by Bruce Gray -Casual Encounters Welcome back to another installment of Crack a Pack with Bruce. In the past few weeks we’ve cracked a pack of Theros and Born of the Gods meaning that today we have a terrific opportunity to complete the cycle and open up a pack of Journey Into Nyx. The interesting thing with the Draft format for the full block of Theros (1 pack of Journey, 1 pack of Born of the Gods, 1 pack of Theros) is that it sort of got cut short in terms of a draft format because everyone was side tracked by the installation of Conspiracy. Full block Theros draft is really the default draft format at the moment as Theros is the current block this year but it is also less drafted than some of the other formats because it has been supplanted by Conspiracy as the preferred draft format of players heading out to the shops. That said, full block Theros draft is very lively and very versatile and well worth a look. Let’s go see what we crack out of this pack!
On the whole, this pack is quite strong. There is no obvious first choice, but there are a number of very strong cards that will get my attention. Based on the quality of the cards there is a very real opportunity for something really solid to wheel around and come back to me, which is also a nice possibility. Let’s examine the cards available to us in this pack. If you’re like me, the first place to start is your rare. This card holds the potential of having the most upside and being extremely powerful and today is no different. Prophetic Flamespeaker is exactly that sort of card…lots of potential power. However, there are some rares that can also be duds just as quickly…and sadly Flamespeaker also falls into that category as well. A 1/3 with double strike and trample for 3 mana AND the ability to gain you card advantage is nothing to sniff at and it makes this cards very appealing. However, here’s the drawback with this card. For 3 mana you are getting a relatively underpowered creature meaning that you absolutely need to upgrade this with an aura or some sort of other effect to really reap the benefit of this creature. If you don’t believe me, think about all the creatures in the THIS PACK that block Flamespeaker and cost 3 mana…Harvestguard Alseids, Returned Reveler, Nyx Weaver…not to mention things like Nessian Courser, Scholar of Athreos, Grim Guardian and the list goes on and on. No, for this card to be good it needs to be augmented by something and THEN you may be able to really gain some advantage. We call this the set up cost of this card and they are relatively high. The other piece is the ability to exile a card and have you play it. This is totally contingent on you having enough mana to cast the spell. Let’s imagine you Flamespeaker on turn 3 because you hit your land drops. Next turn you play your fourth land and cast, for arguments sake because it is this pack, Aspect of Gorgon which costs 3. Now you’ve augmented the Flamespeaker and can swing. Now you can see 1 or 2 cards (based on if your opponent blocked or not) but you only have 1 mana available to cast anything you exile. The chances are pretty slim you’ll be able to pull that trigger this turn…and you lose your cards. I hate losing cards, particularly because I can’t cast them. By turn 5 you may in a position to actually start benefitting from Flamespeaker, but there might have been other things you’d rather do with your mana. Before it sounds like it is all doom and gloom on this guy, the potential power level of this guy is very high. Double Strike and Trample make this very appealing and the card advantage is still card advantage. Also, draft is a place where you can come to table and try out some of the more flashy rare cards in the format and really see how they play. Even with you first pick is a Flamespeaker, you could totally recover if you decide to not play Red, so the real cost to you of picking this card first is lower than people might like to admit. It might be worth the roll of the dice and grabbing this first and seeing where that takes you. Another card that grabs my attention is Golden Hind. A simple 2/1 for 2 mana that ramps you up. This helps you go from 2 mana to 4 mana and that’s a big deal. Also, looking in this pack there are a number of other quality green and black cards that I would be looking at and by taking Golden Hind I would be opening the door to playing a B/G strategy that I like. Nyx Weaver, Spiteful Blow, Market Festival, Aspect of Gorgon, and Returner Reveler would all be cards that would interest me and might wheel. So, I would seriously be looking at taking the Hind and eyeing B/G as an option based on the choices that might come back my way later this round. Magma Spray is just solid, inexpensive removal and the best part is that it exiles the creature robbing them of the graveyard synergy if they want it. This really isn’t a flashy pick but is safe and reliable. Spiteful Blow is another one that would certainly get my attention mostly because of the fact that it does not have a limitation imposed on the removal. It doesn’t limit itself to enchantments, a certain colour, size, or mana cost…it just kills stuff dead. On top of that you get to destroy a land setting your opponent back a turn which is nice additional value. The fact that it cost 6 is less ideal, but in a draft 6 mana removal can be useful, just ask Sip of Hemlock. The last card that gets me excited is Nyx Weaver and really motivates me to go down the B/G graveyard deck. A 2/3 with reach for 3 mana is a solid creature and the ability to fill your yard is huge to give you increased access to your resources. The fact that this can basically regrow you the most powerful card in your graveyard is extremely powerful and can’t be overlooked. The issue with this guy is the Black AND Green in the mana cost meaning you likely need to play both colours in order to be able to play this guy. Other quality playable cards are Pin to the Earth which is a solid removal-type spell for Blue decks to run. Countermand is a pricey 4 mana counter, but in a format with few counterspells this one isn’t bad and it hits the top of their library too. Harvestguard Alseids is a very serviceable 2/3 for 3 mana that can play a role in a Constellation deck. Mortal Obstinacy and Aspect of Gorgon are both reasonable auras although hardly exciting. Market Festival can be a cute ramp spell for a green deck and can really help push the tempo. Towards the end of this pack, Font of Ire is not high on my list. Sure it acts a little like a time delayed Lava Axe but I’m not a huge fan of any of the Fonts and this one is no exception. Returned Reveler is a useful body at 1/3 for 2 mana, but the symmetrical mill effect is not my style. Lastly, Solidarity of Heroes is basically an unplayable card. In order to reap any benefit off of the spell you need to spend so much time and energy that it hardly makes sense. No, it would likely be something picked right at the very end, if not forced on someone.
There would seriously be 3 cards that I would weigh very carefully. The Flamespeaker is a little underpowered in terms of raw stats but could have some super explosive abilities with some augmentation. The potential upside for this card is extremely appealing and would be tempting to say the least. The fact that there are so many creatures that block it readily is an issue, but not dire. Golden Hind is just simply a terrific creature to ramp up with. Acceleration in any format is key and often determines who wins by helping you to get a turn or two ahead of your opponent. Think about it, if you’re playing 6 drops and they’re playing 4 drops, who’s coming out ahead most of the time? You are…I assure you. Lastly, Magma Spray would get a look because cheap removal is always at a premium. In the end I would select Golden Hind. The ramp ability is a sure thing, unlike with Flamespeaker where I need to work to set up the benefit from the Exiling ability, and there are a number of other cards, namely Nyx Weaver, that might wheel if I start in Green and leave myself open to being G/B. I would be also very conscious that to my left is now someone who will be playing Red because I’m sending along a Flamespeaker and a Magma Spray and both are potential first pickable cards. It feels weird admitting that I’d take the common over the mythic in this pack, but I’d rather have the less powerful card that is a sure thing than the flashy card that could prove to be a dud if I can’t connect. Well, there we have it for another week. What would you have done? Would you have gone with the Flamespeaker? The Magma Spray? Something else all together? I’d love to hear what you think, so shoot me a tweet and let me know what you would do. Thanks for reading and until next time…keep it fun, keep it safe…keep it casual.by Bruce Gray @bgray8791
So, I got my first up close and personal look at full Theros Block Draft and I have to say I enjoyed the experience. The format has good flexibility and variance making for a wide variety of decks and lots of interesting choices. Today I’ll share some of my thoughts on the format and recap my draft…hopefully some of you don’t make the same mistakes that I made.
First off, I ended up playing Junk (G/W/B) which is pretty unusual for a draft deck. Most players would opt to play 2 colours and perhaps splash a third colour, but I ended up playing a full suite of all three colours. In the Journey into Nyx pack I was looking through and had a rare of Revel of the Fallen God…which is a funny card but it is ambitious to cast and tough to get in to because it is 2 colours to cast. However, in the same pack there was a Banishing Light. Banishing Light is premium removal in White in both Standard and Limited, so this was an easy pick and set me up to go into white.
My second pick had a variety of interesting cards but the Golden Hind looked like an easy second pick and had me going into White and Green. Normally this is a colour combination that I’m very comfortable with and really felt at ease with being set up in those 2 colours. With a pick 3 Ravenous Leucrocota I was well on my way to W/G beat down deck I would be expecting myself to play. However pick four is where things got off the rails.
Pick 4 had me looking at a pack that had no green cards of any sort and poor white cards, so it would appear as if I was being cut off from my colours (or is was a lousy pack) but I was looking at a Brain Maggot. Now, I thought to myself, Brain Maggot is a pretty solid card…and with both of my other colours seemingly closed off, Black might be an option. So, Brain Maggot was the pick, opening the door a crack to play Black.
Pick 5 was another Ravenous Leucrocota and I was back on W/G. However, again, pick 6 I was out of luck in either of my colours, but looking at a pack with a Spiteful Blow. Normally I don’t get excited for 6 mana removal spells, but in a draft where removal is a tad tough to come by, the fact that this destroys a creature AND a land made it easily the best pick…and at pick 6 was a pretty good sign Black was open. So, Spiteful Blow and my thought process was very seriously to play either W/B or G/B and abandon the W/G deck idea.
Well, Born of the Gods opened up and my first pack had Tromokratis which was far from ideal as I hadn’t picked a single Blue Card yet. However, Bile Blight was looking at me and I made sure to grab it. Passed my pack…and picked up the next one…which also had a Bile Blight! Ok, so now I was very seriously playing Black…I had perhaps two of the best removal spells back to back and to not play them would be foolhardy. With the next couple of picks I grabbed a couple of green creatures like Nyxborn Wolf, Phere-Band Tromper, and Swordwise Centaur and was really and truly looking to play G/B.
Well the plan totally changed again with Theros when I got passed a pack early in the round and was looking at Scholar of Athreos and a bunch of White, Blue, and Red cards…and nothing in my other two colours. I wondered if I was being cut off again because someone down the table had decided to jump colours too! I was unimpressed. Scholar is an awesome card in a B/W deck…but I committed to playing G/B…unless I was prepared to play all three colours or basically toss this pick. I grabbed the Scholar. I was rewarded with a second one in the next pack too. Oh boy. Now I was in a pickle. So, more or less I spent the rest of the Theros round grabbing utility creatures in White like Leonin Snarecaster, Hopeful Eidolon and an Ordeal of Heliod. I also lucked in to a Sip of Hemlock but most of the rest was just filler and not very good.
So, here’s my Draft deck
Now, my first thoughts when I finished building this deck from my picks was ” wow…am I GREEDY! ” Almost every draft deck I have ever seen built, that is any good, is two colours and MAYBE splashes a third. I was full on running three colours…and had virtually no mana fixing. On top of that, I pushed the envelope and played 24 spells and 16 land instead of the more traditional 23 and 17. I was clearly pushing my luck. I kept telling myself I had plenty of removal…all I had to do was hold down the board long enough to get to 4 land (and have all three colours) and I was golden because my highest casting cost on a creature was 4.
Well, I went 2-1…which is normally a pretty decent record…but that one loss left me somewhat frustrated because I played my way to that loss more than I got beat by my opponent. We went the full three games and he won game 1, I won game 2, and then he took game 3…but it was the loss in game 1 that left me bummed. The exchange that left turned the game in his favour was one where I attacked with a Ravenous Leucrocota into his 2 creatures that combined had enough power to kill Ravenous Leucrocota. I didn’t expect him to team block, but he did. But all was not lost…I had Bile Blight in my hand and 2 open black mana. However, I got greedy…again. I opted not to pull the trigger on the Bile Blight on one of his creatures (voyaging Satyr I think) in favour of trying to get a better target with it later. So, my leucrocota died, so did his Satyr…and that left him with a creature and me with an open board. Next turn he Bestowed Nylea’s Emissary on his dude and the beat down was on. That HUGE misplay cost me the game and a chance to go 3-0. I’m not going to say I would have won for sure, but my odds would have been at least even if not better…but instead I had to swallow a loss due to some poor play. All in all, it was a pretty successful draft and had a blast and can hardly wait for my next one to try and rectify those playing mistakes.
Other Ramdom Thoughts:
Ravenous Leucrocota- In my review of Journey Into Nyx I reviewed Ravenous Leucrocota favourably and compared it to Nessian Asp, a bomb in triple Theros draft. Well, Ravenous Leucrocota might be better than the Asp. The difference is the Vigilance. Once this thing goes Monstrous and is 5/7 it is house! It can attack and defend, and if you can Bestow it with anything it is HUGE and really hard to manage.
Brain Maggot grossly over performed for me. The ability to strip your opponent of a key card early in the game is extremely valuable and if that allows you to get out in front and force them to expend resources on other things, well, you are in luck. I have to admit, I also under rated this card in my review.
Leonin Snarecaster and Deathbringer Lampads both played similar roles in the deck, namely provide a form of evasion for some of my bigger creatures to exploit. The snarecaster would tap down pesky blockers and the Lampads just let something sneak in for extra damage and allow me to get into the red zone. These were both surprisingly useful. Especially the Lampads. I was skeptical at first but I have changed my tune.
Consign to dust vs. Fade into Antiquity. I had the option of running either one of these and opted for the Consign to Dust. I liked the option of the Strive mechanic despite the fact that I feel that it, in most situations isn’t all that relevant. Fade can be excellent with the exile ability instead of Destroy, but unless you are facing down a god, the ability to hit multiple targets is key.
Normally I really like Blue, but I really got the sense from the packs going around the table that Blue is pretty weak in this format. Unless no one else is drafting Blue you are usually scrambling to find playable cards. Most of the players who were drafting Blue in my pod really struggled and couldn’t dig up enough answers to stay in the game for long. The one exception was the guy in G/U because he was able to back his blue up with the Green muscle he needed.
As much as I hate 6 mana removal, I had never been so happy to see that 6th land show up and then be able to cast Sip of Hemlock. That Hemlock never tasted so good and putting the final nail in the coffin of your opponent.
White Cheddar popcorn is outstandingly tasty. Every time I have it I am surprised at how good it is. Why don’t I ever pick any of this stuff up on my own?
Well, that’s all I’ve got for today. If you have thoughts or experiences you want to share about your Drafting JBT, go ahead, let me know. I’d love to hear about them. Fire me a Tweet and tell me your tale or share your wisdom.
Thanks for reading and until next time Keep it fun, Keep it safe…Keep it casual.
They started spoiling commons, which are really going to tell us how the rest of the set will play, so let’s take a peak.
Desperate Stand- The aggressive R/W Heroic decks in draft are going to gobble this one up. For a white and red you get an instant with Strive that says any number of target creatures get +2/+0, first strike, and Vigilance until end of turn. You may pay 1 red and 1 white for each additional target beyond the first. This could be a massive combat trick to enable a massive blowout, trigger a whole load of Heroic triggers, and then just make combat a nightmare. +2/+0, vigilance AND first strike is very powerful. I like the card and can’t wait to try it out for myself.
Disciple of Deceit- Here’s something pretty neat. For 2 mana (a blue and a black) you get a 1/3 gold creature with Inspired that says whenever Disciple untaps you may discard a card, you may then search your library for a card with the same converted mana cost, reveal it, and put it in your hand. I think this ability is deceptively powerful to allow to discard cards you no longer need or want and dig up the stuff you want. I’m still not sold on the Inspired trigger because it feels like a lot of work in order to reap the benefit, but maybe it could finally prove to pay off with this card.
Font Cycle- There are 5 fonts that were spoiled, one for each colour. The one that will get the most attention is Font of Fertility which will prove to be similar in net effect as Farseek was. It is a one mana enchantment and pay 1 green and 1 colourless and sacrifice it to search your library for a basic land and put into play, tapped. This is exactly the sort of mana ramp and acceleration decks have been looking for since Farseek rotated out. Yes, the net cost is three mana by the time you sacrifice it, but I bet there will be decks that would love nothing more than to play this on turn 1 and search for land later. If nothing else, limited players will love this for fixing, and I can even see EDH players putting this to use to fetch basic lands. All in all, this is a very good card at the common slot. The other ones are all interesting and the Blue one catches my eye as well, but the green Font will certainly get the attention of everyone.
Godhunter Octopus- a 6 mana 5/5 limited star. He’ll block for days, and with all the enchantments in play, his drawback should be fairly negligible. That’s all this guy does, but some cards are built solely for limited. This is a fine card that fits in nicely with the rest of the set.
Golden Hind- Well HELLO more mana ramp. If you are in Green you are getting all sorts of ramp abilities across this block and the Hind just adds to it. This is a 2 mana 2/1 that taps to add 1 green mana to your mana pool. He’s quiet, unassuming, makes you mana to ramp out bigger creatures, and in a pinch can take down a “bear” if you need him to play some D. This is another solid card.
Harness by Force- Mass threaten effect? Wow…add in Battlefield Thaumaturge and this could be broken…HARD. I can’t imagine this making an appearance at Standard, but this could be a fun addition to a draft deck. I don’t think it’s quite first pick-able, but he will likely be relatively early in the pack.