Well, I hope everyone’s had a blast at their prerelease events over the weekend. I have to admit, it was kind of weird format because we all opened so many Fate Reforged packs and very few Khans packs. That was a weird choice by Wizards, but it seemed to work ok. At one point I turned to someone else and said “hey…could you imagine doing this with 4 packs of Dragon’s Maze…that would have been unplayable.” By comparison, Fate Reforged prerelease worked, but there wasn’t the sort of variance that I would truly expect from the sealed format starting next weekend…but it was fun. It wasn’t as grinding as Khans was and that increased explosiveness meant winners and losers were easier to pick…and you could tell if you were on the right path or not.
I played the Two-Headed Giant event on the Sunday evening with my brother. The last time we played at the Khans prerelease we got thoroughly embarrassed and were pretty unimpressed with our results. However, this time we held our own and were in the running until the very last match. I’ll get to how that one got away on us in a bit, but we finished 3-2 and were relatively pleased with our results.
I opted to play Temur for this event and my brother decided he would play Mardu meaning we could bank on having some pretty solid creatures and a pair of aggressive decks…or so we thought. I opened up my pool and I was legitimately shocked. My Temur pool hardly had ANY playable 2 drops…and a very limited number of Morphs. The three drops I had weren’t even in my Clan! What gives? It wasn’t until I hit 4 on my curve that I started getting creatures that felt and played Temur-esque and that was a bad sign. So, my curve was…how do you say…TERRIBLE with very few plays in the opening turns. I was not impressed. The only good news was that my brother had a much more aggressive build and could put some early pressure down to help bridge us to turn 5+ when my deck could roar to life. It wasn’t a great game plan, but it was the best we had with the pools we opened.
In our first game we started off ok and I was holding up my end of the deal with some pretty reasonable removal to try and stave off the threats from our opponents. I Burn Away Dromoka, cast Bathe in Dragonfire on another dragon and felt pretty good about things. But then I drew three straight lands and completely flooded out and our opponents cast Shifting Loyalties on our Brutal Hordechief…which they then followed up with one of their own. You can imagine things took a decidedly downward turn and we were dead shortly after. We felt a little bummed.
Game 2 our opponents had us on the ropes and pretty much dead on board until they misplayed. They had a Daghatar the Adamant on the board with his 4 counters and they cast Hunt the Weak on it to fight something of mine. Then they cast a second Hunt the Weak on Daghatar, but forgot that Daghatar had already been dealt some damage and this second round was going to be lethal. Oops! With Daghatar dead because they goofed we went to town and my trio of Dragons (two Mindscour and one Destructor) went to work. They shortly conceded and we evened our record at 1 and 1.
The next game we came out much more quickly out of the gates, but the game turned when I had 7 mana and Temur Sabretooth on the board. The Sabretooth just stymied our opponents who just could not sequence a profitable attack by the potentially indestructible kitty. To make matters worse, my ultra greedy deck was PACKED with value creatures to abuse with the Sabretooth. When you are bouncing Aven Surveyor in order to give the Sabretooth indestructibility, eating their attacker, and then recasting the Surveyor to out tempo them, the opponents get sad…fast. Oh, the Surveyor isn’t your style? How about Bear’s Companion? Hell yeah! It was undoubtedly our best game and the one where I was able to hold off and to play conservatively and eke out advantage with the cards in play and not rush to dump my hand on the table. Suddenly we were 2-1 and feeling pretty good about ourselves.
Then we had a bye because a team dropped leaving a weird number of teams and we just had a turn to sit. Ok…3-1 it is…and in striking distance of a prize.
The last game we were moving along ok…until we got caught with Tasigur’s Cruelty and it forced us to pitch two cards apiece. Normally, this sort of card would be unplayable, but in Multiplayer it was devastating. I also opted to discard a land and to hold on to some pricey spells. Figures. Next thing I know I’m stranded on 4 mana, can’t hit Burn Away, Aven Surveyor, or ANYTHING…and we die to some pumped up creatures. Grrrr. Oh well. We had a shot and we blew it.
Here’s my decklist
Some of the cards that shone in our matches were not the ones I was expecting.
Pilgrim of the Fires: The 7 mana golem was about our best friend all day. Sure, he’s 7 mana and you don’t run him out there any too quickly, but the truth is, he likely wins just about any combat he ends up in. And by 7 mana, your opponents have already fired off just about all their best removal that can handle this guy…so the NEED to rely on combat. Well, with this guy being just a house we made short work of a number of opponents and were very impressed with him.
Temur Sabretooth: This kitty can do some work. The ability to be indestructible is very potent and can make combat a real nightmare. What’s more, it is super fun to bounce value creatures and then reap the rewards all over again. This one looks like the real deal and likely a real player in Limited.
Wild Slash: Premium Red removal…yeah…it’s good. It did work all day long.
Aven Surveyor: I know the guys on LR were pretty stoked for this card, and I like it too because it did do work…but I’m not convinced it is as super as people think it is. 5 mana is a big investment for a bounce effect, particularly when there are lots of powerful things to do at 5 mana. It was a big tool in my deck as I was packing loads of bounce effects, but users must be wary because he’s expensive.
Bathe in Dragonfire: Relatively inexpensive and useful removal to take out those nagging creatures. This likely over performed a little for me because it took out all sorts of things including a number of Dragons of varying sizes and descriptions as well as pesky Morphs. A good utility card.
Jesaki Infiltrator: This guy was a bust. A 2/1 unblockable creature SOUNDED good, but then he immediately Manifests a buddy…and loses the Unblockability. That’s kind of junk. Tested this guy out once and was immediately underwhelmed. Out he came and in went more burn.
Enhanced Awareness: What I would have given for a Weave Fate…or Treasure Cruise…or just about ANYTHING. This one is 5 mana…and it is an awkward one to jam. I got it off once, but wasn’t hugely impressed. Most of the time it was a 5 mana brick in my hand. It feels far more situational than Jace’s Ingenuity or even Opportunity and in a format where there are likely to be lots of other things to do with your mana that isn’t good news. As much as this COULD be good, it wasn’t. We’ll have to see if that trend continues.
Dragons: The 6 mana 4/4 dragons are playable, but hardly scary. I found the Mindscour Dragon cute because the Mill effect was handy. The only catch is having to watch that you don’t mill someone with Delve cards because you’re fueling their Treasure Cruise. I ran three of these just to see what they can do and while they are kind of neat, I wouldn’t hold my breath for them.
Runemarks: These are as awful as I feared they would be. Most of them seemed totally unplayable and not at all what I was interested in doing…so they all got left behind in favour of actual cards that did stuff.
Well, guys…I feel like we’re coming to an end of my Fate Reforged prerelease experience. I’d love to hear about what you experienced and how you fared. Let me know by leaving a comment or finding me on Twitter.
Thanks for reading…and until next time keep it fun, keep it safe…keep it casual.
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters @bgray8791 on Twitter
Hello, fellow looters and welcome to my first ever article written for The Bag of Loot and hopefully there will be many more to follow. I had a hard time deciding what I wanted to write about for my very first article. Should I start a column? Should I talk about Magic Online? Or maybe I should write an article about which removal spells would best work to finally dispose of Justin Bieber? Either way, I decided that since this is the first of my content for The Bag of Loot, I would write about another recent first. This first being my initial experience with Magic’s new set: Fate Reforged.
Who doesn’t love a good prerelease? Maybe people who like to be in bed by eight o’ clock on a Friday night, however, I don’t think anyone by that description is reading this article. Khan’s was such an amazing set and Wizards have been doing better and better with the events in general that I was extra juiced for this event. Looking back on the night, it did not let down my expectations at all.
Anyway, let’s begin our story around ten o’ clock Friday night. I always tend to show up early to make friends and participate in the only thing comparable to casting Magic Cards: Trading Magic Cards. Prereleases are some of the best times to trade for cards as few events bring such a big crowd to your Local Game Store (LGS), and more people means more cards. I am not going to spend too much time on trading, (as that is not why you are here) but some notable additions to my collection were: A foil Artifact Mutation, Rite of Replication, and plenty of sweet sweet foils. ( I have a problem ok.)
Finally, the clock strikes midnight. Magic time! Sultai Time! Sultime? Forgive me for the pun but, Sultai was the actual clan I decided to go with. I had no predisposition of the specific deck I wanted to play, however, I did get a card pool that was very well positioned for a leap into my favorite archetype. My favorite deck in Khans of Tarkir Limited is the four to five color control deck with a Sultai base. I always felt like it is a very strong deck and the new cards from Fate Reforged only gave the deck more tools. I will go over the specific new cards that I found to be helpful in this deck in a little bit. (At least the ones that I got to play with.) So without further ado, here was the deck list I ended up with and a little explanation of why I ran each card:
Abomination of Gudul x1- This is just a solid value morph that is also in the right colors. The deck I ran, due to having five colors, was 18 lands. This creature would help me filter through my deck during my land heavier draws which greatly helped out my decks consistency. It is also worth noting that it’s 3/4 body is very strong against a majority of Fate Reforged cards. I got more value out of blocking and flipping it than I thought I would. This flier also beats a lot of the smaller body fliers that got brought into the format by Fate Reforged.
Abzan Beastmaster x2 – This was a card that I really wanted to try and use because I am a big fan of low setup cost card draw engines. I had many occasions where this card would draw cards off himself as I was the control deck. I was very happy with this card even at the bottom end where I had to snap block him to trade with a morph. At the worst, in my deck it was still a one for one trade that stalls the game which is exactly what a control deck wants.
Atarka, World Render x1 – I only got to attack with this card once as it always acted as a lightning rod and immediately ate a kill spell every time I played it. The one time I attacked with it, I won the game by a landslide. Twelve flying damage a turn is no joke. Even if they manage to have a blocker, trample and double strike are a good combo.
Aven Surveyor x1 – This did not initially make the cut into my deck, however, it was about midway through the event that I re-read this card and kind of had a moment where I asked myself, “Why am I not playing this card?” It is an easy, slow-going, late game clock attached to a powerful tempo swing. I like it especially due to the fact that counters, heavy mana investment, and the rune mark cycle are very easy ways to get additional value out of using this card. Did I ever play this with a +1/+1 counter? No
Bathe in Dragonfire x2 – This kind of fell in the same boat where I had two in my pool and I wasn’t playing them. Boy was I stupid for not main decking these sooner in a control deck. Not much else to say about this card other than it kills a lot and is cheap.
Channel Harm x1 – Now this is an expensive but very effective trick that I can easily say fit the bill in my heavy control deck. In fact, this was my only white card. A majority of the time, it was only a one for one and a tempo swing, however, that ended up working out for my deck a majority of the time.
Debilitating Injury x1 – Cheap, efficient, solid removal in Khan’s limited, not much to really say about it.
Douse in Gloom x1 – This was one of the New Fate Reforged cards I happen to really like. Not only did this kill morphs, but there are a lot of new and existing two toughness cards that this made short work of. The additional effect of gain two life was also surprisingly relevant in a majority of my games. As the control deck, any amount of life gain helps carry you to the late game that much easier.
Enhanced Awareness x1 – I was very happy with this card being in my deck. It filters through the top three cards in order to grab two or even all three if you have a land in your hand you want to pitch. This card does occupy a crowded slot mana wise, however, at instant speed, it offers flexibility.
Master the way x1 – Solid removal that replaces itself. Not much to say here. It is a little disappointing that it is a sorcery though as that reduces flexibility.
Monastery Flock x2 – This card served a few purposes in my deck. First, it is just a very flexible creature that could be an effective wall or a 2/2 beat down creature. Second, and most importantly, it almost always triggers Abzan Beastmaster which I was playing two of. This two card combo drew me more cards than I can count over the five rounds.
Reach of Shadows x1 – Probably one of the best single target removal spells in the format. It also lends itself to a flexible five drop slot which made it even better.
Ruthless Ripper x1 – This card was mainly used as an effective way to deal with threats on board. The two life did not really matter much, however, the deathtouch allowed this creature to trade up quite a few times as well as force my opponents to hold back attacks in fear.
Soulflayer x1 – This was one of the few real bombs in my deck. In my deck, it almost always ended up being a 4/4 flier for two black, due to my Monastery Flocks and other fliers, which as it turns out, is awesome! The best cast scenario in my deck was to have a Ruthless Ripper in my graveyard in order to give it deathtouch as well which allowed it to hold off anything in the air from attacking.
Sudden Reclamation x1 – Instant speed selective draw two, what is not to like? I found it surprisingly relevant at all stages of the game too. Early game, I wanted to fix my land drops and charge my delve engine. Late game, it got back my best creature and usually got back one of my tap lands to gain a life.
Sultai Soothsayer x1 – #Value and delve fodder on a creature with a body who will, nine times out of ten, trigger Abzan Beastmaster? Hop in! In all seriousness, I would play this card any time I am in Sultai colors because this card has a lot of value.
Swarm of Bloodflies x1 – This card was decent. It worked well with all my kill spells which gave my opponents a big clock. I was never supremely happy to cast this card however, it did pull its weight quite well though. WARNING: Manifesting this card will make you a sad panda.
Tasigur, the Golden Fang x1 – I played this card but found myself never caring to activate him. As far as I was concerned, this was a stronger Hooting Mandrills. This card may have some real power in constructed but in limited, this is by no means a super bomb heavy card.
Write into Being x2 – This card was mediocre for me, however, it felt like a necessary card to include. This card served a few purposes for my control deck. First, my deck had 18 land, therefore, most of the time I would manifest a land just to get more value from my deck. Second purpose of this card was draw fixing. What was essentially scry two ended up being very powerful whenever I cast it. Lastly, it was a way to add more creatures to my deck which only ran a limited number as a majority of cards were removal spells.
That was a big exhaustive, but that was my deck and I was very happy with it. In addition to the cards listed above, my sideboard was stacked with additional removal just in case it was needed which made me feel comfortable in every match-up. Speaking of match-up, I think it’s time for round one.
I was ready to play! Let’s do this! My first round opponent sits down and we start talking and he tells me that this is his first ever game of Magic. Oh boy, this means I have some work to do. There was really no challenge in this match-up due to his skill despite the raw power of his deck, however, I made sure he had as much fun and learned as much as he could. I wanted to walk away from that table with a new player among our ranks and that was job number one. Game one was short, and I tried to make it that way. Unknown to me until turn two, he kept a one land hand despite me explaining mulligan’s as I took one. I don’t think he quite understood the importance of them or of mana yet so I tried to end his suffering fast as he didn’t draw a single land. Game two was where he actually played a real game of magic. Despite the first game only lasting five minutes, this game took us to time. This was due to his slow play and need for explanation but I didn’t mind. I won in the end thanks to a well placed Channel Harm, the life gain from my lands and Douse in Gloom. War Flare and Ponyback Brigade did a number on my life total and always took him all the way with some help from me. At the end of it all, mission accomplished, he wasn’t a very vocal person and kind of quiet, however, by the time I left to turn in the match slip, he was smiling and in a good mood.
My second round was an opponent from my LGS that is quite skilled. I have faced him in many finals so I was stoked for a good match. He was playing a very effective Temur aggro shell which I have seen be very effective in the past. Game one, my seven card hand had no land. Bleh…well, time to ship it. I was on the play so I was fine with it. Down to six cards and….another horrible hand with only one land. Five cards? Still only one land…. Well, four cards might be better? Still one land was all my deck seemed to want to give me so I played it. It went about as well as you expected with me hanging on as long as I did thanks to a Debilitating Injury. Game two I decided to play and I got a much better hand. I was trading removal spells for creatures and generally feeling good about my chances and then…the fire nation attacked. Not really, but he played Shaman of the Great Hunt which immediately allowed him to use that and his 3/3 to crash in for seven and gain a whole lot of upside. At this point in the game he was even able to activate the ferocious ability that turn. This is where I made a crucial mistake. I let it live another turn despite a kill spell residing in my hand. I decided to develop my board a little while longer which allowed another turn of smash for nine this time and draw two more cards. At this point all prior card advantage I had gained had been lost and we were back to being even. To top it off I was now bleeding to death. The game went on and I had actually stabilized through Abomination and Soulflayer which got flying. It got to the point where I had lethal on board and all he had was a 2/2 flier. Abomination was holding him back and I was sure I was going to win and this is where I made the game breaking mistake. I had Master the Way and I saved it instead of cracking it off to kill the 2/2 while I was at two life. I was killed by a flipped Temur charger giving it trample into a Runemark and Dragon Scale Boon. Ouch.
Opponent was a no show! Well, bright side was that one other person had a no show as well so we each took the win in our respective matches and played each other. He was piloting one of the most stacked Abzan decks I could have imagined. Two Falconers, two Battle Priests, premium removal and strong on-color rare cards. I ended up beating him two to zero however due to my strong removal suit. Let’s move on to round four!
Imagine my opponents and my surprise when we both sit down and realize we had been playing each other for the last hour. He was my “third round” opponent. Well at least we both knew each other’s decks in and out because we also shared them with each other. In all honesty I was feeling great because I was the one who won. Game one was very difficult however, remember when I talked about attacking with Atarka once? Well it quickly ended the game. My opponent had so much removal, but had just used his Suspension Field on another mediocre creature. To my credit, I baited it out because I knew he had it. On to game two which technically never ended. We battled back and forth with removal and playing giant threats. Eventually, I was able to take control of the board and forced him to Crux of Fate during turns which caused me to win the match leaving me at 3-1. (Yay!)
At this point it was five in the morning. My opponent wanted to go home and though the extra packs weren’t worth staying for. I win…technically.
I do feel that 4-1 was the result I expected given how I was playing and the quality of my card pool. I just wish more matches were actual legitimate wins, but you go to prereleases to have fun right? Well, I had a boat load of fun despite having to wake up for work in the morning. I look forward to seeing Fate Reforged unfold as a format and continue to figure it out.
Thanks for reading guys! Feel free to comment below or message me your own fun prerelease stories or memories. See you next time!
By Roy Anderson @ on Twitter
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
As someone who really enjoys playing Limited games of Magic I was pretty excited to have a relatively free weekend not all that long ago where I could go and play a couple of drafts and try out some new and different things. I know that there are many players out there who play Magic online through MTGO, but I am not one of those guys. I have an account, and have played a few games here and there, but I prefer the live experience of sitting down with other players and actually playing the game. This means I am likely to get far fewer opportunities than an online player because I need to make time in my schedule to make it to a store and draft instead on just firing up the old computer and grinding out a few matches when it is convenient. Don’t get me wrong…I’d likely enjoy the online experience too, but it is just not something I’m prepared to get too heavily involved in when my budget for playing the game is as limited as it is.
Anyway, back to the point, I was prepared to hit two drafts in two nights and was really excited for it. However, after the two nights I left slightly disheartened because I didn’t do very well. I was 2-2 on the first night and was 0-2 and had to drop on account of a family emergency on the second night leaving me 2-4 for the weekend. That’s not a particularly good record and had me wondering what the heck I was doing. I was really questioning my own ability to play and more importantly, why was I trying to write anything about my experiences when I couldn’t even manage to go 3-3? What was I offering to the community if I am below the “Mendoza line” and simply stinking out the joint? Well, I took a little time off and thought about where I fit and why I feel like I have some valid contributions to make to those who read my material here on Three Kings Loot (or anywhere else for that matter).
There are two reasons that I write. The first one is entirely self-serving. As someone who doesn’t get too many chances to play, but still really enjoys to play Limited, the best way for me to try and improve my skills is to spend my time thinking about drafting and thinking critically about card choices and evaluation. The writing here on Three Kings Loot helps me to try and stay as sharp as possible and to be thinking in preparation of my draft opportunities to make the most of them. For a guy with only 3 official drafts of the Khans format under his belt, I lack the repetition that many players have but I feel like I can make up for SOME of this with my preparation. There is still no substitute for the experience, but preparation can go a long way to helping to shrink that gap.
The second reason is something I heard on a podcast. The hosts were going on about how it is important to gather up as much aggregate data as you can in order to gain a sense for what works, what doesn’t and why. If you only ever used your own experience you would come to many of the same conclusions, but it would take you far longer to gather the evidence you need to make that conclusion. However, by using the relevant experiences of others, including mistakes and misplays, you can improve your game and learn from their mistakes more quickly. This is my more significant contribution. Yes, you could go and read or watch about the experiences of a professional player and watch as they don’t misplay and have got the card selection narrowed down very finely, but you haven’t seen the leg work that they have put in to get to those decisions that they have been refining off camera for weeks. By reading about the mistakes of others who DO misplay and make HORRIBLE pick errors, you can see some of the work leading to those conclusions and accelerate your learning for your next limited experience.
With that sort of thought freshly in my mind I feel better about my drafts. I feel like in both situations I drafted very viable decks that were quite reasonable. Now, the 1st draft (Thursday Cheap night) was my better deck on a number of levels starting right from the 1st pick in pack 1, but I don’t regret either deck. On the Thursday I drafted a Sultai deck that I felt had all the bits and pieces to really hang with the big boys. The ceiling on the power level was quite high, I had a very solid curve with a number of very solid Morphs that could come down by turn 3 and start plugging up the ground, and even had enough mana fixing to support a 3 colour deck. On the whole it felt pretty good. On the Friday at FNM I started down the path of Temur, but as we progressed through the draft the deck changed and took on more of a 5 colour feel. I was happy to explore the 5 colour deck for something relatively unique that I have never tried before, but the power level just wasn’t high enough to really warrant such a deck. Let’s have a look at those deck lists.
For this Draft I was excited to play Sultai because my first pick was Villainous Wealth. I won’t go on too much about it here, but the card was really good for me. As we kept moving through the draft there was a pretty solid Sultai deck coming my way and what clinched it was a Rakshasa Vizier who is a rare card that is marginal in most decks, but in a deck with a couple of Delve outlets could be a real game breaker. The Vizier was passed to me late and I jumped on it, really sealing the fate of the deck. However, the deck felt very solid and I was pretty pleased.
Match 1 went my way with a 2-0 win including an awesome Villainous Wealth for 5 that flipped over and Arrow Storm for lethal in game 1. Game two was the Mystic of the Hidden Way show and the Abomination of Gudul playing second fiddle to get the job done.
Round 2 saw me sit down and play a ridiculous Abzan deck. In game one he curved into Abzan Falconer, Tuskguard Captain, Armament Corps on turns 3,4 and 5…leaving me essentially dead on board. I did manage to stabilize and remove the biggest threats, only to be blown out by Duneblast. Game 2 was somewhat better because he got out to an early lead again, but I fought back and Villainous Wealthed him for 6 turning up 5 permanents I could play…only to see the Duneblast a second time rendering me dead on board all over again.
Round 3 saw me grind out a super long match where I ended up decking myself in game 1 and going to extra turns in game 2, only to lose the match because I lost game 1. It felt pretty yucky, but what can you do? My deck hung in there and I just couldn’t squeeze through enough to close the deal despite being in the driver’s seat for most of the game.
Round 4 was the Bye, and while I am loath to count it, the computer seems to think I won a match and I’ll take it. I would have much rather had a chance to play, but those are the breaks.
Right from the beginning I didn’t feel as if this draft was going my way. Pick 1 Pack 1 was Meandering Towershell (a.k.a The Durdle Turtle). That’s not really the sort of card you want to take first, but I feel, based on the strength in the rest of the pack and that Green is generally a pretty strong colour that it was the best pick to make in that pack. One thing I did remember from the night before was the possibility of a board stall and so I made sure to pick up a Roar of Challenge to try and set up a ridiculous alpha strike to close out a game. As we kept moving through the draft I was noticing that there was loads of mana fixing available and that there were a number of Gold cards floating around. I started making a point to grab some of these and to take a stab at the 5 colour deck. As you can see, I had the mana base for it, but what I lacked was the relative power level in the deck. What I had were Gold cards that didn’t impact the board overly much like Temur and Sultai Ascendancy but could be splashy. That ended up putting a lot of pressure on my creatures, many of which were just average creatures like Mardu Blazebringer and Riverwheel Aerialists, to carry the load of breaking down the board stall and getting me a win. They couldn’t quite manage it and I ended up stalling.
I won’t recap the matches I played because I only played a pair of them because I ended up having to leave on account of a family emergency. However, once again, board stalls were the order of the day and one of the matches went to extra turns and I came out of the wrong end of that exchange again.
Villainous Wealth: This over performed in my estimation. Any time you can fire off one spell and net 3 or 4 cards off it is just pure evil. It breaks a board stall wide open and can absolutely warp a game. Yes, it takes some set up, and sure you need a fair pile of mana to make it worth it, but if you can stabilize the board you can likely make this one work for you because of the regular board stall situation in the game. I will be making a point of grabbing this one and using it the next time I see it.
Mystic of the Hidden Way: Again, a great way to bust open a board stall was to have an unblockable creature. He’s not flashy, but good lord is he effective to just chip away at a life total while letting you keep your shields up. This guy is a star and well worth the pickup to ensure you can get through.
Heir of the Wilds: He’s just unfair. He’s really a 3/3 with Deathtouch in many decks and just provides enough insurance because nobody is keen to tussle with this guy. Perhaps the best 2 drop in the format.
Riverwheel Aerialists: A 4/5 with Flying and Prowess is a pretty stacked creature. This was a menace and my opponents quickly opted to take it out rather than dealing with the humungous flier buzzing around.
Monastery Flock: You know what deals with fliers really well? The Flock. A- it is cheap to cast B- very little can fight its was through an 0/5 flier and C- no one ever thinks to use removal on a 0/5…c’mon…what sort of threat is that? So, needless to say, this is just an all-star blocker. Put this is a Secret Plans deck, net the cards off the Cheap Morph, and enjoy your big blocker!
Durdle Turtle: I was not a fan of this…I even got passed the stupid Temur Ascendancy and I wanted to live the dream of having the Turtle trigger the extra card draw on the Ascendancy. Instead I got a big, dumb, slow creature that routinely died to Kill Shot or Smite the Monstrous. Yuck.
Bouce effects: Ok…I’m not calling these a bust…because they straight up blew me out on two occasions…but they wrecked me and left me fuming because of something as simple as Force Away. My spells fizzled ALL THE TIME…particularly Roar of Challenge as I set up an Alpha strike. Grrr! Good cards…but irritating to play!
5 colour decks- These are just not all that good compared to more reliable decks. The upswing in power doesn’t always trade off well against the much poorer mana. Also, unless you grab a ridiculous Gold bomb early (Duneblast, Villainous Wealth etc) that facilitates you forcing 5 colour, you are unlikely to have enough benefit to really take advantage of you forcing 5 colours. I was listening to a podcast and they were discussing the relative success of the 5 colour deck and found that it was quite low. Either the deck performed amazing or it just whiffed. I tend to agree…the deck was somewhat underpowered and really not as good as I had hoped. I have a feeling I will try to avoid it in the future.
Banners: I was mildly disgusted with myself for having to play a banner and it was just a bust. I would have much rather done all sorts of things instead of playing it. I would avoid it in the future because I would rather have had a creature, any creature, instead of it. Card slots matter in this format, particularly when many decks are sacrificing picks to select lands and are opting for 22 cards and 18 land, and this is a waste of a card.
Well, there we have it. This has been a fairly lengthy article, but hopefully it helps someone out there. I can’t wait to take another crack at a draft, but that may need to wait a few weeks with Christmas looming and family obligations pending. Oh well…hopefully these lessons continue to bear fruit into the Fate Reforged/Khans format that will follow early in the New Year.
Thanks for reading this week and as always keep it fun, keep it safe…and keep it casual.
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
by Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
Well, things are starting to pick up with Khans limited and we’re starting to get a feel for what things look. Many of the podcasts and experts in these regards are raving about the format and the variety that it offers. So, I thought this week we’d dive back into the realm of Khans limited and Draft and bust open a pack and have a look. Let’s see what we’ve got this week!
Well, this week this is pretty much a slam dunk. The moment a fetch land shows in your draft pack you’re pretty well going to grab it based on value alone. However, in this pack there are still some interesting cards…but they will all be pick 2 or worse through out the pack.
So, there are a number of interesting cards, but Mardu Warshrieker is quite possibly the most attractive card in this pack. A 4 mana 3/3 is nice, but it is the Raid triggered “ritual” effect of ramping out a dump load of mana that is ridiculous. You don’t really have a 4 mana turn…you’re basically looking at a 7 mana turn…and the options get wild. Aggro decks just love this guy.
Burn Away is pretty terrific as far as removal goes because it is a sure way to deal with Blood Soaked Champion, exile the yard, and then reap the benefits. Yes, it is a steep spell to cast, but pricey removal is the flavour du jour and in the much slower Khans limited format is totally manageable. Everyone fights removal in Draft and this is pretty much premium removal.
Savage Punch is yet more removal and is inexpensive to boot. The Ferocious trigger makes this awesome because your stupid Alpine Grizzly (A vanilla 4/2) totally drops just about everything when it gets +2/+2. Really…what survives getting punched for 6? Not much in this format. This is yet more premium removal and is highly sought after.
Mer-ek Nightblade seems like it could get pretty crazy in the Abzan style builds to enable a ridiculous amount of deathtouchers. It is a solid card, but the Outlast mechanic is a little slow, but at least this one is relatively efficient to Outlast. I like it, but I’m not crazy for it.
Rotting Mastodon is a HUGE blocker that can really help a deck get its shields up and get prepared for the long game because there aren’t many spells that can take this one out and most creatures can’t attack profitably though it. I’m not thrilled that it is a 5 mana spell when I want a little more mustard behind a 5 drop, but if I need a big body to give me a little breathing room, this may be a good choice.
Erase and Naturalize are perfectly decent sideboard options, but they aren’t early picks and won’t be main decked. If I find one much later in the draft I’ll be happy because I’m unlikely to use an early pick on these cards.
Taigam’s Scheming could be a useful Delve enabler, but it mostly does nothing. It doesn’t put a card in your hand, it doesn’t impact the board, and it just filters your deck a little. I’m not really keen on it and would rather select a number of other cards before I get to this. If this were an instant I would be more inclined to run it so I can fix my card draw on my next draw step…but sadly this is a sorcery and is likely a bust.
The Banner and the Tranquil Cove are fixing. These are nice cards, but are more or less mid-round picks to enable splashing and ease the mana strains. The land would be my preferred option in most instances, but the banner could be relevant to help you draw a card in the late game and dig a little deeper into your deck.
Shambling Attendants is once again a pretty reasonable card, but like last week it’s pricey even with the Delve. Deathtouch helps to redeem this a touch, but it’s still a tough pill to swallow. Sure, it shuts a lot of attacks, but it just feels slow, ponderous, and not overly useful at some huge fat mana cost.
Oh…and Barrage of Boulders. I’m not a fan, but if you can trigger the ferocious on it, it could be a good way to force through some damage. I’m not sure it is really worth a card slot because at sorcery speed it really isn’t that flexible or impactful but I guess if you need it for Prowess or something I guess it’s an option…but I’m leaving this until late.
Secret plans…I’m not sold on this because a 2/3 morph is…ok? Sort of? Sometimes? The card to be drawn off the triggered ability is more useful, but it feels hard to trigger and not overly relevant unless I have a bunch of Morphs. You COULD be running a bunch and that card draw could really help fuel you through your deck. If you don’t…well…it’s a dead card. That’s a lot of uncertainty for a card that you want to use to abuse the Morph mechanic. I might take a chance on this once I’ve established that I’ve got some Morph creatures, otherwise I might just let this one slide.
The first pick is easy. Flooded Strand is very good value and allows you to pay for draft all by itself. It’s freaking Modern playable, will be run in Standard for the time being too, and is generally just a star. If you are drafting and you open one of these, grab it, and don’t worry about it because you have the rest of your picks to help you set the rest of your deck.
With Flooded Strand aside, I would quite seriously be looking at the Burn Away as the next best card in this pack. It is instant speed creature removal and can kill just about anything with the 6 damage. It is also serves as some serious graveyard hate to hamstring any Delve strategy meaning that it can play a secondary role to disrupt an opponent. What isn’t to like about this card (except the 5 mana to cast it).
Well, that pack seemed anti-climatic. Sure, I’m glad I pulled a Fetch land, but it sort of makes the whole exercise rather academic and not overly relevant. I still enjoy the chance to go through the cards and perform my Limited format assessment, but it just feels a little “bad” because none of it really matters thanks to the Fetch. Oh well…maybe next week’s Crack a pack MTG will be different.
Until next time may you open nothing but mythic bomb rares!
by Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters @bgray8791 on Twitter
The Khan is here! The Khan is here! Ok…maybe not quite…but that’s what I wanted to yell when I finally had a chance to crack some Khans and play with the new shiny toys. Oh boy! Oh Boy! Oh Boy! I’ll spare you waxing poetically about Khans and let’s get to the good stuff.
So, my initial reaction to this pack is BOOOO…nothing crazy sweet in this pack, but it is pretty reasonable and offers some interesting choices for cards and a tough first pick. Having not had a ton of limited experience with this set I’m working a bit in a vacuum, but I still have an idea about where I would go.
Let’s start with the rare and while the Deflecting Palm has proven to be very good in Jeskai tempo decks in Constructed, it is by no means a slam dunk for Draft. It will very likely sit dead in your hand in many games, if you draw it, and even once you do it does little to impact the board. Now, there will absolutely be situations where it is the best card you could have hoped to pull, but most of the time will be unless you’re on the Jeskai game plan and can trigger a load of Prowess triggers. I won’t discount this card from this pack, but it isn’t an automatic slam first pick.
Amongst the uncommons we have a couple of really interesting cards. Let’s start with the Charm because these are all very powerful. All three modes of this are borderline bananas and the sheer versatility of this card makes me want to jump on board. Yes, it is 3 different mana symbols to cast it, but the options this can present are remarkable. Also, with the wide range of mana fixing in this set like the common Refuge cycle, Banners, and Tri-lands (and forget about those fetches) you could easily pull this off.
Sultai Flayer is a 3/4 for 4 mana and is very versatile. While the name claims it is a Sultai creature, it can also synergize very nicely with the Temur clan because of all the 4 toughness creatures it seems to have kicking around. Gaining 4 life is pretty significant and big creatures tend to have a bit of a bulls-eye on them, so you may as well reap a little benefit from it. The 3/4 for 4 mana is also pretty efficient and gives you something to exert some good board presence.
Goblinslide is not something I’m really keen on because I don’t really want to play that has no impact on the board when I cast it, needs other pieces to trigger it (like non-creature spells) and then STILL pay 1 mana to get the Goblin token. It has its applications, but I’m not lining up for this one.
Shambling Attendants gets my attention because a 3/5 with Deathtouch is pretty solid. The casting cost on this one is not ideal, and even with the Delve it makes for a tough sell, but something this large with deathtouch basically shuts down your opponent because they will be unlikely to be keen to trade with the attendant. A little pricey, but will get a good solid look based on the impact it can have on the board.
Archer’s Parapet gets my attention pretty quickly because it is a way to help bust a board stall situation. Two mana for 0/5 is totally doable and gives you a solid barrier to hide behind while you set up your board. The fact that you can use it to deal damage in the later game is a nice bonus. The black activation is not a big drawback due to all the fixing in this set, but it is something to keep in mind as you move through your draft.
Rite of the Serpent. Well, Well…6 mana removal is back. You’ll play this and it will likely get drafted mid-round because removal is always at a premium. The thing that I like most about this card is that you get a sweet bonus of a Snake token if you take out a creature with a +/1+1 counter on it. That’s some nice value, even if it is conditional.
Weave Fate is the Divination for this set, but might be slightly better because it is at instant speed. Blue decks will want this and will be happy to grab it and play it on their opponent’s end step all game long.
Tusked Colossodon is a massive Green fatty for 6 mana. I remember when Craw Wurm was the big dumb Green fatty for 6…this guy is a significant upgrade. You won’t want this guy early but to grab him later in the round as a big defender or just a way to trigger Ferocious will earn this guy his stripes.
Mardu Banner and Swiftwater Cliffs sort of serve the same role of enabling the fixing in this set with so many demands on your mana base. The fact that these are readily available in just about every pack is good news and may mean that both of these are available later in the round. However, don’t be surprised to see these guys start disappearing earlier and earlier as people fight over the mana they want/need.
Swift Kick is an interesting take on the Green “fight” style of removal. Instant speed, and getting +1/+0 could mean you take out their creature, but you are likely working out a trade at best and leaving you down a card because they lose their creature…and you just traded your creature and a spell to do it. Also, 4 mana for this sort of effect is pretty expensive, particularly when Savage Punch is in this same set at 2 mana. This is acceptable and does see play, but it isn’t high on my list of priorities.
Rush of Battle has all the trappings of being just like Sanctified Charge except Charge is an Instant and grants First Strike and not Lifelink. The key is the Instant speed and First strike because they tip the scales and make Sanctified Charge terrific as your whole team just runs over your opponent. Rush of Battle is a sorcery, so needs to be played before combat is declared in order to even have effect, but the LifeLink doesn’t guarantee that your boys win in combat the way that Charge almost certainly ensured it. You will rarely run this and only if you are desperate for playables or ways to trigger Prowess.
Cancel is a perfectly reasonable counter spell in most formats and this set is no different. The problem becomes where do you prioritize it? I would argue that it is a mid-round pick for me, and mostly as insurance to make sure that I am packing some counter magic, but I may find that it slides further down the pick order as the format evolves.
My first pick out of this pack is quite seriously the Sultai Charm because I like the versatility of the spell and all three modes are very strong. The casting cost is a little prohibitive, but there is loads of fixing in every pack and by selecting it first you can craft your deck to support all three colours if that is the route you intend to take. However, even if you don’t play Sultai because the colours aren’t overly open, you are at least assured that you won’t have to face this down as you move through your rounds. I had considered Deflecting Palm and opted for the Charm because it is just more useful in more situations than Deflecting Palm, which is really only good in a couple of situations.
Well, there we have it as we move into the new world that is Khans draft limited and things look sweet. Even with this pack, which is pretty marginal, has a bunch of really interesting options to consider when evaluating the cards in the pack. I’m really excited for what Khans is going to offer the draft environment and help freshen up the Limited environment. I can’t wait to get my first crack at the format and see what the draft feels like to play first hand.
Thanks very much for once again reading this week and I can’t wait to see what Khans offers us as the draft and constructed formats continue to evolve and emerge. Thanks very much and may you open nothing but Mythic rares.
by Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters @bgray8791 on Twitter
So, I’m back and all bleary eyed from my Khans of Tarkir prerelease experience. Wow…what a time! Let’s get out in front of this…I didn’t do very well. I played in the Two-Headed Giant prerelease on the Sunday evening and it was packed! We ended up in the pizza joint next door for deck construction as overflow and it was nuts. With that many players it was bound to be a tough hill to climb and it was exactly as I expected. My brother, who is my usual partner, and I had a record of 2 wins, 3 losses, and 1 draw. We ended up way down the standings, but had tons of fun and really didn’t feel like our record was indicative of the strength of our decks.
In the first game we were a little slow off the mark but were starting to make some headway and stabilize the board. It wasn’t helping matters that I drew land for 6 consecutive turns forcing my partner to handle the load of the work. However, just as we were turning the corner and getting things set up to really get in the match we got hit with a HUGE Icy Blast that tapped us down for 2 full turns. Needless to say, we didn’t last long because that sort of tempo play is just backbreaking. We took it on the chin and were 0-1 to start.
In game two our opponents got out to a quick start and built up some solid board presence. However, they got tentative and tried to slow roll us as they set up their kill stroke. However, when both our decks roared to life at the same time, and yet another HUGE Icy Blast later, we had them dead and kicking themselves for playing so slowly. We moved on in a very respectable 1-1.
Game 3 was a situation where we came out and dictated play reasonably well. We had strong board presence, had preserved our life total reasonably well, and generally were in good shape…until they hit us with…you guessed it…Icy Blast. Well, that was the game and we were 1-2. You may have noticed that we were just getting crushed by Icy Blast and it was doing some work. Essentially, whoever resolved Icy Blast typically won out and it proved to be a ridiculous bomb.
Game 4 we were on the beatdown plan pretty hard. We had them on the ropes pretty good and were laying waste to them pretty hard when out of nowhere came End Hostilities clearing the board. Since they knew it was coming they could follow up with some explosive creatures and very quickly we found ourselves in a hole. We just never recovered from the Board Wipe and they quickly mopped up the rest of the damage to leave us 1-3 and feeling pretty sorry for ourselves because we felt we deserved a better fate,
Game 5 was one of those games that everything went our way. We dodged all their big spells, countered or killed all the most relevant threats and generally had the run of things. However, they scrounged and wouldn’t give up and we ended up going to extra turns. In the end we drew, but it should have been a win for us…with our life total being at a ridiculous 49 life to their 2 points and all the threats in the world. We just couldn’t quite seal the deal leaving us in a draw. This sort of game leaves a bad taste in your mouth because we had the win…we could see it…we just didn’t quite get it in time. Sweet…everyone loves to be 1-3 and a draw.
It was at this point that we dropped the actual event, but we did sit down with some buddies of ours who came with us to play. They had fared much the same way we had and were way down in the standings, so they dropped too and we played them in a sort of exhibition game with our Limited decks. It was pretty fun but we pretty much ran them over quite quickly. I’ll call this a win for us, even though it doesn’t appear in the standings. 2-3 and a draw…not ideal, but fairly reasonable.
Here’s my deck:
Overall, my impression of the format was that it felt very slow. With so many tapped lands entering play to enable the wide array of colours, early pressure was super important and usually left your opponent reeling. The good news was that it was easy as pie to meet your mana requirements in terms of colours. I found that all evening I was able to cast my spells and never in need of looking for double black or double white to cast my spells…I always had it. The “Refuge” land cycle was hugely important because it was occupying a common slot in just about each booster pack and was readily available to provide the fixing that was needed. Also, casting costs seemed to be generally pretty high and did not have a ton of easy to cast 1-2 and 3 drops. The argument on the flip side was that Morph could enable a quicker play, but a 2/2 for 3 is pretty poor considering what else we can get. I’m not sure I saw Morph get used to its fullest abilities in this first go around, but it definitely looked powerful and could do some very neat things. I liked the Limited play in general, but deck construction proved very challenging as I had to balance a number of colour requirements, a reasonable curve, and generally manage the demands of straining my mana that little bit further than normal.
Icy Blast- This was a devastating card all night long. Every time it resolved it pretty assured that a winner was going to be declared soon. For limited this is a ridiculous bomb and automatic include in your deck. If you see this in a Draft, grab it, even if you aren’t in blue just to ensure you don’t need to face it down.
End Hostilities- Another disgusting bomb that messed things up. Not as scary as Icy Blast, but still very good and pretty uncool to try and face down. At least now you have the option of countering it, but it is still pretty crushing if you can hit it.
High Sentinels of Arashin- This is a disgusting bomb. A 3/4 flier for 4 mana is pretty good, but it is the additional abilities that makes it just busted. It gets +1/+1 for each creature you control with a counter on it. Cool…but in Abzan that’s EVERYTHING. This was routinely a 8/9 creature for me, and with the “Sliver-esque” feel to the Abzan it could get first strike, trample, Lifelink, or anything else really. It’s pretty crazy to say the least.
Abzan “lords”- As I said, the “Sliver-esque” ability of the Abzan to grant each other abilities can make for a devastating combination if left unchecked. It resulted in gross amounts of life gain through the Lifelink granted by Abzan Battle Priest and coupled with the High Sentinels I had a full team of disgusting, Lifelinking monsters to terrorize my opponents. I liked them and they all synergized well together.
On the whole, I liked the Outlast mechanic, but I found it very slow. Some of the other abilities, like Prowess or Ferocious ended up being easier to trigger and it was a bit of a challenge about when to spend the mana on the Outlast counter and tap the creature down versus when to keep it up to block.
Feed the Clan. Normally I would never run a card like this. Pure, unadulterated life gain is just not something I like to play, but we kept getting blown out on Icy Blast and such. So, both my brother and I main decked one of these with the express intent of firing one off to save our bacon and let us buy another turn in order to staff out getting knocked out of the match. Believe it or not, it worked. It bought us considerable time in one match and was not a dead card in another game we played. I could hardly believe it was playable. I’m still not convinced based on my small sample size, but I will be keeping an eye on it.
My MVP was Armament Corps. My opponents would always allow this to resolve thinking that it was just a 4/4, but it could target itself and be a nasty 6/6 to cope with it. However, the real benefit was in dumping the +1/+1 counters on other creatures (without utilizing their Outlast mechanic) to gain the benefits of the Abzan “lord” cards or to trigger the High Sentinels. It proved to be a terrific barrier to shut out an aggressive ground game and a great way to enable powerful plays through the synergy with other Abzan cards. This was a quiet star and one I was always glad to see turn up.
Honestly, while it was useful a couple of times, Take up Arms largely disappointed. This is not M15 limited where Triplicate Spirits and the like are defining cards. This is an expensive card that spews out some counters that could be neat if you are all aboard the Warrior-tribal theme…but I think will usually be an under performing card. 1/1 tokens just aren’t relevant enough because they don’t really trade profitably with much unless you double (or usually triple!) block a creature. I would have rather played something more powerful at 5 mana than this.
I really enjoyed the Prerelease and wished I could have played a few more over the weekend, but needless to say that wasn’t possible based on my schedule. It was a ton of fun, but it was just a glimpse of the Limited format that is going to shape up now that Khans is hitting the stores. This format seems light years more complicated and nuanced than M15 which felt very narrow and stifled, but Khans is crazy diverse and a breath of fresh air. The next several months are bound to be fun.
Well, there we have it, thanks for reading this week. I’ll be back to my usual affairs of putting together a crack a pack and I’ve got some other irons in the fire in order to brew up some new decks and some other fun things. So, stay tuned as we start to ramp up some of the brewing and news now that Khans is here.
Until next time, keep it fun, keep it safe…and most importantly keep it is Casual.
by Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters @bgray8791 on Twitter