Hi again everyone and welcome back to another Casual Encounter! With Battle for Zendikar being out and now legal in Standard, there has been an explosion of decks being built. Brewers of all stripes have sat down and put their thoughts together to make a pile of sweet new decks. I have been in the process of building some of my own new decks, but instead of eyeing playing tier 1 Standard decks I’m looking to build decks to play casually. I’ve always had some unspoken guidelines that I’ve kept in mind when building these decks, but I’ve never actually sat down and laid them all out in front of me. Today I have compiled my personal top ten commandments for building my casual decks and will share them with you. At the end, if you have any others that you feel should be added or things that don’t work for you, leave a message or send me a tweet and let me know!
Let’s clear up a few things before we get started. When I say “casual” I’m talking about any time you just sit down with a buddy or two on a Saturday night and just jam a few games. You are playing Magic, but not with an express interest in winning (although winning is fun). You are looking to enjoy the company of your friends and have games of Magic where something interesting, surprising, or intriguing happens. So, if your deck is too powerful, or too weak, your experience is just not going to be as good because you will either dominate or get run over and your games will run out of steam. Neither experience lends itself to fun game play. So, when trying to build a deck I try to follow as many of these rules as I can. Without further ado let’s check out The Ten Commandments of Casual Deck Construction.
10) Thou shalt build a deck that is good…but not too good. Playing the oppressive tournament winning deck is no fun for your friends. It’s ok to have this built and to play it once in a while, but if this is your go-to deck you will quickly find that your friends lose interest or don’t like to play against that deck. Pull it out and play a game or two with your scary good tournament deck, but then put it back in your deck box and grab something else.
9) Thou shalt look for synergy over raw power. Synergistic decks are always more fun and can be deceivingly powerful. Once you get the momentum going you are hard to derail and can be capable of some pretty explosive things. One such example of a synergistic deck that is perfect for Casual play are Simic decks featuring the Evolve mechanic and lots of +1/+1 counters. The Simic deck can be slow to get going, but once you get that Zegana or Master Biomancer up to speed your deck gets hard to handle. Decks featuring somewhat obscure or tricky combos like Sanguine Bond/Exquisite Blood are other great examples of where synergy can totally take over a game, but the deck doesn’t need to ruin the experience for everyone..
8) Thou shalt play those janky bulk rares. Those terrible, unplayable cards can give you much joy and give everyone a good laugh because no one thought they would see play…ever. I’m looking at you Felhide Spiritbinder and Blessed Reincarnation. These sorts of cards can do powerful things if you are prepared to actually play them…sometimes with unintended consequences…and that always makes for great stories. Don’t be gun shy, just run’em. You’ll see.
7) Thou shalt remember that commons and uncommons are your friends. Most Casual players have boxes of commons and uncommons that just sort of sit around and don’t do very much. However, these very playable cards can be leveraged into good value during a game if you are committed to running them. A couple of recent examples are the uncommons from Fate Reforged like Elite Scaleguard, Temur Sabretooth, and Mistfire Adept that can be very powerful but often get overlooked in constructed in favor of just more raw power. Kitchen Table Magic is the perfect place for these to flourish.
6) Thou shalt play an imperfect mana base and that is okay. Really, it’s O-K. No one expects you to have all the most current dual lands / fetch lands / creature lands / make rainbows & skittles fly out of their back side lands. Plus it is way cheaper. WAY cheaper !!!
5) Thou shalt play seven mana (or bigger) spells and not even blink twice. I think this is self explanatory.
4) Thou shalt play expensive, but useful creature destruction. We all know how removal has changed over time. Long gone are Terror, Dark Banishing, Swords to Plowshares and Path to Exile. Instead we get much more conditional removal that is either slower (at sorcery speed), more narrow (like Ultimate Price) or just plain expensive like Spiteful Blow & Pinion Feast that tack on an extra effect. There is actually an incentive to play these less mana efficient cards outside of Limited when you head on to the Casual game. The extra ability (that usually makes the spell so expensive to cast) actually can help your deck do what it wants to do. I always use the example of Spiteful Blow in a deck with a fair amount of land destruction because now you get a 2 for 1 out of this spell that plays into the theme of your deck. Pinion Feast is fine removal in a deck looking to leverage lots of +1/+1 counters. Would I be clambering to play a full playset of these things? No. But there is a place for 1 or 2 of the more unusual spells. Besides to play a million copies of Hero’s Downfall is expensive and not fun.
3) Thou shalt play unusual artifacts. Hello Pixis of Pandemonium.
2) Thou shalt play answers to a little of everything. Since you really don’t get a chance to sideboard you need to play an answer to most sorts of things. Creature destruction obviously, but artifact and enchantment removal are key too. You can slide in some counter spells. No opponent wants to be locked out of the game on account of counter magic, but they do have their place. This takes up more card slots and increases your variance, but variance can make for fun game states with someone having the surprise answer in hand that can swing the whole game around.
1) Thou shalt remember that it is just a game and that you are paying for fun.
Notice I don’t say you can’t play this, that, or the other thing. Anything goes. Provided that your deck is mindful of things like your opponents and having a fun and interactive game, you can play that Ugin or Karn. You can go all aggro if you want, but maybe not quite as aggro as the winning deck at the last big tournament. You can do anything you like, but remember that you are playing for fun. Giving some consideration to the other players will help make your experience far more enjoyable for everyone.
Here’s an example of a deck I have built that fits many of these rules and would be an excellent example of a good casual deck:
So, let’s look at the number of commandments I’ve hit on with this list. It’s not just rares (#10), relies mostly on synergy (#9), plays a couple of janky rares (Foul Renewal for sure)(#8), has lots of commons and uncommons (#7), the mana base is a long way from being flashy or perfect (#6), and answers to a range of things (#2). That’s quite the number of goals that I’ve met and I have no doubt that the deck would fare just fine in a match with some friends. I’ve been toying around with this in the play rooms on MTGO and have seen some reasonable success by giving as good as it gets. More importantly, no one is going to look at this deck and just balk. It’s respectable, has a chance to win every time, and is looking to interact and make the game fun for everyone. It’s not a fancy deck, but it showcases many of the ideas I have been trying to illustrate.
Have I missed anything? Is there anything on my list you don’t agree with? Let me know. There are loads of people out there who play casually and I would love to hear what other people do as they sit down to make up their decks. So, leave me a message or fire me a tweet and let know.
Thanks very much for stopping by for a read. Until next time have yourself a great MTG day and I’ll talk to you guys next time!
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter
By Roy Anderson – Sockymans
Hello fellow Looters, its Sockymans here with part two of my experience at Grand Prix San Jose (GPSJ.) If you want to read my account of day one, you can find it here. If you have already read day one or just like to skip ahead, well then you are in the right place and we can begin.
First off, Spoiler Alert! My team and I, The Ainok Bond-Kins, did not make day two of GPSJ. We made it to round seven before losing eligibility to move on. In addition to that, I have a fun side note that was omitted from my day one story. We forgot to drop from round eight and we ended up being paired in the next round. We decided to go to our opponents and let them know they had a free win. Turns out, they were a no show. This technically means that our record was 5-3 and not 4-3. See, you are already being rewarded with an extra story for reading the first article then coming here. Anyway, it is time to move onto day two, after all, that is the reason why you are here.
So, there was no day two of the Grand Prix (GP) to play, what was I to do? The answer: Trading, vendors, and most of all side events. They had drafts, chaos drafts, sealed, as well as many other things I could do. I had a specific event in mind though, I wanted to play in the Super Sunday Series (SSS.) This was a limited sealed event with three packs of Khans of Tarkir (KTK) and three packs of Fate Reforged (FRF.) It was an eight round tournament which would take the whole day, however, the winner gets an invite to Wizards of the Coast for the SSS Championships. I had gotten a recommendation from someone that it was a fun and rewarding tournament so I figured I would try it out.
So we get a pool, register it, pass it, etc… Finally I get my pool. First off, the tournament had a 30 dollar entry fee which was understandable for the high-prize support. No matter what record or prizes I got that tournament, I had one of those rare pools that pay for themselves. Two fetch-lands, Brutal Hordechief, and a Soulfire Grand Master. At the time of the tournament, those cards totaled to about 32 dollars cash trade in. That is when you take a reduced value from the cards.
After analyzing my pool and trying to make a deck with the obviously powerful cards, I settled on a nice Jeskai list. The deck I ran is listed below:
I was very happy overall with this deck. The only problem is I was missing some key prowess creatures that make up a good Jeskai prowess deck. Cards like Jeskai Windscout would have been a good addition to my deck. Instead of functioning like a standard prowess deck, my deck was slightly more “explosive.” I was able to swing games and deal massive amounts of damage in just one turn. Goblin Heelcutter, Jeering Instigator, and Crippling Chill really helped me punch through massive amounts of damage while removing opponent’s blockers when they thought they were safe. The Canyon Lurkers, Weaponmaster Efreet, and Bloodfire Enforcers helped deal massive amounts of damage in one turn. That coupled with some of the game swinging cards I had helped me win a good number of games I would have lost. Even the games I did lose, I only lost by one turn. I had a good sideboard for every match up as well. I had two Treasure Cruises in my pool which really helped against the control matches. Extra removal was also helpful against creatures and aggressive decks. Finally, the midrange matchup can be helped with additional ways to punch through such as Will of the Naga.
My deck did suffer in one major way however. Since it was not traditional, it could not beat certain creature match ups that would curve out with a really nice creature curve. It would always lose by a turn or flood out slightly in land. I feel that I should have run 17 lands instead of the 18. However, I was able to mitigate some of the flood by boarding in Tormenting Voice in some games. This was a good replacement for Treasure Cruise in the faster aggressive match up.
Now if you have read my articles before, I tend to detail my experiences round by round. In the interest of time, and since I already wrote an article this week about day one, I will shorten it a little bit.
I started the tournament with a 1-0 record which left me very hopeful. In order to make top eight in this tournament you pretty much needed a record of X-1 or better and I felt good after my first match. I quickly lost out of top eight contention and was just playing for prizes. What was even worse was my eventual record of 5-3. This put me in 68th place which was just out of prize support. Well isn’t that a fun way to spend an entire day? The decks that I lost to the most were usually an Abzan or Mardu list. Mardu would beat me with superior speed. Abzan would win through well bodied fliers and efficient creatures. These were strategies that my deck was little equipped to deal with. Even against those decks, I still managed to take each one to game three.
Going into the last round, I was sitting exactly in 64th place. This left me with nine packs if I won so I was determined then. If I won, my prize support may have been upgraded as well. Either way, my opponent had the Abzan strategy that I outlined earlier. It was a rather intense set of games. It went to game three and both of us were in top deck mode. I happened to draw just a few too many lands and ended up flooding out. My opponent was a nice guy so I wasn’t too sad about the loss. Also, as I said, my pool paid for itself so I essentially paid for itself.
This event did last slightly shorter than the main event did which gave me a little bit of time to shop at the vendors. At this point is was 7pm on the last day of the GP. Most of the vendors were cleaning up and starting to leave. I didn’t manage to get everything I was hoping for. However, I did get some nice pickups. Azusa, Lost but Seeking was a good last minute pick up. A foil Ajani Goldmane as well as a foil promo Liliana Vess joined my foil planeswalker collection as well. Although I got these the day before, it is also worth noting something I really like seeing at GP vendor’s tables. I love it when they have the 5 foils for a dollar boxes. You can find some great things in those boxes. If you are a fan of foils, you should definitely check them out. Some of the notable things I picked up were: War Priest of Thune, Lumithread Field, and a few foil lands.
Well, thank you for reading my story about GPSJ. I wish anyone who read this could have been there and I highly suggest everyone go to any GP that happens to appear in their neck of the woods. Next week, my article will take a slightly more analytical turn and we will look at the current limited meta-game. Until next week, this is me signing out.
By Roy Anderson
@Sockymans 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.