there really isn’t much in Limited that can handle him. He attacks all the time and can be very difficult to handle when he attacks because of the indestructibility he gets. Also, blocking profitably is really just an impossibility with this guy so you are always on your back foot. Kill Shot and other such removal won’t really do the trick either. So, you end up having to get him with clunkier sorcery removal on your turn…which is not a bad thing or impossible, but it just makes the whole process of killing him harder and more narrow. 5 mana isn’t impossible and the fact that he has 3 different colours might be an issue…but the fact is the upside in terms of power is likely well worth the risk. He would immediately get moved to the front of the pack for serious consideration.
In this pack, to complement Zurgo, there is a Nomad Outpost, Highspire Mantis, a Ponyback Brigade, and a Trumpet blast. All of these would see themselves thumbed to front of the pack as well. We have the makings of a pretty solid Mardu deck that would absolutely cause our opponents a bunch of trouble. However, here is the issue. These are all good to very good Mardu cards meaning that one of your neighbors is going to take a look and decide that Mardu appears to be open and move in too. That is an issue because Zurgo is going to reward you most when you have the ability to curve aggressively into him and then go on a massive offensive. The very real reality could be that none of these cards wheel around to you and that you have a number of other players competing for the Mardu deck too. So, while Zurgo is still a very strong card, and this pack has a whole of bunch of super nice cards to complement it, there are still going to be some issues that you will need to negotiate as you move through the draft.
Longshot Squad is likely the next card that gets my attention. It is a very solid creature, has a relevant ability and is just a very useful Green creature. I have been a fan since day one and will continue to be a big fan. It may not be a game breaker or spicy the way Zurgo is, but he’s solid, reliable, and knows his role.
Sidisi’s Pet…no…I’m not taking this. A 1/4 is woefully inadequate in this set even with the Lifelink. The ONLY plus is that he can be a Morph in a Secret Plans/Trail of Mystery deck, but since that doesn’t appear to be the direction I will head with this pack it would be WAY down my list of cards for this pack.
Smoke Teller is a potentially useful 2/1 for 2…and that’s it. He’s a Bear with an ability. I feel like his ability is under-utilized, but I’m not really surprised.
Disdainful stroke is useful and shuts out pretty expensive bombs. I would be looking at this in the mid-to late rounds of this first pack if I was in Blue, but since this pack looks Mardu heavy it will likely be a late pick.
Awaken the Bear…and no once again. It is a marginal trick that in most situations is really just a Giant Growth. Occasionally the trample will be relevant, but the biggest issue is the casting cost. Giant Growth is 1 mana for +3/+3. Titanic Growth is 2 mana for +4/+4. This is 3 mana for +3/+3…and some trample. No. If you are looking for a pump spell, this really isn’t a good option. It feels slow, is too expensive, and is not something I can get behind.
Gurmag Swiftwing has a load of abilities, and even flies…but is a 1/2. He could be useful, but I’m not lining up to get this little critter. A serviceable choice in the mid-rounds, but that is about it.
Rakshasa’s Secret feels like an expensive way to target your opponent’s hand. Yeah, 3 mana isn’t outlandish, but it feels a little slow to be relevant regularly and is likely on the outside looking in for most decks. Besides, this pack is looking like a Mardu style pack and the Secret plays into a Sultai deck a little bit better.
Salt Road Patrol is just about the only reasonable White card in this whole pack but even that isn’t saying much. Yes, 2/5 is tough to fight through, and to Outlast him once makes him just about impossible to fight through, but really, he’s kind of bland and just not overly exciting. I would take him in the mid-round and be pretty ok with it. Like I mentioned earlier, this pack has a number of Mardu cards in it meaning that it could get striped of prime Mardu cards long before the pack wheels. However, this might be something that you might find should the pack wheel meaning you would at least get a second solid playable out of this pack for your Mardu deck.
Weave Fate is an acceptable card draw spell, but it is dwarfed by Treasure Cruise in terms of flexibility and overall power. You might see this get forced at the end of this pack, and that’s ok…or you might see this card disappear to a Blue player around the table because blue cards in this pack are so sparse. On the whole…Blue players will curse this pack while players packing Red are going to be drooling.
My first pick goes against almost all of my beliefs. I don’t like taking a three coloured spell first…it potentially pigeon holes me into those three colours. Three coloured spells are rough to cast because your mana invariably takes a beating and you lose a bunch of consistency. It just feels like you are forcing a very narrow understanding of your deck and not allowing the cards to come to you to make up your deck. HOWEVER, I have seen that many of the three colour spells are just ridiculous BOMBS. Villainous Wealth is evil. Duneblast ends games on the spot in most situations. There is no reason NOT to expect that Zurgo would have a significant impact on the game as well. Also, just because I open up with a Mardu mythic creature does not mean that I am FORCED to play Mardu. There are almost 3 full packs for me to change directions if I start to notice that something else is open. So, with that in mind, I want to take a first pick that offers the most potential upside and highest power ceiling. So, I’m going to grab Zurgo and cross my fingers some of those other Mardu treats come back my way. I realize the Outpost and Mantis are likely gone, but there is an outside chance that the Ponyback brigade, Trumpet Blast or the Salt Road Patrol will come back meaning that I would have a complementary card for a Mardu deck.
Well, there we go. That was an interesting pack to say the least. A tough choice if you want to venture down the Mardu path because you know you will be fighting with a number of other players for the same pool of cards, but the upside on Zurgo might just be too much. What would you have done? The Outpost for the fixing? The Mantis because it only leaves you in 2 colours? Maybe the Longshot squad because you appreciate the simple reliability of it? Let me know what you think.
Once again, Merry Christmas to all of you and I wish you all a happy holiday season with your friends and family. May you have a terrific end to 2014 and an amazing start to 2015!
Until next time, may you open nothing but Mythic bombs.By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters @bgray8791 on Twitter
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
Well, I’m back at it trying to work through some pick selections and I’ve got another crack a pack MTG with a fresh Khans booster. This format is showing lots of variances with loads of tough choices…and what makes it doubly difficult is that there are a number of ridiculous Bombs that are obvious first picks, but aside from that there are a wide variety of picks that can all be considered depending on what style of game you like to play. So, let’s bust open this pack, take a peak, and see what we’ve got.
Well, this pack is very uninspiring. The Rare is a pretty big dud, the uncommons are reasonable but hardly insane, and the commons leave me wanting more. Ok…so where do I begin? I know. Let’s start with the LEAST desirable card in this pack and move from there. The card I want least from this pack is Lens of Clarity. This is a do nothing artifact that is completely useless. If I see this in my pack I want nothing to do with it and would rather take a land, even a basic, over it because it is just that poor. No thanks. Forget this one and move on. And don’t be that guy who plays it to be cute…it’s a sign that you drafted garbage and are likely ripe for a beat down.
The Rare is Hardened Scales and while this seems like a neat card, it is likely of little or no value to you unless you are really keen to be in on the Abzan game plan. Regardless, you aren’t taking this first. I actually see this being more of an EDH or Casual card rather than an actual Draft or Constructed card. It just doesn’t have enough of an impact to make it worth the first pick…or even an early pick for that matter unless you have set your path to your deck and are committed to play counters in a big way.
Frontier Bivouac actually gets a fair amount of attention because the Tri lands are very good. Initially I wasn’t overly impressed, but they offer so much flexibility to your mana that they are well worth an early pick. Also, since they hardly EVER wheel, you had better grab it now or it will be gone…particularly with how poor this pack is. I’m not excited to consider this as my first pick, but it might be something that makes sense.
I’ve started to hear whispers that there is a Goblinslide/Quiet Contemplation deck out there but I’m not going to jump on this little treat until I get a couple of picks deep and start to see that it is still available. Also, the deck feels pretty unreliable so I think that this card may be something I pass along and try another direction unless I start seeing multiple Slides floating around.
Pine Walker is a very nice creature with a very powerful ability. Really, are you going to complain about a 5/5 for 5 mana, has Morph, and a relevant triggered ability? No. Didn’t think so. This would be very reasonable as a first pick.
War Behemoth, Glacial Stalker, Canyon Lurkers, and Kin-Tree Warden all fill the same sort of void in your deck. They are perfectly viable Morphs depending on your deck and can ambush an unsuspecting opponent pretty easily. Am I in love with any of these? No. But will I play them? Absolutely. Just not as a first pick.
Bloodfire Mentor is something that is quite interesting and is pretty overlooked but it can be a very aggressive creature. A 3/1 with Prowess can be very powerful if you can fire off a non-creature spell to hit your triggers and watch the damage start to pile up. Sure, it isn’t very good on Defence as a blocker (apart from as a speed bump), but it is quite a strong aggressive creature that at least bears some consideration in the mid round of the draft if you are in Red and have any ability to trigger that Prowess.
Bitter Revelation is a fine card for a mid-round pickup and can do a fine job of enabling Delve and still netting you a card or two. You will likely only want 1 of these in your deck but you are unlikely to regret the choice. It’s just a solid utility card that does what it needs to do quite well and is nice addition to decks playing Black.
Smite the Monstrous is a very nice removal spell to wipe out fatties. This includes pretty much the ENTIRE Temur deck and many of the dudes in Abzan colours meaning you have a fairly high ratio of targets. I’d take this as an insurance policy once I’m committed to being White, but there is no way I’m picking this first.
Singing Bell Strike is generally good removal to just tap down a pesky critter but does have an unintended drawback against Abzan decks. Since the board state tends to stall out there will be lots of chances for your opponent to play a load of land and then untap a creature with Outlast and then use the Singing Bell Strike to effectively Outlast the creature numerous times on the same turn, provided they have the mana. I have seen this happen to me and seen my plan brutally backfire and then face down a massive Outlasted creature. Ouch. So, I’m generally pretty pleased with this one, but be wary.
Dismal Backwater is yet more solid fixing and something that I generally like because the format offers so much flexibility if you are prepared to select it. I like this as a solid mid-round pick and would be prepared to pick this up likely a little higher than many other players.
In a marginal pack like this the first pick is very tough. I’m honestly torn between taking the very solid creature (Pine Walker) or going for the mana fixing (Frontier Bivouac). My sense at this point is to go for the Bivouac because creatures are readily available and can be somewhat more interchangeable whereas the land could be at a premium. That is by no means a slight on the Pine Walker and I could make a really strong argument to select it first, but I still think taking the land is the more prudent play and will net you more benefit in the long run.
It isn’t exciting is it? However, I think it is the better choice considering what is in this pack. Well…there we have a pretty unexciting pack. If I actually opened this at a draft I would feel pretty sad because they was very little to get jazzed about. We did get to see just about the least playable card in the set, which is always a nice treat to see which poor chump ends up having it forced on them. But, as for the rest of the pack, the best word to describe it is lackluster.
Thanks for reading once again this week. If you have some ideas of your own or experience that would lead to a different first pick, by all means let me know. Fire me a Tweet or leave a comment down below. I love having an honest discussion with players and sharing ideas and points of view to help make us all better players. Until next time, may you open nothing but Mythic Bombs.
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters @bgray8791 on Twitter
As someone who really enjoys playing Limited games of Magic I was pretty excited to have a relatively free weekend not all that long ago where I could go and play a couple of drafts and try out some new and different things. I know that there are many players out there who play Magic online through MTGO, but I am not one of those guys. I have an account, and have played a few games here and there, but I prefer the live experience of sitting down with other players and actually playing the game. This means I am likely to get far fewer opportunities than an online player because I need to make time in my schedule to make it to a store and draft instead on just firing up the old computer and grinding out a few matches when it is convenient. Don’t get me wrong…I’d likely enjoy the online experience too, but it is just not something I’m prepared to get too heavily involved in when my budget for playing the game is as limited as it is.
Anyway, back to the point, I was prepared to hit two drafts in two nights and was really excited for it. However, after the two nights I left slightly disheartened because I didn’t do very well. I was 2-2 on the first night and was 0-2 and had to drop on account of a family emergency on the second night leaving me 2-4 for the weekend. That’s not a particularly good record and had me wondering what the heck I was doing. I was really questioning my own ability to play and more importantly, why was I trying to write anything about my experiences when I couldn’t even manage to go 3-3? What was I offering to the community if I am below the “Mendoza line” and simply stinking out the joint? Well, I took a little time off and thought about where I fit and why I feel like I have some valid contributions to make to those who read my material here on Three Kings Loot (or anywhere else for that matter).
There are two reasons that I write. The first one is entirely self-serving. As someone who doesn’t get too many chances to play, but still really enjoys to play Limited, the best way for me to try and improve my skills is to spend my time thinking about drafting and thinking critically about card choices and evaluation. The writing here on Three Kings Loot helps me to try and stay as sharp as possible and to be thinking in preparation of my draft opportunities to make the most of them. For a guy with only 3 official drafts of the Khans format under his belt, I lack the repetition that many players have but I feel like I can make up for SOME of this with my preparation. There is still no substitute for the experience, but preparation can go a long way to helping to shrink that gap.
The second reason is something I heard on a podcast. The hosts were going on about how it is important to gather up as much aggregate data as you can in order to gain a sense for what works, what doesn’t and why. If you only ever used your own experience you would come to many of the same conclusions, but it would take you far longer to gather the evidence you need to make that conclusion. However, by using the relevant experiences of others, including mistakes and misplays, you can improve your game and learn from their mistakes more quickly. This is my more significant contribution. Yes, you could go and read or watch about the experiences of a professional player and watch as they don’t misplay and have got the card selection narrowed down very finely, but you haven’t seen the leg work that they have put in to get to those decisions that they have been refining off camera for weeks. By reading about the mistakes of others who DO misplay and make HORRIBLE pick errors, you can see some of the work leading to those conclusions and accelerate your learning for your next limited experience.
With that sort of thought freshly in my mind I feel better about my drafts. I feel like in both situations I drafted very viable decks that were quite reasonable. Now, the 1st draft (Thursday Cheap night) was my better deck on a number of levels starting right from the 1st pick in pack 1, but I don’t regret either deck. On the Thursday I drafted a Sultai deck that I felt had all the bits and pieces to really hang with the big boys. The ceiling on the power level was quite high, I had a very solid curve with a number of very solid Morphs that could come down by turn 3 and start plugging up the ground, and even had enough mana fixing to support a 3 colour deck. On the whole it felt pretty good. On the Friday at FNM I started down the path of Temur, but as we progressed through the draft the deck changed and took on more of a 5 colour feel. I was happy to explore the 5 colour deck for something relatively unique that I have never tried before, but the power level just wasn’t high enough to really warrant such a deck. Let’s have a look at those deck lists.
For this Draft I was excited to play Sultai because my first pick was Villainous Wealth. I won’t go on too much about it here, but the card was really good for me. As we kept moving through the draft there was a pretty solid Sultai deck coming my way and what clinched it was a Rakshasa Vizier who is a rare card that is marginal in most decks, but in a deck with a couple of Delve outlets could be a real game breaker. The Vizier was passed to me late and I jumped on it, really sealing the fate of the deck. However, the deck felt very solid and I was pretty pleased.
Match 1 went my way with a 2-0 win including an awesome Villainous Wealth for 5 that flipped over and Arrow Storm for lethal in game 1. Game two was the Mystic of the Hidden Way show and the Abomination of Gudul playing second fiddle to get the job done.
Round 2 saw me sit down and play a ridiculous Abzan deck. In game one he curved into Abzan Falconer, Tuskguard Captain, Armament Corps on turns 3,4 and 5…leaving me essentially dead on board. I did manage to stabilize and remove the biggest threats, only to be blown out by Duneblast. Game 2 was somewhat better because he got out to an early lead again, but I fought back and Villainous Wealthed him for 6 turning up 5 permanents I could play…only to see the Duneblast a second time rendering me dead on board all over again.
Round 3 saw me grind out a super long match where I ended up decking myself in game 1 and going to extra turns in game 2, only to lose the match because I lost game 1. It felt pretty yucky, but what can you do? My deck hung in there and I just couldn’t squeeze through enough to close the deal despite being in the driver’s seat for most of the game.
Round 4 was the Bye, and while I am loath to count it, the computer seems to think I won a match and I’ll take it. I would have much rather had a chance to play, but those are the breaks.
Right from the beginning I didn’t feel as if this draft was going my way. Pick 1 Pack 1 was Meandering Towershell (a.k.a The Durdle Turtle). That’s not really the sort of card you want to take first, but I feel, based on the strength in the rest of the pack and that Green is generally a pretty strong colour that it was the best pick to make in that pack. One thing I did remember from the night before was the possibility of a board stall and so I made sure to pick up a Roar of Challenge to try and set up a ridiculous alpha strike to close out a game. As we kept moving through the draft I was noticing that there was loads of mana fixing available and that there were a number of Gold cards floating around. I started making a point to grab some of these and to take a stab at the 5 colour deck. As you can see, I had the mana base for it, but what I lacked was the relative power level in the deck. What I had were Gold cards that didn’t impact the board overly much like Temur and Sultai Ascendancy but could be splashy. That ended up putting a lot of pressure on my creatures, many of which were just average creatures like Mardu Blazebringer and Riverwheel Aerialists, to carry the load of breaking down the board stall and getting me a win. They couldn’t quite manage it and I ended up stalling.
I won’t recap the matches I played because I only played a pair of them because I ended up having to leave on account of a family emergency. However, once again, board stalls were the order of the day and one of the matches went to extra turns and I came out of the wrong end of that exchange again.
Villainous Wealth: This over performed in my estimation. Any time you can fire off one spell and net 3 or 4 cards off it is just pure evil. It breaks a board stall wide open and can absolutely warp a game. Yes, it takes some set up, and sure you need a fair pile of mana to make it worth it, but if you can stabilize the board you can likely make this one work for you because of the regular board stall situation in the game. I will be making a point of grabbing this one and using it the next time I see it.
Mystic of the Hidden Way: Again, a great way to bust open a board stall was to have an unblockable creature. He’s not flashy, but good lord is he effective to just chip away at a life total while letting you keep your shields up. This guy is a star and well worth the pickup to ensure you can get through.
Heir of the Wilds: He’s just unfair. He’s really a 3/3 with Deathtouch in many decks and just provides enough insurance because nobody is keen to tussle with this guy. Perhaps the best 2 drop in the format.
Riverwheel Aerialists: A 4/5 with Flying and Prowess is a pretty stacked creature. This was a menace and my opponents quickly opted to take it out rather than dealing with the humungous flier buzzing around.
Monastery Flock: You know what deals with fliers really well? The Flock. A- it is cheap to cast B- very little can fight its was through an 0/5 flier and C- no one ever thinks to use removal on a 0/5…c’mon…what sort of threat is that? So, needless to say, this is just an all-star blocker. Put this is a Secret Plans deck, net the cards off the Cheap Morph, and enjoy your big blocker!
Durdle Turtle: I was not a fan of this…I even got passed the stupid Temur Ascendancy and I wanted to live the dream of having the Turtle trigger the extra card draw on the Ascendancy. Instead I got a big, dumb, slow creature that routinely died to Kill Shot or Smite the Monstrous. Yuck.
Bouce effects: Ok…I’m not calling these a bust…because they straight up blew me out on two occasions…but they wrecked me and left me fuming because of something as simple as Force Away. My spells fizzled ALL THE TIME…particularly Roar of Challenge as I set up an Alpha strike. Grrr! Good cards…but irritating to play!
5 colour decks- These are just not all that good compared to more reliable decks. The upswing in power doesn’t always trade off well against the much poorer mana. Also, unless you grab a ridiculous Gold bomb early (Duneblast, Villainous Wealth etc) that facilitates you forcing 5 colour, you are unlikely to have enough benefit to really take advantage of you forcing 5 colours. I was listening to a podcast and they were discussing the relative success of the 5 colour deck and found that it was quite low. Either the deck performed amazing or it just whiffed. I tend to agree…the deck was somewhat underpowered and really not as good as I had hoped. I have a feeling I will try to avoid it in the future.
Banners: I was mildly disgusted with myself for having to play a banner and it was just a bust. I would have much rather done all sorts of things instead of playing it. I would avoid it in the future because I would rather have had a creature, any creature, instead of it. Card slots matter in this format, particularly when many decks are sacrificing picks to select lands and are opting for 22 cards and 18 land, and this is a waste of a card.
Well, there we have it. This has been a fairly lengthy article, but hopefully it helps someone out there. I can’t wait to take another crack at a draft, but that may need to wait a few weeks with Christmas looming and family obligations pending. Oh well…hopefully these lessons continue to bear fruit into the Fate Reforged/Khans format that will follow early in the New Year.
Thanks for reading this week and as always keep it fun, keep it safe…and keep it casual.
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters @bgray8791 on Twitter