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
It feels like it has been a long time since I’ve sat down and played much in the way of Magic recently. There are times when playing Magic is largely inconsequential and events in the world around us put things in perspective. For those of you who don’t know I live in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada and our community was recently touched by a tragic act of violence. I won’t recap what happened because you can find all that relevant information online if you’re interested. However, as a result of the events on October 22nd , 2014 we have been trying to put things back to normal and get things back to the way they were. However, when events like what happened in Ottawa take place it makes playing Magic seem very trivial. What really matters is ensuring that your friends and family are all safe and that you value your time with all of them. If you haven’t done so recently, pick up your phone and call your friends and family and just have a chat with them and be sure to tell them how much they mean to you.
From my end, I am teacher. The events of Oct 22nd were extra scary because I was organizing a soccer tournament. We had 300 plus 9 and 10 year olds out playing soccer and had to stop our tournament on account of what happened and find some place safe to go and shelter until we got the signal that things were all clear. It was a very stressful day for all the coaches and students but everyone handled the situation very well. However, as the guy who is organizing the tournament I have spent much of my time since trying to organize a chance to re-play our tournament, on short notice, before the snow flies. Needless to say, I have been busy.
But today I wanted to take some time and go back to Magic, crack a pack, and allow Magic to be the diversion that it is, even if only for a little while. Let’s bust open a pack and see what we’ve got!
So…Siege Rhino? As my rare? Well, that is a snap first pick if I’ve ever seen one. 4/5 for 4 mana? Sweet enter the battlefield trigger? Trample? Hell YEAH ! This wins on every metric I can find. The card is efficiently costed, a huge beater, comes with a sweet upside in terms of an enter the battlefield trigger and is even worth a pretty penny on the secondary market. This is a slam dunk.
Swiftwater Cliffs actually gets my attention because in draft 5 colour Morph decks are a thing. You need all the fixing you can find to pull it off, but the potential power level is through the roof. I’ve watched a number of players draft the 5 colour morph deck and it looks sweet and very potent (and surprisingly reliable). I would be seriously eye-balling this card.
Sultai Scavenger is a pretty nice 3/3 flier. The Delve on this is what makes it very viable because it makes this so much cheaper to play. The single Black mana in the casting cost makes it very splashable, but the real treat is a 3/3 flier. Flying is crazy relevant in this format because fliers are hard to come by and the evasion allows you to bust up a board stall really quickly. This is a super solid common and something that really gets my attention and a solid push to play Black.
Sultai Flayer is still a solid 3/4 for 4 mana and comes with a solid upside. I wrote about this card a couple of weeks back and I’m still a fan. I think it brings enough presence and pressure to the board, has a relevant upside to help your position and is just an efficient creature to slide in your deck. I’m on board.
Scaldkin is another creature that gets my attention, but I’m not really sold on it yet. It’s a little pricey for a flying 2/2, but the flying really helps restore this creature. The fact that it can also be used as a Shock to handle those pesky Morphs is useful and relevant and makes this a nice mid-round pick.
Dragon Grip is kind of spicy, but the issue I have with it is that it doesn’t add any toughness to my creature. Think about it, Hammerhand and Titan’s Strength at least pump your creature a little in the toughness department so that it can rumble a little more effectively than it could before. Inferno Fist, another recent enchantment, allows you to clear the path with a “Shock” and remove something. This simply gets used as a pricey combat trick to pile on the damage, but then leaves your creature no better able to stave off dying because the toughness hasn’t taken a boost (and leaves you open to a 2 for 1 later). Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE me some flash, but I’ll likely take this mid to late round because I’m not big on it.
Shambling Attendants. These guys are everywhere in these packs. They are solid, but unexciting and expensive. I’ve spoken about this in previous weeks…go check them out here on Three Kings Loot to read my thoughts.
Glacial Stalker and Canyon Lurker are both nice Morph cards that I’m likely to prioritize. They can be played in any deck and if you can Morph them back then you get to seriously ambush your opponent and smash face. I’m a fan…and I’m increasingly a fan of the 5 colour Morph deck so I might prioritize these higher than some other cards.
Salt Road Patrol is another nice card that is relatively inexpensive and outlasts nicely. Unexciting and a tad clunky, but if you can get a +1/+1 counter on it you are likely laughing because fighting through a 3/6 (or better) is really tough..
Tusked Colossodon is another curve topper and is a pretty healthy fatty to play. I would put this down near the bottom of my selection pile, but can still be serviceable. I usually figure that for the 7 mana I spend on this guy that I would rather do a number of more impactful things, but if you need a big body, this fella will do nicely.
Alpine Grizzly is another reasonable 4/2 for 3 mana. I’m not excited for it, but I won’t be sad to see this either because it trigger Ferocious…plus 4 power is nothing to sneeze at.
Awaken the bear…umm…no thanks…
So, once again this week, it is really a non-issue. My first pick is quite clearly Siege Rhino because it outclasses everything else in this pack by a fair margin. Efficient and devastating is nice…and the Enter the Battlefield trigger is a nice addition as well. It’s hard to argue with this card and when it sees extensive play in Constructed formats you know it has to be good.
The other cards on this list are other efficient critters or provide useful upside…and Swiftwater Cliffs enables a whole ton of interesting deck options if you go down the 5 colour deck road. One of the interesting pieces I’ve started to see in these decks is that when there are no really good choices for you to draft and you can opt to take a land card, you’ll grab the land. If this becomes an early strategy in Pack 1 you have opened the door for a deck where the upwards power level is extremely high because you can honestly select the most powerful you see at every pick from there on afterwards, making a very reliable strategy. Now, this will likely dry up as more people get on board this and get wise to the ploy, but at this relatively early stage of things it feels like a perfectly viable strategy and route to success.
Well, there we go. We have another pretty diverse Khans pack and a nice new Siege Rhino to rumble with. Sweet! I’ll keep crossing my fingers for a few other sweet treats to come my way, but on the whole this was a nice pack and well worth the time to sit down and have look at it.
Until next week, may you open nothing but Mythic Rares…have a great one ladies and gents!
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters @bgray8791 on Twitter
|Set Name||Khans of Tarkir|
|Block||Set 1 of 3 in the Khans of Tarkir block|
|Number of Cards||269|
|Prerelease Events||September 20-21, 2014|
|Release Date||September 26, 2014|
|Launch Weekend||September 26-28, 2014|
|Game Day||October 18-19, 2014|
|Magic Online Prerelease Events||October 3-6, 2014|
|Magic Online Release Date||October 6, 2014|
|Magic Online Release Events||October 6-22, 2014|
|Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir||October 10–12, 2014|
|Pro Tour Khans of TarkirLocation||Honolulu, Hawaii, USA|
|Pro Tour Khans of TarkirFormats||Swiss:
|Official Three-Letter Code||KTK|
|Initial Concept and Game Design||Mark Rosewater (lead)
Mark L. Gottlieb
and Ken Nagle
|Final Game Design and Development||Erik Lauer (lead)
and Adam Prosak
with contributions from Matt Tabak
|Languages||English, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish|
|Available in||Booster Packs, Intro Packs*, Event Deck*, Fat Pack*
(* – Not available in all languages)
(Magic Online only available in English.)
Khans of Tarkir is going to be a large set—small set—large set block structure (like Innistrad, Dark Ascension, and Avacyn Restored, with a special consideration for Limited and “a time travel element” yet to be revealed.
Tarkir itself is a plane of five warring clans, each worships a different aspect of the plane’s (now extinct) dragons.
Abzan Houses – , Aspect: Endurance, Khan: Anafenza, Symbol: Scales, Theme: Control
Jeskai Way – , Aspect: Cunning, Khan: Narset, Symbol: Eye, Theme: Tricks
Mardu Horde – , Aspect: Speed, Khan: Zurgo Helmsmasher, Symbol: Wings, Theme: Aggro
Sultai Brood – , Aspect: Ruthlessness, Khan: Sidisi, Symbol: Fang, Theme: Resource manipulation
Temur Frontier – , Aspect: Savagery, Khan: Surrak Dragonclaw, Symbol: Claws, Theme: Midrange fatties