Welcome back to another week of Crack a Pack MTG with Bruce. We’re going to take a little break from some M15 for a while, mostly because as cool as the set is, it is also a very tricky draft format because there are a very high number of picks where it is tough to decide what is best. It just isn’t a clear cut slam dunk. There are so many interchangeable cards and cards that seem to be reasonable (but not amazing) in M15 that picking cards and ordering selections is very difficult. So, this week I thought I’d go back to Journey Into Nyx…but don’t worry, I’ll be back on M15 for next week, that’s a guarantee.
There’s no point beating around the bush…let’s get down to business and see what we’ve got.
Ok, once again this week we have opened up another premium Mythic Rare in our pack. Pharika is pretty solid god who got a bit of bad reputation. She’s a house at 5/5 for 3 mana if you can get her online…so if you want to take her you had better be ready to go Black and Green. Her activated ability is also pretty useful if you can score a few Constellation cards in your draft. She also accesses your graveyard to make 1/1 death touching snake tokens which can warp combat and trade up to take out much larger creatures. Add in the feature that she’s worth a couple of dollars and you have the makings of a very fine first pick. In some formats I would be shy to grab a Gold card as my first pick, but considering the relative power level of the card and the fact that the B/G deck is actually very good, I’d be prepared to grab her and see what I can manage when it comes to finding playable cards to support Pharika. She’s not quite a windmill slam first pick, but she is very solid and clearly gets out in front as the early favorite.
Believe it or not, the next card to grab my attention is Sigiled Starfish. This innocuous little 0/3 is super useful. For starters, it blocks “Bears” for days, but the real asset is the Scry 1 ability when you tap it. This allows for SO much card filtering in your deck that it is a little absurd. This improved card selection may not give you true card advantage, but the improved quality of what you will be drawing will make a huge difference and put you in the driver’s seat.
The next card that grabs my attention is Bladetusk Boar. This solid creature comes with evasion in the form of intimidate and just does work. A 3/2 for 4 mana isn’t super efficient, but the fact that it almost assuredly speeds up the clock on your opponent means that it needs to get answered soon. Also, Red is very strong in this format, so grabbing the Boar and then forcing Red a little doesn’t feel like a bad idea.
Gold-Forged Sentinel is another interesting card. A 4/4 flier for 6 mana, but seeing as it is an artifact it can fit in any deck. I like the 4/4 flier. I like that it is an artifact and can deal with creatures with Intimidate. This is a very reasonable choice and a solid body that can get rough and tumble when you need it. Normally artifacts aren’t a high priority for me, but this one is a very serviceable body and can fit anywhere.
Sigiled Skink also gets my attention because a 2/1 for 2 mana is very crucial in this very fast draft format. The fact that it allows you to scry 1 whenever it attacks can also set up some very good card filtering and really help your cause avoid drawing into dead cards. I like this little guy, but he is a little limited due to his 1 toughness.
Colossal Heroics is a useful combat trick to untap a blocker and pump it…and the Strive ability can help you to set up a situation where you could conceivably blow your opponent out with surprise blockers. It takes a fair degree of set up, so go sparingly with this card, but it does make a useful addition to a deck and is a long way from being unplayable.
Spiteful Blow always gets my attention. Yes, it is still 6 mana removal…that hasn’t changed from a couple of weeks back when I looked a pack of Journey Into Nyx…but it does kill a creature, set your opponent back a turn with respect to their land, and is a nice insurance policy. I’ll look at it because removal at almost any price will get consideration, but it’s not super flashy.
Akroan Mastiff is a very solid tempo type creature for white. The ability to tap down a creature is very relevant and makes this a strong utility creature. The body is a little fragile, so it is unlikely to be going into combat too frequently, but I won’t give up on it.
Nyx Infusion is a versatile aura that can act as a form of quasi removal or as a pump spell. The options presented here makes this a very valuable little addition to deal with creatures of all sorts. Look in this pack alone at all the things this card kills. Sigiled Skink, Akroan Mastiff and Bladetusk Boar and it turns the Gold-Forged Sentinel into a Wind Drake. No, this is useful in either mode, but mostly as a form of conditional removal.
Godhunter Octopus. I don’t much care for this card. Sure, a 5/5 for 6 mana is pretty useful at the top end of the curve, but the condition placed on this creature in order for it to attack really makes me nervous. There are lots of other very good 6 drop creatures in this format and I would be none too thrilled to have this at the top of my curve unless I was well and truly stuck.
Mortal Obstinacy, Cruel Feeding, and Nature’s Panopoly. I lump all of these in together, not because they do the same thing, but because they are all marginal cards that you could play if you wanted to try and benefit from some Heroic triggers. Otherwise, they are all kind of Blah and could be played as a 23 card, but you aren’t going to fist pump like a champ because you grabbed any of them. Your deck would also largely be fine if they didn’t make the deck in favor of some other card too.
Desecration Plague is the last card in this pack and is probably the most unplayable card in the pack. Destroying a land is fine and all, but truthfully speaking, you would rather be doing something else with your mana. Sure, the Kitchen Table “Land Destruction deck” will love this card, but in a draft, if you would like to do well, you avoid this and hope it gets forced on someone. It just does not do enough to impact the board state and leaves you stranded looking at a dead card in hand.
Once again this week, there is almost no doubt about what gets drafted first. Pharika, God of Affliction is just too powerful to ignore, and so you’ll grab her and try and force Black and Green a little. There are a few other cards in this pack in both Black and Green that might work their way back to, so I won’t feel bad. However, I have left Red and two very strong Red creatures (the Boar and the Skink) available meaning that there will almost assuredly be someone in Red nearby. All in all, I feel pretty good about my pick and comfortable with the direction I would be taking and ready to see what came next.
So, there we have it…another week, another pack, and pretty sweet Mythic Rare in the form of Pharika. What would have picked first? Pharika? The Starfish? Something else? I could see someone making a pretty good case with this pack as there were actually some other choices that could have made sense in another strategy, but I feel pretty safe in taking the Pharika and trying to build the B/G agro deck.
Thanks very much and until next time, may you open nothing but bomb Mythic rares.
by Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters @bgray8791