Hi folks! Today is pretty exciting because this will be my first Crack a Pack for Battle for Zendikar. With a new Limited format taking shape this is the perfect time to open up a pack and go through card by card to establish what you might take in a draft, if this was your first pack.
I have to say, on the whole, Battle for Zendikar feels very nuanced compared to some of the previous sets. Origins had very clear “good” cards and “bad”cards and even Dragons of Tarkir was fairly obvious. Battle for Zendikar feels much more subtle and it has a lot more conditions for the cards to be good, but once they are good your deck becomes pretty solid. The real danger comes if you aren’t able to grab enough of or the right synergy pieces then your idea starts to fall apart. Your first couple of picks become so crucial to provide you with strong playables, but be certain keep your eyes open to the synergy pieces that are passed to you. With all that in mind, let’s open up the pack and see what we find today!
Giant Mantis is just a solid playable card. It is just a Giant Spider and is nothing fancy. There is no way this is an early pick and will only make your deck for curve consideration reasons. That said, it is a useful card and when you need it you are always thankful it’s in your deck.
Anticipate is one of those cards that always sounds really good, but in a draft deck is often a card that under performs. It just doesn’t impact the board and eats up a valuable card slot. Yes, it is an instant and can help smooth out your draw, but the cost of playing this over something else is real. I’m not a big buyer of this in Limited.
Kozilek’s Sentinel is a more interesting card because as a 1/4 for two mana this is an excellent blocker. The fact that this could gain an extra point of power (or two) is just extra gravy because it costs you nothing extra. This may not be an early pick, but don’t overlook this if you are in red because if you wait too long it’ll be gone.
Inspired Charge is not an early pick. This gets picked up if, you are in a token strategy and can use it something akin to an Overrun effect. I’ll pass on this early because it’ll probably be there late if I am the deck that wants this.
Scour from Existence is a fine card to deal with just about anything and fits in every deck. The exile is nice because a processor card could use the card exiled as fuel for a bit of a bonus too. Sadly, it’s 7 mana. I’m not in on this early, but if I see one later on I might be inclined to pick one of these.
Grave Birthing is something I’m interested in. Not first pick, but interested in. I feel like it starts to help enable you to to play the Eldrazi processor cards as a payoff without skewing your deck to ingest cards. The surprise blocker could also be real. Don’t get the wrong idea, this is a card that has marginal upside and some modest synergy, but I am interested and if I start to see myself taking some processor type cards then I might be more inclined to grab this sort of reasonable enabler.
Broodhunter Wurm is Green’s Summit Prowler-esque card. He’s a very playable 4/3 vanilla creature and will make your deck regularly enough if you want it. I’m not crazy about it, but I recognize this sort of card has definite value. I would be passing this and hoping to see if I can find one later on to fill out my curve.
Spell Shrivel is a counter spell. I’m not really big on counter magic in Limited decks and this is no exception. I’m going to say initially that this is a no but perhaps in a few weeks, after we’ve seen how the format shakes out a little more, I might be inclined to take this a little more highly. We shall see.
Here is the first REAL card I would look at. Complete Disregard is a very good spell. It is reasonably costed, Instant speed removal that even synergizes with Eldrazi processors. This is EXACTLY the sort of card I would consider taking first. The only downside is that it is a little on the conditional side of things with getting things with power 3 or less, but I think that is a reasonable drawback and something that I can work around. This parallels with Reave Soul from Magic Origins very nicely which was a very good common to pick up and I expect Complete Disregard to be similar.
Roil’s Retribution is a very powerful card. Yes, it is 5 mana, but this is similar in many ways to Pyrotechnics that we just got to play with in Fate Reforged. It is Instant speed and almost ensures that you can get a 2 or a 3 for one out of this spell. It is somewhat less flexible because you can’t target your opponent directly to burn them out and you can get punished pretty heavily if your opponent can play around it and make you leave up 5 mana on your turn to avoid getting blown out by it. I feel like those are manageable risks and not a reason to avoid this card. This one would be pulled to the front along with the Complete Disregard.
Ruination Guide looks pretty spicy. If you can get the Eldrazi Scion token swarm deck online this could be just a horrific beating. However, there is a pretty high set up cost to make this really good. I would rather to make sure I had a few other Devoid/Eldrazi cards in my pile first before I go for this guy. This would still be a fairly early pick, but not a first pick until I saw where I was with my deck.
Slab Hammer is a very solid artifact for an aggressive Landfall deck because you get to replay your lands for yet MORE Landfall triggers AND you get the bonus from this. I’m still not picking it highly. This might make my deck as a 22nd or 23rd card, but I can’t see myself prioritizing this too frequently.
Sunken Hollow is a pricey high-end rare that really only pulls its weight in Constructed. The real question is this: do you pass the expensive rare land and take a better playable or do you just rare draft the value? If this is in paper, I’m totally taking the land. If this is on MTGO, I’ll take the playable instead because this will most likely only be worth about half a ticket and not impactful for the deck most of the time.
Fertile Thicket as a foil sure looks pretty. Definitely not a first pick, but it sure is very pretty.
Can you believe the Swamp might be a consideration in this set? With full art basics being a real thing you might actually give this some consideration. I might question your sanity…but hey…maybe you’re a collector? I’m not really. This would be left for near the end of the pack.
First Pick: If this is a draft in paper and I get a shot at a Sunken Hollow then I’m totally grabbing it. I love non-basic lands and go to great lengths to pick up as many as I can. Furthermore, the raw monetary value from this one card makes this very appealing and not something to be passed. Now, if this is an online draft the relative value of Sunken Hollow is minute compared to the paper version. I am also incentivized to win more with more/better prizes, so I would pass on the land and look to be picking up a playable card for my deck. I’ve made the mistake of taking the fancy land online and have no intention of repeating it. No, online I would most certainly be looking at the removal spells first. I think in this pack I would be starting off with the Roil’s Retribution even if it is a little on the expensive side.
This was a very interesting pack because of the presence of the rare land in the pack. The value represented in real life vs the online desire to win is very interesting and a key feature to keep in mind. However, I feel like the Roil’s Retribution is likely the BEST card choice if you are intent on trying to win and not value draft.
Thanks for taking to time to stop in and have read. Next week I’ll have another pack of Battle for Zendikar and we’ll see how things continue to change following the Pro-Tour & Grand Prix, SCGs and more heavy online exposure. But until then, have a great MTG day!
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter
Hi everyone and welcome back to Casual Encounters. Today I am going to do something that I haven’t done in a little while. I have fairly regularly cracked a pack and gone through what I would be looking at if I were starting a draft, but today I’m going to crack that pack and look at for the ART. I call it my Art Draft and today I’ll be busting open a pack of Dragons of Tarkir. Let’s not waste any time, let’s get down to business and see what is in the pack!
Have you ever really looked at the art on Qarsi Sadist? Have you? It is pretty amazing art on a card that is very marginal. The act of sacrificing the man on the altar is pretty detailed, but it is the masks of the guys pinning him down that are pretty chilling. These would be the type of ornate masks I would expect to find right out of some horror movie and are frightening while beautiful. However, look closer. Who’s is that in the background? Yeah, that is Silumgar. I don’t think I’ve ever actually noticed because my eyes get pulled to the masks in gold and the white shroud on the victim, but therehe is lurking in the background. That’s crazy neat. I may not be a big fan of the card, but I’m on board when it comes to this card in terms of art.
Sabretooth Outrider is a fine piece of art where the art is essentially exactly what you were expecting. You get a big cat, plenty off red on account of the colour of the card and generally a pretty predictable card. Heck, I can even account for the first strike because of the lances they are carrying. This is just fine on a card that is also just fine, but no one is getting excited. The white in the background is kind of whitewashing the whole piece, the art is reasonably predictable, and nothing remarkable really stands out. This is just fine, but nothing more.
Champion of Arashin is a little more interesting. The hound in the foreground is very interesting and highly detailed if you look at the armor he’s wearing. The background is also pretty interesting with the other hounds joining the battle as well. However, the real winner here is the fact that they sneak Dromoka into the background breathing a big gout of flame. This is more my style.
Atarka Beastbreaker looks pretty bland to me. Sure, he’s pretty jacked but that is hardly noteworthy. The colors and contrasts are once again kind of washed out and there really isn’t much happening. By comparison, the Champion of Arashin is on the midst of a battle, while this guy is coming home dragging supper behind him. This really isn’t anything super cool even if the card is a fine little card for a draft deck.
Mystic Meditation offers us far more in terms of visual eye candy. The colors are a little sharper and the detail feels like it is just a notch above what we’ve seen done in the other cards. Look at the dragons above the figure in the center and tell me those aren’t detailed portrayals of dragons. The gold steamers coming down from the ceiling look to be floating, further capturing the moment that looks like “mystic meditation” so that the art truly matches the card. I think the aspect that really pulls me into this card is the quote from Narset in the flavor text. I’m a huge fan of this fairly simple card draw spell because the art totally appeals to me.
Butcher’s Glee is one of my favorite combat tricks in the set and art is almost as good. That little goblin just looks so funny coming lunging at you brandishing that huge machete. The big toothy smile says all I need to know about this goblin and what it is feeling. I also really like that the action shot is up close. The close up perspective adds an emotional dimension that reinforces the panic for the card, much like you might feel if you are the one trying to cast this. You don’t want to have this spell fizzle so the sense of panic is real. The flavor text is also pretty neat as we get to know a little bit more about the the little goblin Kneecleaver. I’m just a fan on the whole and feel like the emotion in the card art matches the emotions I feel as I play the card.
Ojutai Interceptor is one of those card that had me excited when the set dropped because I like the art, but I’m less thrilled with it now. Sure, the morph like cloud behind the bird is pretty cool looking but there really isn’t much else to look at. There is a monastery appearing faintly in the background, but even that can not save this card. The bird in the foreground just doesn’t look like much because even the colors are a little muted. Sadly, this one has slipped down my list of card art preference and is much lower than it was a few months ago.
Herald of Dromoka has a lot more of what I like. The foreground is a highly detailed character in mid action which is a good start. The background is very interesting as well with a pile of soldiers leaving the temple on the left hand side of the card frame. They are clearly in a rush because the fortress is under assault. The right hand side of the card frame is a huge Dragon trying to bbq the fortress. My only real complaint with this card is the horn. It just looks so ridiculous right there in the middle of the card. I think the piece of art would have been more powerful with a different horn, but they were looking for a common thread to tie this to the Abzan from Khans of Tarkir. However, I still feel like it looks a little silly and detracts from the rest of the cool art.
Segmented Krotiq is a pretty gross looking centipede but it’s the sheer size of that thing is what’s so neat. Underneath the Krotiq is a monastery of sorts and it is absolutely dwarfed by the size of this gigantic creepy crawley. While I appreciate the proportions of the bug, I’m not hugely enamoured by the art and wouldn’t be putting this super high on my list.
Tail Slash is one of my favorite removal spells from the set but I can’t say the same for the art. The portrayal of the dragon doesn’t seem to match with the images we’ve seen elsewhere in the set. It feels like this has been pulled out of a book on dinosaurs because it looks like a brontosaurus with wings rather than an honest to goodness dragon. Apparently this dragon also got a 2-for-1 out this deal based on the two guys being launched in nearly identical positions. No, I can’t get behind this art even if the spell is very solid removal.
Echoes of the Kin Tree looks like it is a poster for the Hobbit. The relative positioning of the figures in the foreground look like they have been taken right out a movie. Their uniforms are dull to start with and dulled further as our eyes are pulled to the ghostly figure in the background. The art does a good job of conveying the significance of the card because it becomes clear that spirits are supporting the living warriors of the Dromoka brood. The best part for me is the flavour text about the human warriors maintaining their tradition of worshiping the Kin Tree despite Anafenza being executed. This card is reasonable and the art is pretty, but the positioning of the characters on the card feels very cliche.
Dromoka’s Gift is much cooler. I think what appeals to me is the vantage point as you look up, past the soldier being rewarded, up at the face of Dromoka. This feels like the moment is pretty momentous and should be something to take note of. Sadly, the card itself doesn’t match the grandiose art, but we aren’t here to quibble about spells are we. Based solely on the art, this is something that I like and enjoy seeing. If only the spell itself was slightly better.
Self-Inflicted Wound is a grisly card if I’ve ever seen one. Our eyes are drawn to the man in the foreground and the anguish he is experiencing as he fights against himself to try and prevent harm. However, what is interesting is the combination of the corpse in the lower right of the card frame in purple mist and the pair of matching purple cloaked wraiths in the background in the top left. This man clearly has no hope and The Reaper is clearly coming for him. This is chilling and grisly art to say the least and something that is interesting to examine more closely.
Clone Legion is pretty cool simply because of the mirror factor that has matching forces on each side. This feels like a flavor success in the truest sense of the word because the art and name show almost exactly what the card says it does. When art, name and card all match life for the players is made easy and things make sense. When either the card art or the name don’t match, players get confused. Don’t believe me? Check out a card like Tormented Soul or Orchard Spirit which clearly floats because it is a spirit or wraith. It can’t be blocked except by a creature with flying. However, they themselves don’t fly. That’s something that newer players don’t always remember because both of them LOOK like they should be flying. Well, Clone Legion is a win because if you look at the name and look at the art you can get a really good sense for what the card does.
My first pick is going to be the creepy art on Qarsi Sadist. The detail in the masks and the fact that Silumgar is lurking in the background pushes this over the top for me in this pack. This wasn’t the best art pack I’ve ever opened, but there certainly were some pretty reasonable choices. I always like looking at the art on these cards and this was fun today.
Thanks for stopping in to have a read! Have yourself a great MTG day!
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter
Welcome back folks! I was looking through my entries and noticed that it had been a long time since I cracked a pack for you guys and thought it might be time to pop open a pack and treat it like I was going to draft. I have drafted loads of DTK/DTK/FRF and towards the end it was starting to get stale…but Origins seems pretty spicy and is still very much a thing for a couple of more weeks. So, let’s open up a pack of Origins and have a look at what I might pick if I was sitting down to draft.
Ok, so the rare is a nice one! Scab-Clan Berserker is actually a very nice card. I wouldn’t call it a grade A bomb, but it is a very solid card and can start to warp the board if your opponent needs to think twice about casting non-creature spells. The fact that this creature has Haste is incredibly valuable because it allows you to sneak it in to trigger the Renown on it and then sit back and allow the triggered ability to pile up and yield you further value. I would be thumbing this to the front of the pack and looking for anything that might top it.
Malakir Cullblade is an interesting card, but in order for us to get value out of it you need to have your opponents creatures die and it is highly unlikely that this is going to do it, at least initially, on its own. That means you need to do a fair bit of work to get this to a reasonable point. With one counter this is a 2/2, but it still trades with just about every other 2 drop in the format. As a 3/3 you will start to get value, but that’s asking a fair bit. If you can get this to being a 4/4 you’ve done well and you should be ecstatic, but most clever opponents will ensure that this never gets to that point. If I end up in Black I would look at this as a mid-round pick up, but even then I might not run it because it takes a bunch of work to get it to be good. I’m sure this pack has better cards, so I’ll pass and keep on looking.
Angel’s Tomb is a fun little artifact that can be a very real and relevant threat, but it is conditional on you casting other creatures to enable it. This usually isn’t an issue, but it means that you can’t always rely on this to be your answer. Make no mistake, I’ve lost my fair share of games to this card, but it is not a high pick for me and unlikely to be something I prioritize highly.
Mage-Ring Network is an interesting storage land. I am unlikely to ever want this early in the pack because I’m not big on storage lands. It has applications with Red and any X burn spells (like Ravaging Blaze) but there is no way this is an early pick.
Rhox Maulers is something I can get behind. This guy is a beating and it is exactly the sort of 5 drop I want to play. If this goes unanswered the game is over ridiculously quickly. Whoever designed Trample on Renown cards should feel kind of silly because many games end on account of Rhox Maulers crashing in for a whole pile of life. This one would get a long, hard look for sure.
Dreadwaters. No. I know if you have 3 or 4 of these that you can Mill out your opponent, but you sort of fall into that deck. You don’t go out LOOKING to draft it. Leave this until near the end and if you start to see 2 or 3 floating around it might make a for a funny story. Otherwise, save your pick on something actually relevant.
Reave Soul ! Yes Please. This is premium Black removal and would immediately get pulled to the front of the pack. With a set full of modestly sized creatures Reave Soul kills many of the most relevant ones. I’m sad that it is Sorcery speed removal, but I can hardly argue with a mere 2 mana. In most situations you are likely trading the 2 mana you spend on this spell for 2 mana to kill their “Grizzly” bear, but you could easily come out ahead on the mana if you can nab something like Charging Griffin. That may sound like a trivial difference, but that difference in mana could be huge. It could be the difference between you making them waste their 4 mana on a creature that is now dead, while you could spend your 4 mana to kill it and then follow up with a Screeching Scab or a Fetid Imp. I’m a big fan of Reave Soul and could make the case to pick this first. Let’s see what else is in this pack.
Prickleboar is another very solid creature. It loves to attack and can clear out lots of things and can really get the job done. He’s not great if you are on the back foot, so he wouldn’t be a super early pick, but he does good work and can’t be ignored.
Heavy Infantry is just not something I’m big on. We’ve already seen two very solid 5 drops in this pack showing just what you can get in the way of 5 mana creatures. The return on this guy isn’t great. Sure, he does decent work in almost every situation, but you can’t tell me you’d pick him over the Maulers or Prickleboar. No, he’s a much weaker pick and is something to look at late in this pack.
Vastwood Gorger gets played surprisingly often in Green decks. He’s not flashy, but he’s a big body and can get pretty aggressive. He’s not an early pick, but he’s something that I would be looking for late in the round if I’m in Green.
Negate. Sideboard. Moving on.
Deadbridge Shaman is a card that has surprised me. It has done a good amount of work and I have seen many aggressive decks ride this guy to wins. Nobody is super keen to kill this and discard a card meaning it often goes unchecked. I’m a big fan and would be looking for this fairly early in the pack to help secure the fact that I looking to play Black.
Yoked Ox. Sigh. I don’t like this card because it does so little… except when you need it. This gets sided in against aggressive decks as an early blocker. Otherwise you will rarely play it. End of discussion.
I think we can all agree that there are really only two real picks to take out of this pack first. The Berserker and the premium removal spell are the only real options and are a cut above the rest of this pack. The safe first pick is the removal spell. Reave Soul is almost always a good spell to have in your deck and even if you take it first and don’t play Black, at least you can rest assured that there is one less piece of removal floating around the table. However, how often do you get to play with flashy rare cards like this? Personally I would take the Berserker and then see what comes my way. There is a slight chance that I see another Reave Soul later in the draft, but the chance of seeing the same rare card come around the table is very low, so I’ll take my chances with the rare.
Cards 3 and 4 are pretty easy choices, but the fifth card was something I was weighing pretty closely. I was debating selecting the Vastwood Gorger as the 5th card in this pack, but I sat there and compared a few things. Deadbridge Shaman comes down many turns earlier and in this format that is huge. You can’t afford to have many 5 and 6 drops in your deck or else you will be too slow and that is the dilemma with the Gorger. On top of the speed issue, the fact remains that Deadbridge Shaman has a form of quasi evasion. Few opponents are keen to kill it because that makes them discard and generates a form of card advantage for the player with the Shaman. The discard is a very relevant ability and something that will invariably force your opponent to change how they play. No one is truly scared of the Gorger because you can chump block it for days and continue with your own game plan or dig for an answer. Ultimately, I hate to see Deadbridge Shaman far more than a Vastwood Gorger and would rather grab it early in the pack if I’m intent on playing any sort of Black deck, thus making it more likely to be the fifth pick in the pack.
Well, there we have it. I have to say, this was a pretty interesting pack. The first pick would be very debatable and you could approach it as being a removal spell or the rare creature and be right. The thought that goes into selecting the fifth card would also be very interesting as you weigh the merits of the Gorger or the Shaman. All in all, it gave me plenty to think about and was a good sample of what a pack might look like when drafting Origins. I hope you guys reading along at home enjoyed it and I will make a point of getting another Crack a pack MTG done soon.
Thanks for taking the time to stop by and have read. Your support is always appreciated. So, until the next time, have yourself a great MTG day.
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
Wow. It has been a while since I last cracked a pack for my own blog. The last time I posted one was March 10th! Yikes. Since then Dragons of Tarkir has become a thing and NOW Modern Masters 2015 is hitting the shelves (like TODAY). I guess that sort of makes Dragons of Tarkir old news, but I still enjoy the set. So, I’m going to open up a pack and have a look and see what I would take if I was sitting down to start a draft. Let’s take a look at the pack.
This is a very interesting pack. It has some solid playables, the uncommons seem strong, and an intriguing rare card. Let’s start with the rare and move from there. Volcanic Vision is a fascinating card to open up. My first gut reaction was “No Way”. The 7 mana is extremely steep and the fact that it returns a Sorcery or Instant to my hand is hardly exciting. However, I sat and thought about the card for a long while and I feel like my first reaction might have been way off.
The text on the card reads “Return an Instant or Sorcery from your graveyard to your hand. Volcanic Vision deals damage equal to that card’s converted mana cost to each creature your opponents controls. Exile Volcanic Vision”. The key word here is EACH. You could conceivably have this behave like a one sided sweeper, provided you have a suitable target in your graveyard. Herein lies the problem. The conditional nature of the spell, that you need a good target to get good value, is crucial and a major stumbling block for the card. Most times you have things like Roast, Twin Bolt, Wild Slash, or even Bathe in Dragonfire as suitable targets, but I’m not thrilled by those. Each of those spells deal a couple of points of damage, wipe out a couple of “bears”, but I’ve invested a huge amount of mana in this silly spell. The return just might be marginal or I open myself to being blown out by a 2 mana Negate. Also, the typical Red burn spells or cheap enough that they won’t handle the big threats that MUST be answered meaning that my 7 mana hasn’t done enough to win me the game. So, I keep thinking, these Burn spells CAN’T be the intended target of Volcanic Vision and there must be a better target worth playing.
The real payoff for playing Volcanic Vision is buying back something like a Fierce Invocation, a Pyrotechnics, or a Sarkhan’s Rage. All of these spells have a converted mana cost of 5 mana and that essentially burns out all the creatures your opponent is likely to be using. Now, all of these are plausible options to be able to pick up, and the one sided wrath-esque effect is pretty terrific, but that feels like a lot of things that need to line up just right for this to work.
If you take Volcanic Vision it is very much a speculative sort of pick and one you are hoping pays off in the end. The power level of this card is extremely high because it could wipe out everything your opponent has on the battlefield, but in that same vein it could sit in your hand. In addition to the raw damage being dealt by Volcanic Vision, you are full on getting your instant/sorcery spell back and can recast it all over again. The potential to generate massive card advantage off the torching of a bunch of creatures your opponent controls and getting a card back is pretty insane and might be worth the risk.
I would look at this and think seriously about it. I think it would garner some consideration because the power level is so high, but this is a very speculative first pick and contingent on having some other cards to play into it in order to generate maximum value.
The next card that gets my eye is Swift Warkite. 6 mana for 4/4 flier that gets me back a card from the graveyard is nothing to take lightly. My issue with this as a first pick is that it is a gold card meaning that there is a higher chance I can’t play it. I’m not going to rule it out, but I’m not excited to pick a gold card first because it just forces me to be so much more inflexible if I intend on playing it.
Salt Road Ambushers is essentially a Hill Giant that also packs a powerful ability and the ability to come into play as a Megamorph. The raw stats make it quite playable, and the Morph cost is hardly outrageous either. However, the real payoff is whether you can make the extra ability that grants +1/+1 counters to creatures as they flip up an actually relevant line of text. The question is how many Morphs are you going to be able to grab? How many creatures can you Manifest? If you are sold on the Morph/Manifest style deck then this would be an amazing first pick and a real engine to help your Morphs outclass the opponent very quickly. However, Megamorphs are slightly less prevalent than they were in Khans of Tarkir and typically more expensive meaning that you might only ever get to flip 1 or 2 Morphs in a game. That sort of return is hardly overwhelming, but it is nice to think that you could make it work.
Strongarm Monk comes with a form of super Prowess and that might entice some people to jump on board. I’m not a big fan and I feel like for his raw stats that I’m getting short changed. Also, I’m not keen to need to pack my deck full of non-creature spells in order to get this sort of bonus. I feel like this sort of bonus is at odds with the need to play creatures in my draft deck in order to get work done and that finding enough good non-creature spells is a little tricky. I can see the value, but this would not be something that catches my eye much.
Coat with Venom is a fine combat trick. Not a first pick, but a fine combat trick.
Anticipate plays along really nicely with Strongarm Monk but I don’t think that deck manipulation is so important that I need to take this first. No, this will be a much later pick if I find myself in blue.
Kolaghan Aspirant is a fine 2 drop by is also not a first pick. Moving on.
Enduring Victory highlights the ongoing cost increase for removal spells. This acts just like Divine Verdict, but now we’ve added an extra mana to the casting cost in order to justify Bolster 2. Don’t get me wrong, the Bolster is nothing to sneeze at and you’ll run the removal spell, but I do miss having more access to efficient removal.
Epic Confrontation would actually be something that catches my eye because it is a very efficient and powerful removal spell. The +1/+2 it grants really pushes the power level on the card and allows creatures to punch out of their regular “weight class”. As much as it would be strange, I would have this pulled to the front and give it a hard look to be first pick.
Of the remaining cards, Tormenting Voice, Keeper of the Lens, Reckless Imp, Elusive Spellfist, and Conifer Strider, exactly none of them would even get a look for first pick. I would rather speculate on the 7 mana rare or the over costed super-prowess Monk than try these on for size. So, that sums up what I think of this group.
My first pick would be Volcanic Vision. I would be prepared to speculate on my first pick with something that behaves like a pseudo asymmetrical board wipe knowing that I’m not married to that card or that colour. However, I know that I need to be on the lookout for useful instants and sorceries in order to get maximum value for this card.
Thanks for taking the time to stop by. What you would be taking from this pack? Would you be trying the Volcanic Vision? The Warkite? Epic Confrontation? Leave me a comment down below and let me know what you think!
Have yourself a great MTG day.
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter
Crack a Pack with Bruce 23. 4th Fate Reforged
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
Hard to believe that Fate Reforged will soon be paired with Dragons of Tarkir and we will be saying goodbye to Khans of Tarkir for draft purposes. In the mean time, let’s open up another pack and see what we would take in a draft pick 1, pack1. Here we go!
Where to start? There are some very solid cards in the pack, so let’s start with our Rare. Mardu Strike Leader is a super sweet little addition to the collection of Black/White warriors. A 3/2 for 3 mana that gets a 2/1 warrior whenever it attacks? If this gets left unchecked this is a menace because that 2/1 warrior is a full card. The token trades with Morphs and most 2 drops in the format, meanwhile the Strike Leader is taking sizable chunks out of your opponent. If you can slot him into that B/W warriors deck he is an all-star, but even on his own he’s very useful and well worth the pick up. I would be pulling him to the front of my pack as an early favorite for our first pick.
Mistfire Adept is another pretty sweet card. This is essentially a Hill Giant on the Vanilla Test…and that’s just fine. However, you want this guy for his Prowess ability and the ability to make something fly. Essentially, in a Prowess build, this guy can act like a 4/4 flier (or better) and really cause havoc. He’d be pulled forward because I really like the Jeskai/Prowess deck, but I’m not sure he’s better than the Strike Leader. He takes a few more pieces in order for him to really shine while the Strike Leader is just good all the time.
Fruit of the First Tree is not a first pick. The set up is far too high on it, it doesn’t impact the board nearly well enough, and really isn’t what I want to do with my deck. NOW, in a janky brew…sure…I’ll play this, but in a draft this would be a long way down my list. I’ll save this to the end and see if one of the other players around the table wants to play it.
Marang River Prowler is card I like very much. His ability to keep coming back and to be unblockable is really solid. Sure, he’s only a 2/1, but that puts your opponent on a clock that if they can’t finish you off then the Prowler is going to slowly get the job done. If you can add on a little augmentation, like maybe a +1/+1 counter from a Bolster trigger, that clock just gets that much quicker AND you don’t really feel bad if it dies because it comeing straight back. There are decks that don’t really want him, but he’s quite strong and more often than not he’s a solid addition. I don’t think he’s a first pick, but he is a solid card and will usually make the cut in most deck lists.
Sandsteppe Outcast is something I’d be grabbing quite readily. Quite literally he’s the best common in this pack and plays into that B/W warrior deck. Pair this with Harsh Sustenance and you immediately have some terrific interactions. He’d be up to the front on the pack as well, but I think the Strike Leader is still better.
Mardu Runemark is not something I want. I don’t like the Runemarks and it sets you up to lose 2 cards for 1 with a simple removal spell. The Jeskai Runemark is really the only one of this cycle I like (which is in this pack too) but the Mardu Runemark doesn’t offer me enough except being two for oned. I’ll pass.
Hunt the Weak is not a first pick, or even in the top five cards in this pack, but it always seems to do good work. I won’t turn it down if I’m in Green. Nothing brings a bigger smile to my face than playing a Morph on turn 3 and then turn 4 fighting their Morph with Hunt the Weak and winning combat. That feels really good. This is a solid mid-round pick up.
Smoldering Efreet is for those Red aggro decks. I’m not a big fan, but I can see that it has its place. I would be prioritizing this pretty late once I start to get a bit of sense where my deck is going, but it isn’t usually my play style. I would let this go and wouldn’t think twice about it.
Douse in Gloom, however, is exactly what I want. Inexpensive removal that just gets the job done. This would be a fairly early mid-round pick up in my eyes.
Abzan Skycaptain is something I rather like as well. The fact that it Bolsters when it dies is pretty nice and makes your opponent decide if it would rather just let it connect, or kill it and run the risk of the extra +2/+2 landing somewhere that isn’t pretty. At 4 mana he’s a tad on the steep side for a 2/2 body, but I think there is enough upside that I won’t mind running him. Likelihood is that this would be an early mid-round pick up for me.
Sultai Emissary is a very reasonable 2 drop that feels like it gives you a 2 for 1 because it replaces itself when it dies. That extra Manifested creature can be very useful. I’m not crazy for it, but I would be very interested in seeing it in the mid-round. Maybe if I’m lucky it will wheel and I’ll get a second shot at it.
Lotus Path Djinn is just a reasonable dude. You aren’t crazy excited to see him, but you aren’t sad either. He flies which is always nice, but otherwise there isn’t much to say. He’s just another serviceable body to run in your Prowess deck.
Harsh Sustenance is just fine, but it isn’t an early pick because it is 2 colours. Once I have established that I’m playing Black and White I would consider this because it plays really nicely with some of the other cards in this pack (if I can get them). Mardu Strike Leader, Sandsteppe Outcast and even the Sultai Emissary work well with this card and can make for a big turn. However, to take this early and over commit to a pair of colours could strand this in your sideboard and have it never really see play or leave your deck weak and floundering.
First pick is pretty clearly the Mardu Strike Leader. I like the Adept and the Outcast, but I would rather have the Strike Leader by virtue of the extra beefy tokens it can produce. If it goes unchecked it can quite easily take over the game. I’m sad that it isn’t a 3/3 because 2 toughness means it dies to lots of things, but a little augmentation and this is just going to be menace. I would be slamming this first pick and then really looking to see if the Douse in Gloom, Sultai Emissary or even the Abzan Skycaptain don’t wheel to give me a shot at the B/W deck as I head into the Khans pack. At least, that’s the theory. Sometimes you can’t get stuck on that flashy rare and if Black dries up I would be pretty prepared to hop colours to something that is more available.
Well, there we have it folks. Thanks for taking the time to stop in have a read here at Casual Encounters and Three Kings Loot. Feel free to drop me a line below or hit me up on Twitter. Have yourself a great MTG day!
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
Welcome back! Another busy MTG day for all you readers out there so let’s not waste any time. Let’s crack open that pack and see what we would take pick 1 pack 1 in a draft. Here we go.
Let’s start with the Rare. Flamerush Rider is pretty solid and from a quick look around, it looks like the strongest card in this pack. I’m not in love with the card and by no means am I in love with Red in this set, but it is a strong card that makes combat very difficult for your opponent. I would certainly be pulling this one to the front of the pack and seriously looking at this first.
The uncommons are all a little underwhelming. Fearsome Awakening is interesting, but by no means good. It is certainly not good enough to first pick. I might look at that once I have a dragon or two in my deck just to see if I can make it work for me, but otherwise I might just leave this one to wheel around the table until the very end.
Reality Shift is a decent card and can be a useful removal type spell in Blue, but I’m not keen on leaving behind the Manifested creature. That extra 2/2 could be just about anything and that’s usually an unpleasant surprise when it is something that is good for your opponent. Also, it doesn’t really clear the road the way most removal does and you still need to work around the Manifest on the battlefield as you rumble in for combat. I wouldn’t be grabbing this first, but I’m interested in the card and figure it could be pretty interesting to take if I’m in Blue later in the round.
Humble Defector is another interesting card that can be abused pretty easily. There are a number of cute plays you can make with this guy to abuse the activation followed by the loss of control of the card, but it isn’t a first pick. I like a good laugh when you get to go off with this one, but I would rather do something a little more powerful than this.
The only real card that I like from among the commons here is Aven Surveyor. Yes, he’s expensive, but the bounce effect is extremely potent and well worth the cost of playing this one. I’d be pulling this one to the front for a close look as well.
Typhoid Rats are nice. I like those guys. I wouldn’t take them first pick, but if I was to be in black 2 or 3 picks in I would happily grab them.
Cunning Strike does a number of things, but it does them all modestly well. It deals some damage, but maybe not enough to kill something. It “shocks” your opponent for a pair of damage which may be relevant. It draws you a card to replace itself. All of this for the bargain cost of 5 mana. I know, I know. That’s 3 effects for 5 mana. That’s not so bad. And it even triggers Prowess. But I’m not in love with the card and would rather keep moving.
Frontier Mastodon could be a 4/3 for 3 mana…which is a steal. That’s a sizeable upgrade in toughness on an Alpine Grizzly because now it doesn’t die to Cunning Strike, Douse in Gloom, Wild Slash or one of the other many two damage spells floating around. However, it could just as easily be a 3/2 for 3 in which case you are highly underwhelmed. This is likely a late pick up and might not make the cut for you 22 or 23 card deck.
Alesha’s Vanguard is a card I’ve discussed earlier in my review of commons and uncommons, but to sum up it is a Hill Giant that dodges sorcery speed removal but burdens your board state if you choose to Dash it because you will have not developed your board any further. It’s a fine card, but I’m not excited.
Gore Swine is another fine vanilla creature. It’s not an early pick up, but it’s fine to help fill out your creature package.
Abzan Advantage is card that people keep talking about as a playable trick. I’m not excited, but the ability to remove their Siege AND Bolster one of my creatures seems good. Even if they don’t have an enchantment to sacrifice, the Bolster is quite nice. It’s by no means a first pick, but it has improved its chances of being played in recent weeks by just being an effective card that has some reasonable upside.
Arashin Cleric is very low on my list of priorities here. It just doesn’t do enough to warrant a mid round pick. This might get forced at the end of the pack and will rarely make your deck unless your creature count is very low.
Sibsig Host is another reasonable creature, but I’m not jumping up and down for it. It does block reasonably well and helps fuel a little Delve, but let’s not go overboard here. It is a fine card for a deck playing Black but it is not a high pick.
For me the first pick is Flamerush Rider because I feel like it has more upside and a higher overall power level than the rest of the pack. I’m not in love with red and if the following packs didn’t have strong commons/uncommons to support the Flamerush Rider I am more than prepared to move colours and ditch the Rider altogether. I could make a really good case for the Aven Surveyor because it is an outstanding common and if you grab a couple of them then you are well and truly set to make life miserable for your opponent. Typhoid Rats is just a very solid creature because nobody is really keen to trade with it. The Rats just about always manage to get you good value by taking out a more expensive creature and that means I want to grab it sooner rather than later. Further down the list I get to the 5th card and I am unsure if I would rather take the Humble Defector or Cunning Strike. I decided the Humble Defector was likely the pick on the grounds that it is a mono-coloured card rather than a gold card like Cunning Strike.
On the whole, the strength of this pack is pretty weak. The rare is just ok, the uncommons are not particularly good, and the commons start off quite strong but trail off quite significantly. I feel like that is one of the traits of the set and this represents a fairly average pack. I’ve tried enough drafts on MTGO and watched enough other people draft that this seems to be the trend. It is good to know for those rare times that you find a bonkers pack to keep it in mind that this is not the norm.
Thanks for taking the time to stop in and read today and good luck in your next draft.
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
Good morning and thanks for stopping by here at The Bag of Loot and my Casual Encounters column. For those who are new here, I will be cracking a pack of Fate Reforged and looking at what I would select first if this was Pick 1, Pack1 in my next draft. Let’s take a look at what I’ve got.
Fate Reforged seems a little more heavy with bombs than Khans was, so let’s start with the rare. Yasova Dragonclaw is a pretty strong starting place. She’s efficient to cast as a 4/2 for 3 mana and comes with Trample making her pretty solid from the outset. She triggers Ferocious if that matters to your deck as well, which is always a benefit. However, I get most of those same stats with an Alpine Grizzly so what makes her so appealing? Her ability to effectively Act of Treason one of their blockers each turn is actually really difficult to handle. Even if the creature you’re pulling aside isn’t a huge bomb, it can really upset combat math to pull aside their blocker and then swing in. The only catch is that she can only target a creature with power less than hers. That may or may not be ideal because you might only be pulling aside a Wetland Sambar or an Ainok Tracker. If you can find a way to Bolster her or to augment her to steal something larger then you might find things will get a little out of control. I’ve played against one in a match and while her ability is kind of tricky, it certainly is beatable. However, she’s still a very powerful card and would be pulled straight to the front of the pack for some careful consideration.
Mistfire Adept is a very nice uncommon and has some solid stats. The basic body is that of Hill Giant, which is quite reasonable. However, the Prowess and the ability to grant something Flying is the real perk here. You cast a spell and suddenly you have a 4/4 flier. That’s nothing to take lightly. There’s not really a whole lot of downside here because this is a useful to just about any deck playing Blue and would be getting a long hard look as well.
Renowned Weaponsmith is underwhelming in every regard. The artifact theme is not strong enough to warrant this guy, and the ability to tutor up a bad artifact is also not overly relevant. His base stats are a little on the poor side as well because he gets quickly outclassed. Sadly, this guy isn’t very good and will likely a late pickup for filler to someone in Blue.
Hewed Stone Retainers feels like a downgraded version of Illusory Angel. If this had Flying, or First Strike, or anything really, you’d consider playing it, but at a vanilla 4/4 the answer is probably not. Don’t get fooled by the casting cost, the fact that you need to cast this as the second spell this turn increases the cost of this and unless you have a deck with some cheap spells to fire off this might get stranded in your hand for a while.
Write into Being is a card I quite like. One of the concerns I have with the Manifest mechanic is that I often feel like I don’t have much control over what gets manifested. It might be that land I really need, or that super efficient removal spell, or that hyper expensive creature that I was really hoping to find in the late game. In all of these of situations having the card get Manifested is less than ideal. Write into Being gives you some measure of control over what spell you end up getting and that is very useful. The casting cost puts it right on curve with other Morphs and the fact that is a non creature spell helps provide you with fuel for Delve spells and triggers Prowess. While this is a long way from being a home run it is a deceptively powerful card and is ultimately very useful.
Temur Runemark is NOT something I like. Most auras are a surefire way to get yourself in a situation where you lose out in a 2 for 1 situation. Unless the Aura is really powerful, it is usually a better idea to play cards that stand on their own merit. I’m not going to say I won’t play an Aura, but I’m certainly not looking to play those auras unless I’m pretty desperate.
Collateral Damage is a card that I like in certain decks, but is usually not something I’m too keen to grab. I never like sacrificing MY board state to deal damage, so sequencing this spell just right to have maximum impact is tricky and pretty important. If I can’t find a way to sacrifice something that is being blocked (and dying anyway) to take out something else I’m just not overly keen to play this. The ONLY other way I play this if I have a tokens strategy where I can use the tokens as fodder, but even there I’m not going crazy with this card. This a tricky card and something that certainly has a benefit when played correctly, but not always available in the optimal way.
Whisperer of the Wilds was in last week’s pack too and I’m still a fan. I’d be flipping this to the front of the pack, but likely won’t be first picking this at this point.
Gurmag Angler is the sort of aggressive mid-round pickup you just love to see. The big body on this one is very appealing and the fact that the casting cost can be significantly reduced with Delve makes this very appealing. I don’t think I really want to first pick this because if you are in on the Delve plan you have a limited number of cards slots that can be devoted to delve cards and this guy may not be the best way to go. However, he is a very nice early pickup and a big body to sure up the board.
Typhoid Rats are one of those common cards that you always overlook, but it always makes your deck. Nobody likes attacking into or blocking a 1/1 deathtoucher and the rats just do some much work. It isn’t a first pick, but it certainly is a good mid-round pick.
Grim Contest is interesting because it is an unusual take on the “fight” mechanic that green usually gets for removal. The part I like about this is that it is at Instant speed meaning that you can use it on your opponent’s turn and leaving you to do whatever you like with your mana on your turn. Sadly, it is a gold card and fits into fewer decks, but if you have Green and Black in your deck I see no good reason not to take this mid-round and see if you can make it work for you. This would have been ideal in M15 Limited with Rotfeaster Maggot, but that is a digression. This is an interesting spell and something that will garner mild interest, but is in no way a first pick.
While a number of the cards in this pack are pretty interesting, there is no doubt that I would be taking Yasova from this pack with my first pick. I feel like Green leaves you open to go into some very powerful combinations by making Abzan, Sultai and Temur all available and her raw stats are very solid. Her two toughness is an issue because she dies readily to Wild Slash , Douse in Gloom and Debilitating Injury but there is plenty of upside to her because her repeatable “Act of Treason” is quite powerful and will really mess with combat. I don’t think she’s an insane bomb the way some of the Legendary Dragons are, but she’s very good and a cut above the other cards in this pack.
Thanks for stopping in today here at Casual Encounters and taking the time read. I hope you guys have an awesome MTG day!
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter
By Roy Anderson – Sockymans
Hello fellow Looters, its Sockymans here with part two of my experience at Grand Prix San Jose (GPSJ.) If you want to read my account of day one, you can find it here. If you have already read day one or just like to skip ahead, well then you are in the right place and we can begin.
First off, Spoiler Alert! My team and I, The Ainok Bond-Kins, did not make day two of GPSJ. We made it to round seven before losing eligibility to move on. In addition to that, I have a fun side note that was omitted from my day one story. We forgot to drop from round eight and we ended up being paired in the next round. We decided to go to our opponents and let them know they had a free win. Turns out, they were a no show. This technically means that our record was 5-3 and not 4-3. See, you are already being rewarded with an extra story for reading the first article then coming here. Anyway, it is time to move onto day two, after all, that is the reason why you are here.
So, there was no day two of the Grand Prix (GP) to play, what was I to do? The answer: Trading, vendors, and most of all side events. They had drafts, chaos drafts, sealed, as well as many other things I could do. I had a specific event in mind though, I wanted to play in the Super Sunday Series (SSS.) This was a limited sealed event with three packs of Khans of Tarkir (KTK) and three packs of Fate Reforged (FRF.) It was an eight round tournament which would take the whole day, however, the winner gets an invite to Wizards of the Coast for the SSS Championships. I had gotten a recommendation from someone that it was a fun and rewarding tournament so I figured I would try it out.
So we get a pool, register it, pass it, etc… Finally I get my pool. First off, the tournament had a 30 dollar entry fee which was understandable for the high-prize support. No matter what record or prizes I got that tournament, I had one of those rare pools that pay for themselves. Two fetch-lands, Brutal Hordechief, and a Soulfire Grand Master. At the time of the tournament, those cards totaled to about 32 dollars cash trade in. That is when you take a reduced value from the cards.
After analyzing my pool and trying to make a deck with the obviously powerful cards, I settled on a nice Jeskai list. The deck I ran is listed below:
I was very happy overall with this deck. The only problem is I was missing some key prowess creatures that make up a good Jeskai prowess deck. Cards like Jeskai Windscout would have been a good addition to my deck. Instead of functioning like a standard prowess deck, my deck was slightly more “explosive.” I was able to swing games and deal massive amounts of damage in just one turn. Goblin Heelcutter, Jeering Instigator, and Crippling Chill really helped me punch through massive amounts of damage while removing opponent’s blockers when they thought they were safe. The Canyon Lurkers, Weaponmaster Efreet, and Bloodfire Enforcers helped deal massive amounts of damage in one turn. That coupled with some of the game swinging cards I had helped me win a good number of games I would have lost. Even the games I did lose, I only lost by one turn. I had a good sideboard for every match up as well. I had two Treasure Cruises in my pool which really helped against the control matches. Extra removal was also helpful against creatures and aggressive decks. Finally, the midrange matchup can be helped with additional ways to punch through such as Will of the Naga.
My deck did suffer in one major way however. Since it was not traditional, it could not beat certain creature match ups that would curve out with a really nice creature curve. It would always lose by a turn or flood out slightly in land. I feel that I should have run 17 lands instead of the 18. However, I was able to mitigate some of the flood by boarding in Tormenting Voice in some games. This was a good replacement for Treasure Cruise in the faster aggressive match up.
Now if you have read my articles before, I tend to detail my experiences round by round. In the interest of time, and since I already wrote an article this week about day one, I will shorten it a little bit.
I started the tournament with a 1-0 record which left me very hopeful. In order to make top eight in this tournament you pretty much needed a record of X-1 or better and I felt good after my first match. I quickly lost out of top eight contention and was just playing for prizes. What was even worse was my eventual record of 5-3. This put me in 68th place which was just out of prize support. Well isn’t that a fun way to spend an entire day? The decks that I lost to the most were usually an Abzan or Mardu list. Mardu would beat me with superior speed. Abzan would win through well bodied fliers and efficient creatures. These were strategies that my deck was little equipped to deal with. Even against those decks, I still managed to take each one to game three.
Going into the last round, I was sitting exactly in 64th place. This left me with nine packs if I won so I was determined then. If I won, my prize support may have been upgraded as well. Either way, my opponent had the Abzan strategy that I outlined earlier. It was a rather intense set of games. It went to game three and both of us were in top deck mode. I happened to draw just a few too many lands and ended up flooding out. My opponent was a nice guy so I wasn’t too sad about the loss. Also, as I said, my pool paid for itself so I essentially paid for itself.
This event did last slightly shorter than the main event did which gave me a little bit of time to shop at the vendors. At this point is was 7pm on the last day of the GP. Most of the vendors were cleaning up and starting to leave. I didn’t manage to get everything I was hoping for. However, I did get some nice pickups. Azusa, Lost but Seeking was a good last minute pick up. A foil Ajani Goldmane as well as a foil promo Liliana Vess joined my foil planeswalker collection as well. Although I got these the day before, it is also worth noting something I really like seeing at GP vendor’s tables. I love it when they have the 5 foils for a dollar boxes. You can find some great things in those boxes. If you are a fan of foils, you should definitely check them out. Some of the notable things I picked up were: War Priest of Thune, Lumithread Field, and a few foil lands.
Well, thank you for reading my story about GPSJ. I wish anyone who read this could have been there and I highly suggest everyone go to any GP that happens to appear in their neck of the woods. Next week, my article will take a slightly more analytical turn and we will look at the current limited meta-game. Until next week, this is me signing out.
By Roy Anderson
@Sockymans on Twitter