Tag: khans-of-tarkir

Bruce Gray - December 7, 2016

Adding Commander 2016 to Your Commander Decks


I have recently been switched on to Commander and have relished the opportunity to brew and build again in a format that I am relatively inexperienced in.  The goal I set before myself was to build a three-coloured Commander deck for each of the five Khans from Fate Reforged.  The basic premise being that they were fairly readily accessible and seemed to have useful abilities that could be utilized in a Commander game given the right circumstances.  Also, the hybrid mana activation costs seemed very unique and something that I wanted to try and use to the best of my abilities. 

Well, I have completed all 5 decks (for now) but am always on the look for new and fun additions in new sets and products.  The great news is that we have had a huge influx of Commander cards get released with Commander 2016 and my brain is humming thinking of some of the additions that could be made to each of the decks.  Today I’m going to highlight a few of the cards that I’m really excited for that come out of the new Commander 2016 sets and where I might see them fitting.


Commander: Daghatar the Adamant

My Daghatar deck plays more or less like the greatest hits of Abzan from Khans of Tarkir block and is capable of doing some really heavy, creature-based attacks.  The strategy is not flaw-proof in a multi-player game, but it is really true to me as a player because there is very little that I like to do more than playing efficient Green fatties and crunching my opponent. Daghatar can allow for a repeatable source of +1/+1 counters to move around, which is fairly minor, but could prove to be highly annoying and generally make combat a bit of nuisance.  

There are a number of sweet additions that could be used to bolster the deck from the new Commander decks, but my eyes lit up when I saw Ravos, Soultender.  My Abzan deck largely lacks recursion and this little addition is recursion on a stick and the deck is packed with amazing targets from Sidisi, Undead Vizier, Siege Rhino, Den Protector, Wispweaver Angel, or Green Warden of Murasa.  We will look at Ravos again in a little bit, but needless to say he would make an excellent addition.

Another card that really grabbed my attention was Reyhan, Last of the Abzan  because in theory the Abzan want to make use of +1/+1 counters and Reyhan allows you yet another way to get maximum use out of the counters you do get into play.  Playing Reyhan and Daghatar in conjunction with one another seems like a dead obvious synergy and one that I am intrigued to try and to see if it is truly as good as I think it is.

Simply because I like to do silly things Cruel Entertainment struck my fancy but is likely not good enough to warrant a deck slot.  Sylvan Reclamation seems to be a very solid spell to allow you to deal with enchantments and artifacts, but the versatility offered in the early game to Basic Landcycle is appreciated. Lastly, Mana Gorger Hydra isn’t exclusively from Commander 2016 but is just a card that can get out of control so quickly that it is well worth adding.


Commander: Yasova Dragonclaw

This deck wants to make combat miserable by stealing my opponents creatures and then smashing them over the head with their own things.  There is also a slight value engine in the form of Temur Sabertooth and a Species Gorger that allows me to replay my value creatures.  There isn’t much that this deck wants from Commander this year because most of the decks are premised on playing along a totally different axis, but Evolutionary Escalation seems intriguing as a way to boost the power of Yasova and allow her to steal virtually anything on the table. Bloodbraid Elf  and Etherium-Horn Sorcerer seem like good choices, but primarily for the Cascade ability. Otherwise the options here are a little limiting.


Commander: Alesha, who Smiles at Death

This is perhaps my most fun deck because the synergy here is pretty clear.  Alesha rewards you for playing creatures with power 2 or less, so any interesting creatures in any of the combinations provided by Alesha make for an intriguing addition.  

By FAR the most interesting addition is Ravos, Soultender because Ravos also allows you to recur all sorts of ridiculous things.  All Alesha wants to do is to get back her soldiers from the yard and Ravos plays right along making them pretty much best friends.

Tymna, the Weaver is another extremely interesting option because it allows you to go out and draw cards for having attacked and dealt damage, both things Alesha is really encouraging you to do already.  

Vial Smasher the Fierce is another interesting target, but the fact the damage she deals is assigned randomly is less interesting and often serves more as a detriment.  I want to control where the damage goes, meaning Vial Smasher is further down my list despite the fact that the creature has an interesting ability.

Grave Upheaval is very intriguing because an Alesha deck is relying on the fact that many of the creatures are smaller but have powerful synergy linked to their ability to be recurred.  However, Grave Upheaval allows you to go and reanimate  something from your opponent’s graveyard giving it plenty of versatility. Who knows what treats your opponents have hidden in their Graveyards?

There are plenty of interesting options in these colours and it really comes down to how you want to play Alesha and what sort of ETB effects you are looking to recur.


Commander: Sidisi, Brood Tyrant

Ok, yes, Sidisi is from Khans, not Fate Reforged, but I was having a hard time tracking down a Tasigur so I opted for the more inexpensive Sidisi as a way to get access to my three colours.  Of all the decks that I have this one is the one most interested in ramping because of things like Villainous Wealth that I want to cast for big value multiple times.  To that end, Collective Voyage is exactly the sort of spell I want to hit early in the game and see if we can’t get it to do something kind of nutty.  When I tried it out with my playgroup in a 6 person Commander game Collective Voyage landed us 17 basic land cards apiece meaning that I could untap and make good use of Villainous Wealth to devastating effect.  

Another strong addition is Swan Song because inexpensive counters that have such a minor drawback are well worth their weight in cardboard.

Keening Stone is something that grabbed my attention too because it serves a very versatile purpose in a deck intent on self milling.  The first and obvious approach is to mill yourself and a single activation could very well yield you all the graveyard fodder you would ever need.  However, the fact that after you have milled yourself you can then turn and mill your opponents and eat a huge chunk of their library is extremely appealing. The way I see it, most decks are very effective at removing creatures and threats that damage their life total.  However, many decks have a harder time dealing with something that attacks them on a totally different axis…namely milling.  Keening Stone could be a very potent win condition to mill out your opponents and be very difficult to address making it a great addition.


Commander: Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest

This is the least tested of my decks, but the intent is to have it play kind of like a combo deck.  The plan is to use the Prowess triggers on Shu Yun to make him explosive and then give him double strike to try and deal lethal in a single attack. With a deck packed full of instants and sorceries, I’m not really looking for more creatures, but rather some interesting spells to complement the game plan.

The obvious first one that jumped out at me was Order//Chaos because it gives Shu Yun the evasion needed to get in for a strike, and allows him to turn on his Double Strike for maximum damage.  Add in the fact that it is a versatile card due to its split nature and you have the making of a really solid addition to the deck.

Conqueror’s Flail is another very interesting addition because it too can make Shu Yun into a one-hit wrecking ball.  For a mere 2 mana and then 2 more to equip I am getting +3/+3 ? The turn you cast this Shu Yun becomes a 7/6 creature, and then gets double strike.  Add in Order//Chaos and you almost have a kill in a single turn.  If you have any burn that goes to the face or any other way to pump Shu Yun you could be walking away with an easy kill.

The final piece is that these colours have a hard time ramping to any degree because of the fact that they don’t play Green, but yet still need to play more expensive threats or have mana open for non-creature spells.  Commander’s Sphere is a very reasonable mana rock that you can sacrifice to draw a card making it extremely useful in the late game if somewhat innocuous.

I know that with the new Commander decks just coming out that it seems strange to be taking them apart for pieces to use elsewhere, but when there are so many tantalizing pieces and plenty of interesting things to do and change up, these actually all seem like useful and relevant things to do.  What things have caught your eye to make use of in other that you have built?  Let me know in the comments down below or find me on Twitter at @bgray8791.  Thanks very much for stopping by and as always, be sure to stop by next time for another Casual Encounter.

Bruce Gray


Roy Anderson - April 4, 2016

What SOI Standard Might Look Like

Warp World medium
SOI’s Effect on Standard

Hello fellow Looters! We are in the midst of the final week before Shadows Over Innistrad (SOI) releases. The pre-release was this past weekend, and I hope you all had fun playing with the new cards! So with SOI so close, I figured it is time to talk about Standard. There are going to be a lot of changes from this last season and this is one of the benefits, (or detriments, depending on who you ask,) of the Standard Format. Obviously, we won’t know until the cards hit the table (hopefully in sleeves…) but hopefully this will get you thinking about the format.


General Format Changes?

The biggest way we will see standard change during this rotation is the power reduction of available mana. Now, we are not losing the ability to play multiple colors as there are still plenty of lands in the format (Pain Lands, Battle Lands, Man Lands, The new SOI land cycle, etc.). Let me put it in perspective, though. Currently, with fetch lands and battle lands, it is possible to use one fetch to get one of any four colors and even untapped a good portion of the time. This allowed four color decks like Abzan Blue, Mardu Green, Four Color Rally, and every other deck with an uncreative name to run rampant. To put it in the words of Patrick Chapin, “You don’t have to ask yourself if you can afford to play this card, you have to ask yourself, why not?” Why not splash Jace or Siege Rhino? With the loss of the fetch lands, we are now losing the ability to have such a streamlined mana base. In addition, tri-lands and gain-a-life duels are out the door as well. It is still very possible to run that many colors but you run a heavier risk of stumbling and your deck will be a lot slower with more lands entering tapped. I fully expect to see many more two to three color decks during this standard format, which will be a welcomed change for me.

KHHAAAAN!’s of Tarkir is parting ways with standard and ushering in the slow climb of fetches until Wizards decides to reprint them. It is taking its buddy Fate Reforged with it and, between the two of them, that is a lot of cards (454 to be exact). The most notable cards we are losing from standard, aside from fetch lands, are the hyper-efficient three-color cards. This includes things like Siege Rhino, Mantis Rider, Abzan Charm, Crackling Doom, Big Knucks, and a bunch of other cards loved by these four-color decks. There was nothing stopping decks from jamming these cards for almost no additional effort and it really crushed the playability of some otherwise great cards. Mana is supposed to be a restriction and I am glad we are returning to a world where more tough deck-building choices need to be made.

Oh yeah and I guess Ugin is leaving too… Maybe he wasn’t too happy with Jace over that whole Eldrazi thing?


What decks are we losing?

Abzan Aggro – Will Abzan completely disappear? Probably not, but with the loss of Khan’s of Tarkir, they are losing a lot of the cards that make the deck super powerful. Warden of the First Tree, Siege Rhino, Anafenza, and Abzan Charm are all rotation which leaves the wedge less supported.

Rally – When a deck loses its namesake, it is usually not going to survive rotation. That being said, most of the other pieces remain short of Grim Haruspex. Depending on what graveyard synergy we see, from Eldritch Moon and with Collected Company still in the format, we could see an efficient creature combo deck remain strong. Plus we still have to deal with Reflector Mage

Hardened Scales – Same goes with this namesake card. Khans also housed a good number of counter’s matters cards which will squish counter strategies until they are better supported. Counters will go from being a combo to just being… regular I guess. There are still plenty of powerful counter strategies that could make their way into standard.

Most 4/5 Color Decks – They won’t be impossible to build but we definitely will not see as many of them moving forward. That being said, I could probably 100% see a 4 color super friends deck or something similar being in the format.


What decks could we see?

Tribal (Vampire, Werewolves, and Zombies Oh My!) – There are so many awesome tribal cards that we are seeing from this set. I would not be surprised at all to see Zombies, Spirits, or Werewolves become a playable Standard deck. This being said, I don’t see any of them being top tier. The simple fact is, you limit yourself when building around a specific tribe which at times can cost you a slot that would have gone to a slightly better creature. This won’t stop people from building tribal decks as they are some of the most fun decks to play and they are really well-supported this time around! I could fully believe a Humans, Vampire, or Werewolf deck taking down a GP at least once as well. Eldritch Moon should make this category even strong as it will add cards without causing a rotation.

Reanimator – This was a deck that saw a lot of play in the original Innistrad Standard environment and was very powerful. Ever After and  Necromantic Summons are two very powerful spells that bring things straight from the graveyard to the battlefield. I think we need to figure out some better targets as currently most of the powerful effects trigger on casting the creature rather than entering the battlefield. That being said, I am all for another Reanimator deck, (assuming there is hate for it in the format, of course).

Artifact – Color me crazy, but this archetype is something to investigate. Origins is host to all sorts of Artifacts with a high power level. Cards like Thopter Spy Network could take over an entire game and with the introduction of Clues, I think there could be something here. There are not too many constructed playable clue producers, however, in my head I have delusions of tapping six Clues with Ghirapur Aether Grid to have a repeatable  Lightning Bolt. You never quite lose that ecstatic brewer in the back of your head. We also still have creatures like Hangarback Walker and all of the various thopter producers as well.



I think the format is going through a well needed change. Normally when a new block rotates in, it has a theme and it is supposed to have hate cards that weakens previous strategies to allow new cards to shine. Battle for Zendikar fell short as it failed to bring much to the table and did little to break the hold that Khan’s of Tarkir had over the format. There was little punishment for player playing tons of colors. Aggro was in too weak a spot as removal was everywhere. Now that Khans is rotating, I am not sure how Standard will look but I am a big fan of keeping things new and exciting which is why I love the Standard format.


Roy Anderson
@Sockymans on Twitter

Bruce Gray - February 25, 2015

Visiting with Vorthos: Dragons of Tarkir

Dromoka, the Eterna- Dragons of Tarkir

Visiting with Vorthos: Dragons of Tarkir

By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters

We witnessed how the Abzan submitted to Dromoka and her brood and accepted fealty to the giant dragon.  That’s a mighty tough pill to swallow, but given the fact that the dragons appear to be growing in size and strength, you can see the logic behind this.  However, once one Legendary Dragons gets a host of followers, it only stands to reason that the others want the same. I hear Dragons can get a tad jealous. So, you get the scenes that unfolded in this week’s Uncharted Realms and the assaults on the ancient Khans of Tarkir.

This is an interesting development and slightly unique to this sort of fantasy writing.  There are LOTS of fantasy novels that have worlds where dragons and humans co-exist, but those universes usually make it such that the humans are the dominant power.  In some the dragons are sub-servient beasts that carry knights like steeds.  In others, the Dragons have gone into hiding and hoard treasure while avoiding contact with humans.  However, in the world of Tarkir the humans are NOT the dominant power.  They are prey, the play thing, the sub-servient being to the dragons.  That is a new twist and that’s going to likely impact the sort of cards we see in the final story of this Block.

What interests me about this is how the humans are going to fit into this new arrangement.  It will be unlike anything we have seen in terms of story, but that should hardly be a surprise at this point.  We have already seen that many of the Dragons on Tarkir exhibit a much different series of traits than what is considered to be the “norm” for this genre.  Dragons are often seen as being simple, but vicious primitive forces.   On occasion they exhibit intelligence and cunning, but usually to serve their own greater good.  On Tarkir the dragons of each brood have their own “social order” of sorts and live within those norms…and potentially meaning the humans have no place in that social order.  IF they have a place, will it be as an equals to the dragons?  Doubtful.  Humans are FAR more fragile than the enormously powerful dragons so it is hard to conceive of them being equals.  Slaves?  Far more likely. But as slaves, what exactly does that mean?

I’m not prepared to speculate on the various social orders fostered by each of the broods, but it will likely give each dragon/clan alliance the chance to renew hostilities against each other because of the lack of a “common” enemy that they previously shared: the humans.  It will mean that there will be some pretty exciting Dragon on Dragon crime and some very obviously pushed powerful effects coming up.  It will also mean a larger number of dragons that are going to appear in the set going forward.

A few words on Sarkhan and “the Timeline”.  I have heard people critique the fact that Sarkhan has effectively altered the timeline, no longer triggering his own spark, and potentially having a cascading effect beyond the plane on Tarkir.  I would love to start back tracking through the story and play the “what if” game at each juncture where Sarkhan has played a major role in the events of the Multiverse, but that doesn’t feel productive.  It feels like a fun activity, but ultimately the number of parallel planes and timelines that may be created as a result of these changes is pretty immense.   I feel like the easiest explanation is likely to be that some alternate planeswalker we haven’t met yet will follow in the footsteps of Sarkhan Vol to maintain the basic structure of the multiverse.  From a writing perspective, it is the easiest solution if not the most elegant.  All of us who read and enjoy the weekly articles will be decidedly disappointed because it feels like a bit of a cop out.  However, from the standpoint of having to totally backtrack and revisit a number of planes this is perhaps the easiest mechanism.  However, IF you wanted to go back to all those planes (because they were awesome!) this would present the ideal opportunity to go back and revisit the altered timeline.

Lastly, the death of Elspeth and the removal of Sarkhan from the Planeswalker batting line up is starting to take its toll.  Don’t forget, Garruk has gone nuts, Elspeth and Venser are dead, and now Sarkhan just doesn’t exist (at least in theory).  Sure, we got Ashiok, Kiora, Ugin and even Xenagos, but the death/removal of some of the more established walkers hurts a little bit.  They are kind of like old friends that you can turn to and latch on to…or awesome spells to cast in the middle of the game to push you over the top. Regardless of how you look at them they are powerful characters in the stories of Magic and losing them stings.  It might be nice for a change to NOT have a tragic demise to all our favorite walkers…a story with a happy ending usually sells pretty well too.

Thanks for reading…and I hope you have an awesome MTG day.

By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters

@bgray8791 on Twitter

Bruce Gray - February 8, 2015

Alesha Who Smiles at Death

Alesha Who Smiles at Death

Visiting with Vorthos: Alesha Who Smiles at Death

One of the interesting things that is emerging with Fate Reforged is the differences between the various clans of the older version of Tarkir as compared to what we currently know and understand about the Clans. One of the most telling pieces is the work posted this week here.

In the current world of Tarkir that we have grown to know and love their khan, Zurgo Helmsmasher, has made the Mardu into a anarchic clan predicated on surviving on the spoils of war.  This hardly seems like a noble cause and in my mind really creates some heavy tension between the White and the R/B color identities of the clan. However, we see that the Mardu under Alesha were far different.

Under Alesha, Who Smiles at Death the Mardu were still fierce warriors and most certainly reveled in the thrill of battle, but you can see very clearly that there is more order, but also that she values the honor and strength shown by the Orc with whom she has an exchange regarding his identity.  He claims that he is not worthy of a name because he has chosen to save and protect his brethren, rather than to kill.  However, you see very clearly that Alesha approves and supports such an approach while you can clearly imagine Zurgo scoffing at this as being nothing more than a weakness.  This difference in the attitudes of the two Khans is very telling and suggests than the Mardu have undergone a significant change in the 1000 years since the events of Fate Reforged.

One reason for such a change is the lack of a common threat in current day Tarkir, like that presented by the dragons on Tarkir, that helped the Mardu to coalesce into a unified group. Without that common threat and the ever present danger that they could be destroyed, the Mardu seem to have become far more chaotic and disjointed. However, I think there is something to be said for the leadership of Alesha, who prides Honour more than some of the other attributes of the Mardu. That sort of approach creates more respect rather than the outright fear that Zurgo fosters.  The differences are telling and quite interesting between the two Khans.

The other thing that is interesting about this article and the background on Alesha is the pretty well documented issue of identity.  Not only the issue of identity of knowing where you fit in a group or clan, but that of what is your identity to yourself.  A big deal will be made of the fact that Alesha is a boy pretending to be a woman, but in my eyes that is really not the issue at heart.  The issue is really that Alesha knows who she is, regardless of what gender she may be, while the Orc whom she is speaking with seems far more confused…except that he knows enough to follow Alesha.  It is an intriguing story and an interesting look at the world of the Mardu as well as the complicated issue of indentity.

Thanks for taking the time to stop in and read. As always keep it fun, keep it safe…and keep it Casual.


By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters

@bgray8791 on Twitter

Bruce Gray - February 6, 2015

Goblin Contemplation – Casual MTG

Goblinslide - Casual MTG Standard

Goblin Contemplation 

By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters

There are some people that only want to brew up top tier decks and if it isn’t first rate, then they don’t want to try and do anything else. However, I look at making up a new deck a bit as a creative experience.  There are lots of people who paint or write or act but will never reach those upper echelons of the craft…but that doesn’t invalidate their creative efforts or lessen the pleasure they get from pouring their energy into their activity of choice. My creative activity of choice is making a new deck that is ostensibly only played around the kitchen table with my friends…and that is just fine. I will never join the ranks of the Pro Tour with any of my decks, but I will always enjoy the process of building a new fun deck to play with my friends. So, today I’m going to share my take on a fun Casual deck that I will be playing at our next Kitchen Table card night.

I’ve seen a number of pros talk about the power that can be harnessed with Goblinslide and Quiet Contemplation. These are very similar enchantments that reward you for casting non-creature spells and you can trigger them to have an additional effect.  The effect is different, but both of them are 100% repeatable and impact the board enough that you could gain a pretty significant advantage. Both enchantments have been suitably potent that they have been used in a viable draft deck in the right circumstances.


With that in mind I set about building a deck that could exploit these two intriguing (and deceptively powerful) cards.  But what sort of deck do you build around these cards?  The obvious starting point would be a pile of Burn spells to eliminate threats and allow you to get the engine of the deck started.  Burn out their creatures, tap the remaining ones, and make Goblins…seems simple enough.  However, those Burn spells need to be quite efficient because you need additional mana available to trigger the Goblinslide or the Quiet Contemplation, so efficiently costed spells are key. However, the issue of card draw starts to emerge because unless you can burn out your opposition you are likely to run out of gas pretty quickly.  So, there are a few interesting options that can be used to help with some additional card draw and preventing you from running on fumes. Let’s see what we’ve got:


Goblin Contemplation – UR – Casual MTG Standard


Ok, well the creature package is pretty small, but the Windscouts, the Jeskai Elder, and the Riverwheel Aerialists all come with Prowess…meaning that they can often tussle with bigger creatures without much trouble.  The Scaldkin are there as fairly useful fliers that can “Shock” something.  It is hardly an earth shattering creature package but you do want a few critters to keep your opponent honest.

The Enchantments make this deck go because if you can start to trigger them regularly you can make extra Goblin tokens or tap down your opponent. That is basically the whole premise of the deck anyway, so ideally I want to see one (or both) of these in my opening hand anyway.

The instants and sorceries are the fun part because they are burn, card draw, or just plain old Trumpet Blast to help your little Goblins punch through for a pile of damage. The newest treat for this deck is Collateral Damage which suits this deck perfectly.  Can you imagine casting Lightning Strikedealing three damage to your opponent, triggering Goblinslide for a mana, and then casting Collateral Damage for an additional three damage, sacrificing the Goblin token you just made…and then activate Goblinslide a second time and STILL having a Goblin Token on the table?  That feels very achievable…and 6 points of direct damage is nothing to sniff at.  Sure, it feels a little clunky but it just might get the job done around the Kitchen Table.

The deck hardly looks over powering, but for a deck packing no rare cards it feels like it could do some pretty powerful and hilarious stuff.  Who doesn’t want to flood the board with a load of Goblins and over run your opponent?  Seems like it might be legit little deck.  It also meets most of my key components…it is a) inexpensive to build b) uses spare parts that I have in some my boxes and c) looks like it could be a load of fun. Sounds like a win to me!

Well, that’s all for today…thanks very much for taking the time to read!

Until next folks…have a great MTG day.

By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters

@bgray8791 on Twitter

Roy Anderson - February 5, 2015

GP San Jose: The Sockymans’ Story (Day One)

Pearl Lake Ancient

GP San Jose: The Sockymans’ Story (Day One) – Team Sealed

By Roy Anderson – Sockymans

Hello my fellow looters! It’s Sockymans here with this week’s article, or should I say, articles. That’s right, this week is a two part series (As you probably saw from the title) about my adventures at Grand Prix San Jose. Now, I was only there for two days, Saturday and Sunday, so the article today will be about the first day of the main event.

To start off, man was I excited to see a Grand Prix so close to home. I was even more excited to see that the main event format was Team Sealed. To add even more excitement it was just a week after a new set release, therefore, it had a very new format! Now before I go into the actual day, I want to clarify some things people may not know.


Team sealed

So Team Sealed, what is it? It is a format you don’t see too often but if you have two friends that are also into Magic, I would highly recommend it. It works similar to regular sealed except you are on a team of three people. You start, just like in sealed, cracking your packs and building a deck. However, in Team Sealed, you have 12 packs between the three of you to build three decks. This gives you more options in each color, however, you must be able to figure out which team member gets which card. I will talk more about this when I describe my team’s pool. Another thing I want to note is that you must have every card in the sideboard of a certain player. You cannot have cards flowing between players sideboards so that is an important thing to decided as well. So when decks are built and round one starts, you are sat opposite another team. The way it works from there is each person plays against the person sitting opposite from them and whichever team has two of their members win their match, wins the round. During the games you are allowed to talk to your team and get advice about: plays, hands, and even sideboard options. If you make day two, after another Team Sealed round, you get to play team draft which is a whole other can of worms. Well, let us get to the meat and potatoes of the article!

Starting this story on a good note, we got to wake up at 6:30am. Now continuing this story with less sarcasm, we got there early very anxious for the event to start. There was a huge turnout for the main event which made competition fierce. In order to make day two, a team would need to not lose more than two rounds in a nine round tournament. My friends, John, Andy, and I, knew that would be tough but we were pumped and ready to go.

So they announced the start and we sat down. For those who have never played at competitive level  before, there is a step before you just crack packs and build decks. You first open a pool of cards and register every single one. Only after this is done, you pass your pool to someone else. This ended up being a good thing this time around as the pool we had to register was utter garbage. There were no strong archetypes, no strong reason to play any colors, no bombs, nothing. Bullet dodged. So we finally finish all of the boring stuff and we get our real pool. Our pool was much better. Lots of strong Fate Reforged, FRF, and Khans of Tarkir, KTK, cards with good pulls to multiple different archetypes. After some deliberation with my comrades we all settled on decks that were good and the decks we wanted to play. The end result was a very strong Abzan deck, a Sultai Control deck, and a mediocre R/W Aggro deck. We figured this divide of cards was decent at the time and we all were happy with the archetypes we had. I ended up with a personal favorite of mine, Sultai Control.

I won’t leave you hanging on the details, so here is the list I decided to run:


Abomination of Gudul – This creature was never too relevant for me and I think in FRF/KTK it is actually a bit worse. That being said, it was always a morph in the worst match-up and it did cycle through my deck quite a few times in the longer games

Pear Lake Ancient – This is just a very powerful game ending card. It only came out of my deck in extreme situations when my opponent’s deck was super fast. Even in the aggro matchup, it was good as a flash blocker.

Debilitating Injury – Super solid early game removal.  Even in FRF/KTK this remains an all-star.

Disowned Ancestor – This was mostly used to muck up the ground and keep me alive until I dropped Torrent Elemental or Pear Lake Ancient. I took this card out in control matches, however, I was not sad with this in the main deck.

Sultai Scavenger – A very solid mid-game flier. It was useful at getting past defenses. It was even a way to get Torrent Elemental into exile to use his ability. 10/10 would play again.

Archer’s Parapet – Same reasoning as Disowned Ancestor but I would have much rather had two of these. This never got boarded out as it is a supper good card.

Longshot Squad – This was in because I needed creatures, it was a Hill Giant with upside. I can’t complain about that.

Scout The Borders – Delve fuel, enough said.

Sultai Flayer – This was another all-star in my deck. The life gain was always very relevant and he has a nice body in the format. He definitely lifts bro.

Aven Surveyor – This card I was still on the fence on. Some games I was super impressed and others I was not so happy having him. First off, he was two blue which hurt in a three color deck with little fixing. My other concern was his body for his mana cost. Even if you didn’t need the bounce, which was never the case, he still died to every piece of removal and couldn’t trade with other fliers.

Enhanced Awareness – Can you hate anything with draw a card? It never seemed to end up in my hand when I needed it though. I kind of wish I had a treasure cruise along with this card.

Torrent Elemental – This card is bonkers. Using quadrant theory, this card was never bad at any point in the game. When you are ahead he wins the game almost immediately. When at parody he wins almost immediately, during setup he doesn’t serve much purpose but when behind he is even a flying blocker with a big butt.

Whisk Away – This was a card that was just okay in all my matches. I cast it and was reasonably happy with the results when I did. It was not a removal spell but it was quite the tempo swing.

Douse In Gloom – This card was awesome. I wrote about it quite a bit in my FRF pre-release article so I won’t cover it too much here. The only thing I want to say is that my opinion has not changed about this card. I am happy it exists.

Gurmag Angler – This is a new addition to the delve family and I think it is a pretty good one. It is had a huge body that not many other creatures can tangle with. It is also out of removal range for most of the removal spells in this format too unless your opponent is white. This guy also was a very common two for one as they would chump and use a removal spell.

Reach of Shadows – This card I was always happy with. Five mana, kill something other than morphs or manifests. Since the format is slower in general than formats in the past, five mana is very achievable to kill a big threat.

Rotting Mastodon – This should not have been in my deck. I never liked it much in KTK and it got worse. It was boarded out every game for something.

Sultai Emissary – This card made me happy to have, especially in the aggro mirror match-up. It is pretty much the black Jeskai Sage except he is card advantage with a card on the board. You are not even unhappy when you manifest a land. In my deck I ran 18 lands which meant if I could turn one into a creature and trade I was happy as a red player with a Lightning Bolt.

Whisperer of the Wilds – Since I had many five to seven drops this helped me ramp just a little bit. It was a bread and butter card. I was never happy with it but never sad.

Wildcall – This card I was unhappy with at the prerelease. Boy was I wrong. This is a very good card for any matchup. At the very worst it is two green for a 2/2 with possible upside. In most games, this card was the most flexible in my deck. On average it made a four to six power creature that would  become the biggest threat on the board. Sometimes, it would just manifest a land and I would be 100 percent happy with a six power land.


Sideboard Stratedy

There you have it, my GP SJ main event deck. Neither of my team mates were using blue so I got a lot of very powerful spells. I also had a good amount of very relevant sideboard choices against different matchups. Against aggro I could side in an extra Sultai Emissary, Despise, Force Away, and a few other low drops. Against a mid-ranged strategy, I would side in Disdainful Stroke, Despise, Tasigur’s Cruelty and a few other relevant creatures. Finally, against control, I would switch to a game of fighting for resources. I would take out some low cost removal and side in Disdainful Stroke, and Tasigur’s Cruelty. Now that our decks were completed, it was time to do what we came to do, play Magic and chew bubblegum! (You know the rest.)


Main Event

Round One

This round was the first of the tournament. My teammates and I, unofficially named “The Ainok Bond-kins,”  were ready to start on a good foot. My first round match was the mirror match and I felt pretty confident that I could win with my good resource advantage cards. Torrent Elemental helped pick me up a quick game one and I was feeling great. Andy was also winning his match. John, not so much, however, I was still happy. Game two I was not so fortunate. I ended up losing to flooding a bit and my opponent resolving a Treasure Cruise and slowly beating me out of the game. No big deal, I am on the play for game three. I look to see how my team is doing and they are both done. Turns out, we are one and one so this game three was the deciding game. The pressure was on.

Game three was a very long game. Lots of trades, draw spells, and board stalls. Finally, a line of play opened up that started to tip the scales in my favor. I resolved a Tasigur’s Cruelty delving away my Torrent Elemental. I was able to cast it tapped and I put my opponent in top deck mode. Turns out he didn’t draw anything but an Gurmag Angler. This turned out not to matter as I quickly untapped and started crashing in. Turned out that ended up winning me the game! My day was off to a good start.


Round Two

So, I don’t know if any of you here recognize the name, but my second round opponent was none other than Day9 and his friends Case and Tristan. First of all, it was awesome to be able to talk to him and he was a super nice guy, however, I was playing Case. So there is not much to talk about this round as there was one card that won every game that it came out. This resulted in my losing 1-2 which was a bummer. The card I speak of is Ojutai, Soul of Winter. This card is expensive, however, against a deck like mine, that was not a big problem. Had Case been playing my friend John, he may have won with his very aggressive deck. The two cards I had that could deal with that card was my two copies of Reach of Shadows. I also boarded in a Disdainful Stroke when I first saw the card. Unfortunately, game three, he played a Frontier Siege which, for a dragon deck, was pretty good. I never saw it so I was unable to board against it. Sadly, despite Andy winning. John lost another match and we were now 1-1.


Round Three

After pulling ourselves together, we went to face our next opponents. This time I was against my worst matchup: Aggro. This is when I also want to point out what I think the red MVP card in FRF is and that is: Goblin Heelcutter. This card wreaked havoc on my deck. I lost the first game and thanks to some good sideboard options and a good draw, I made it to game three. Sadly, he curved out really well despite a Debilitating Injury in my opening hand. Andy, who is a boss, was now 3-0 and our team was 1-2. John was getting creamed in mirror matches for the first three rounds.


Round Four

This was it, if we lose here, we have no chance of making day two. The record you needed to get to day two was at least 7-2. If we wanted that record, it would be a long rest of the day. We sit down against our next round opponents and they were also on the block. They seemed to be having a lot of fun and it was a fun match overall. It was another mirror match and this time, I knew how to board better. I was learning the matchups and changing my deck more and more each game. I boarded in both Tasigur’s Cruelties and Disdainful Stroke after winning game one. I lost game two and I knew I had to win in order to carry the team. I looked to my teammates and, to my surprise, they had won. Yay!  We had hung on for at least one more round.


Round Five

Another mirror match? At this point, I felt like my deck was advantaged in the mirror. I had a Pearl Lake Ancient, a good curve, good removal, and lots of ways to generate card advantage. This time, for the first time in the tournament, it was an easy 2-0. I looked over at Andy and finally, he dropped a game. I was worried as John’s deck was disadvantaged in yet another mirror. However, he had won his best of three and we were on to yet another match!. Awesome! 3-2


Round Six

I will be 100 % honest, I don’t even remember this round as the next one was so intense. The important part is we won yet again. We were all starting to realize that the dream was real for us! We were crawling back from a 1-2 record to end up sitting pretty at 4-2. We only had three rounds to go. Let’s move on.


Round Seven

At this point in the tournament, it was getting intense. Side events were closed down and everyone had been there for so long and come so far. We sat down against some very nice foreign players who made some great conversation. My matchup this time around was another aggro deck, which I dreaded seeing. This was different from other aggro decks I had faced. It was mostly red Mardu and boy was it fast. Game one I was obliterated despite having a removal heavy hand. Alright, on to game two. I made some needed side boarding and moved into game two. Notably, I brought in Despise and Tasigur’s Cruelty in order to kill dash cards. I also brought in my second Sultai Emissary which was good against his 3/1s and 4/1s. Through some good managing of resources and a timely Pearl Lake Ancient, I took game two. Sadly, my opponent came out of the gate swinging on turn two. Even with the removal in my hand, nothing prepared me for being hit by Kolaghan, the Storm’s Fury. Luckly, I was able to kill it and his other dash with Tasigur’s Cruelty, however, it was too late. I lost. As it turns out, both my allies bit the dust as well. Our dream had died.

All in all, we had a lot of fun at the GP San Jose main event. If you ever have a chance to play in any GP, I would highly recommend it.

I will have another article up later this week detailing my day two GP report. I hope you enjoyed this article. Let me know what you think and, if you were there, let me know what your record was and what you played.

For now, Happy Planeswalking!


By Roy Anderson

@Sockymans on Twitter

Bruce Gray - February 3, 2015

More Random MTG musings

Shu Yun, the silent tempest wallpaper

More Random MTG musings

By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters

Hi again…

In my New Year’s Resolution to keep my column up to date and a little more current I wanted to take a little time to write about some of thoughts I had during the course of the week about some MTG stuff.  No deck list tonight…but some things that have caught my interest recently.


Uncharted Realms

I’ve been back and playing Magic now for 2 1/2 years, but I’m finally NOW getting to the point where I am not just about the cards, but the broader community piece as a whole.  By that I mean I am starting to appreciate that there is far more to playing Magic than just playing the game, but there are other areas where people can explore and enjoy this hobby as well.

One of the big ones I have overlooked until now has been Uncharted Realms, the fiction that is essentially the telling of the story of what is happening in Multi-verse and helping to explain how and why certain things are happening in the game.  You can check it out for yourself here:


Now, the most recent short story was really intriguing because it showed how Sarkhan Vol essentially saved Ugin and prevented the demise of the Dragons on Tarkir by sheltering him from Nicol Bolas after their battle.  It was a pretty neat read and I suggest you take a peak.  However, as someone new to the tales of here are some of my impressions:

Sarkhan– Up until this point I largely thought this guy was a “Heel” (pardon to WWE reference) that is essentially a pawn of evil.  The truth is the guy has had it pretty tough.  If you have had MULTIPLE Dragon Planeswalkers in your head, you would be pretty messed up to.  I have some interest in this character and will be sure to keep tabs on him.  Hopefully they don’t kill him the way they did Elspeth at the end of Theros block.  (Prediction:  They are totally going to bring her back as a B/W iteration of her down the road when Erebos lets her go.)

Nicol Bolas– This Dude is a jerk of Epic proportions.  I know every story needs a villain, and he’s about as good as they come. I like the classic Villain feel to him, although I still prefer his artwork from the original Legends set where he saw print as an Elder Dragon.

Yasova Dragonclaw– I’m not sure what I think of her…I feel like she’s part of the Villain cycle and I would NOT have thought that would be the alignment of the Temur.  I really thought if there were going to be a Villain in this set it would be the Sultai…although I suppose that is too easy…but I didn’t think the Temur would be in cahoots with Bolas.  Guess that shows how much I know.

Hedron- The cocoon that preserves Ugin…it came from Zendikar…and sure it saves Ugin and allows him to recover and preserve the Dragons.  Sure, I get that…but does ANYONE else want to see Eldrazi show up because they can sense something from their plane is being used elsewhere?  C’mon…who DOESN’T want to see Emrakul show up?

All in all, I’m a fan and will check back on the story line to see how it develops.


Enhanced Awareness and Card Evaluation

“over rated”

I initially took one look at Enhanced Awareness when I opened my pool at my pre-release and was initially really disappointed.  There was some uneasy tension around playing the card and if you read my post about my pre-release you will get the vibe that I wasn’t a fan.  I have spent some time thinking about and have clearly determined WHY I don’t much care for the card and unlikely to prioritize it highly as we move forward.

“you wish you had me in your draft pool”

From the outset, Enhanced Awareness looks like a pretty sweet card.  5 mana, instant speed, Draw 3 cards and discard 1.  Right off the hop, we know it isn’t better that Jace’s Ingenuity, but it is a little easier to cast because Jace’s Ingenuity is 5 mana, but double Blue while Enhanced Awareness is only a single Blue.  However what sets Enhanced Awareness far behind Jace’s Ingenuity is the actual real card advantage netted by casting this spell.

Ingenuity draws you three cards, but you spend 1 card in casting the spell meaning that you have netted +2 cards.  5 mana for 2 cards is pretty sizable and nice amount of card advantage to generate at Instant speed at  your opponent’s end step.

Enhanced Awareness draws you three cards, and you spend 1 card in actually casting the spell…so at most you are getting +2 cards out of this spell.  However, the added drawback of having to discard 1 more card means that the actual card advantage gained is only +1 card.  5 mana for only 1 card in terms of actual advantage is actual a very poor rate of return.  You do just as well with Weave Fate, a much poorer card draw spell in the eyes of many players, and it costs a full mana cheaper.

Not as bad as everyone thought…huh?”

The only advantage I can discern from this spell is that it actually enables Delve reasonably well, so Delve decks enjoy this.  Meanwhile the rest of us aren’t going to play this because the rate of return is quite poor.

There are people that will argue that you do get to dig three cards deeper into your deck and filter for the cards you actually want, meaning that you get to sculpt your hand somewhat.  These are true statements, but the fact remains that you are essentially spending your mana on “looting” and netting yourself only a single card for a pretty sizable investment. Players looking to win focus on the efficiency of their mana and the spells they need to cast because that is a prime factor in determining if the spell is going to help you, particularly in a Limited type deck.  Think about it, the cost of playing Enhanced Awareness as your card draw is that you need to have a) 5 mana untapped and nothing better to do with it and b) cards in hand that are no good to you to discard in order to improve the card quality in your hand and accept that I am only netting 1 card.  Weave Fate, the card that is in direct competition with Enhanced Awareness can be cast a whole turn earlier for 4 mana and doesn’t care one stitch about what you have in hand…and you STILL net 1 card.

I’m not saying that Enhanced Awareness is a bad card, but there are costs associated with it that you need to balance in your Limited deck and so it might not be something you are quick to slam in your draft and run.


Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest

This guy has caught my attention and I am clearly going to have to brew with this guy.  You take one look at him and he SCREAMS “Jeskai Prowess Deck”.  However, I am of the opinion that this guy doesn’t want a Jeskai Deck at all.  He really wants a Temur or Bant build to make use of a couple of really disgusting interactions.

Flash is a ridiculous keyword and it is even GROSSER on Auras.  You know who really wants Flash Auras?   Shu Yun…that’s who.  Green has a pair of good ones and Red has a third that is kind of interesting as well.

What could be more fun than attacking with Shu-Yun?  Your opponent IMMEDIATELY knows you have something in hand because he’s a Prowess creature.  Your opponent, not being a dummy, isn’t interested in creating an unprofitable block and walking into your trick declares no blocks.  So, Flash in your Boon Satyr as an Aura, trigger his Prowess, trigger Shu Yun’s Double Strike ability…and end the game on the spot for 16 points of damage.

Ok, that is a best case and your opponent can still respond by removing Shu-Yun, but the exchange is appealing.  yes it takes 7 mana to get the whole thing going and that’s steep, but not unimaginable.  So, you want some cheaper options? ok.

Feral Invocation Remember this little gem?  This is much cheaper to cast and still means Shu-Yun hits for 12.  That’s still a massive chunk of damage in a turn.  Dragon Grip was behave in a similar way but is also somewhat more situational in order to meet the Ferocious trigger on the card, but it is an interesting choice as well.

So this is starting to come together.  When I have something more final I will be sure to post it here for you guys.

That’s all for tonight guys…thanks for reading.

By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter


Gregoire Thibault - January 24, 2015

Suspension Field FNM April 2015

Suspension Field FNM April 2015

Suspension Field FNM is a little underwhelming with Journey to Nowhere being the original and much better. Of course journey is not in Standard, but it certainly is available in all the other formats. Some Standard decks might start playing it then you’ll have a use for it, or even make it in some Commander decks. Overall I’m certain we would of all have preferred a different FNM card for April. Let’s hope Wizards hears our plea and lines up a summer of great FNM promos and other promos for that matter.

Suspension Field FNM artwork Suspension Field FNM