Tag: mtgktk

Bruce Gray - February 8, 2015

Alesha Who Smiles at Death

Alesha Who Smiles at Death

Visiting with Vorthos: Alesha Who Smiles at Death

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

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

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

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

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

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


By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters

@bgray8791 on Twitter

Bruce Gray - February 6, 2015

Goblin Contemplation – Casual MTG

Goblinslide - Casual MTG Standard

Goblin Contemplation 

By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters

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

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


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


Goblin Contemplation – UR – Casual MTG Standard


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

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

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

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

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

Until next folks…have a great MTG day.

By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters

@bgray8791 on Twitter

Roy Anderson - February 5, 2015

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

Pearl Lake Ancient

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

By Roy Anderson – Sockymans

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

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


Team sealed

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scout The Borders – Delve fuel, enough said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sideboard Stratedy

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


Main Event

Round One

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

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


Round Two

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


Round Three

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


Round Four

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


Round Five

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


Round Six

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


Round Seven

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

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

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

For now, Happy Planeswalking!


By Roy Anderson

@Sockymans on Twitter

Gregoire Thibault - January 24, 2015

Suspension Field FNM April 2015

Suspension Field FNM April 2015

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

Suspension Field FNM artwork Suspension Field FNM

Gregoire Thibault - January 24, 2015

Hordeling Outburst FNM Promo March 2015

Hordeling Outburst FNM promo March 2015

Hordeling outburst FNM promo looks great. This is the version you want to get, the original artwork were scarcer from Ugin’s Fate promo packs and weren’t foils. This is a goblin card i’d like to see play, could be in a token deck with Ponyback Brigades. The newest Mardu Alesha, Who Smiles at Death from Fate Reforged works well with the Brigade and Goblin Rabblemaster. We got some of the pieces to start a Mardu token deck right there, what’s the endgame though? I’ve gone off topic… So far I haven’t had any use for Hordeling Outburst other than in Limited Format. I hope this changes so we don’t end up with another sub par FNM promo.

Hordeling Outburst FNM March artwork - CopyHordeling Outburst FNM March - Copy

Roy Anderson - January 20, 2015

Tales From the Prerelease: Fate Reforged sealed

Abzan Beastmaster - Fate Reforged sealed

Tales From the Prerelease: Fate Reforged sealed

By Roy Anderson

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:


Five Color Death – Limited Fate Reforged sealed


Breaking it down

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.


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.


Round Two

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.


Round Three

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!


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!)


Round Five

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.


In Summary

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
@Sockymans on Twitter
Bruce Gray - January 12, 2015

Crack a pack MTG Khans of Tarkir with Bruce (8th) #19

Crack a pack MTG - Khans of Tarkir booster packs 8

Crack a pack MTG Khans of Tarkir with Bruce (8th) #19

By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters

Well, I’m back after having spent a lovely holiday season with my family.  Santa was very generous to my little guy and there are now plenty of trucks and farm animals to scatter around on the floor.  The only real unfortunate part about the holidays is that I don’t get much chance to sit down and play much Magic.  Sure, I can sneak a little bit of time here and there, but I would like to pour a little more time into it and really sink my teeth into a few things…building decks, playing, or drafting.  So, now that things have settled down a little I can take a few minutes and take one last kick at Khans of Tarkir pack before we have Fate Reforged arrive on the scene and force us all to adapt pretty heavily.  So, let’s crack a pack and see what we get!








Well, let’s start with the rare in this pack.  Rakshasa  Vizier…hmmm…I really like this guy and feel like he could be an absolute menace.  A 4/4 for 5 mana isn’t a bad stat line and if you have any Delve sources things will get pretty out of control as you just have a pretty big beat stick. However,  I’m not a big fan of taking him with my first pick in pack one because of the fact that it forces me into playing three colours right off the hop.  It’s just too many colours too early in the draft.  I’ll let this guy go and see where my picks lead me.

Hordeling Outburst:  This is a premium spell and generates effectively a 3 for 1.  Whether you are Jeskai, Mardu or just a 2 colour Red deck, Outburst is the sort of spell you want to be running all day and all night.  This would get thumbed straight to the front of the pack for sure.

Abzan Guide and Ponyback Brigade:  These are both first rate Morphs in this set and can really turn the tide of battle for you, but just like the Vizier, they are too many colours too early in the draft. So, I’ll need to let these go and establish my colours…and THEN see if these wheel around and give me the chance to grab either one of them.

Swarm of Bloodflies: This is a very strong creature in Limited.  It is mono coloured, casts for a single black, is evasive, and has upside.  All of these abilities make this a prime target to take first.  It gets pulled to the front of the pack along with the Outburst.

Watcher of the Roost: I’m probably higher on this guy than most people, but I feel like creatures that un-Morph very inexpensively (like this guy) can’t be overlooked because of the synergies you can create and extra value your deck can eke out.  Also, add in the fact that it is an evasive creature is never a bad addition.  My only regret with this guy is that he has 1 toughness, meaning he dies to a stiff breeze.  So, while I like him and might be prepared to take him in the first half of the draft round, there is very little chance I’d take this guy first.

Jungle Hollow: We have seen the value of the mana fixing in this set become a high priority…and with good cause.  With so many 3, 4, and 5 colour decks the mana needs to be available in order to make those all work.  Jungle Hollow is fixing and is very reasonable.  Based on the fact this pack is relatively weak, the Hollow would get a good long look too and so I’d probably pull it to the front for consideration.

Savage Punch:  Quality, cheap removal in Green.  While the art is awesome, the truth is that I will not be taking this first because it isn’t that sort of good.  I would be looking to find one of these late in the draft and see what comes from there.

Weave Fate:  You might take this in the very late portions of the Draft, but you aren’t happy to do so and you don’t want to run it.  You would only play this if you didn’t grab a Treasure Cruise and even then you might opt to leave the 4 mana card draw spell in your sideboard because it just isn’t that good.  I’ll keep looking and largely ignore this.

Feed the Clan: Nope.  Bad spell.  Don’t waste your time.

Barrage of Boulders:  We’ve seen that this can do some good work and bust up those board stalls that develop and let you force through the damage you need to close out an opponent.  It isn’t a first pick, but if you are in Red you certainly will not mind running 1 or 2 of these in amidst your spells just to open the floodgates and close out the game.

Jeskai Student: A very reasonable Bear…but not a first pick.  A playable card you’ll want, but should be able to find in the mid rounds.

Kheru Dreadmaw: I know this is a 4/4, but really, this feels like a bad card because it is a defender.  If only it could attack! I’m not on board taking this even if I am in Black and Green, and I’m certainly NOT taking it first!

Whirlwind Adept:  The fact that this guy has Hexproof and Prowess makes him interesting, but with no evasion I’m not really keen on this guy unless I need filler. He is certainly playable, but you likely aren’t happy to do so.


Top Five cards:

  1. Hordeling Outburst
  2. Swarm of Bloodflies
  3. Jungle Hollow
  4. Rakshasa Vizier
  5. Abzan Guide/Ponyback Brigade


First Pick

First Pick in this pack is a little dicey, but I figure it really comes down to either the Outburst or the Swarm…and I’m taking the Outburst.  I feel like the Outburst and the fact that it produces 3 tokens is super useful and can be used to enable all sorts of things.  The Tokens chump block readily in a pinch, can double up and take out a Morph, get Trumpet Blasted to make a mess of your opponent and are just very versatile.  The Swarm is good too, but 5 mana for 2/2 initially is not exactly what I want to be doing and it needs work in order for it to be good.  I’d rather have the 3 tokens and move on.  Also, the Outburst has ramifications for Constructed decks if you want to play Jeskai Tokens or the like, so the double application (much as it really isn’t a consideration for me too frequently) is kind of nice.

Well, there we go.  I will be honest, I’m looking forward to mixing up the Draft format a little with Fate Reforged because I have largely stunk at Khans Limited in all its varieties.  Maybe, with some fresh cards and a shake-up of the format I will see some more success and better results from my decks.

Thanks very much for taking the time to read.  Enjoy your pre-release events and I look forward to opening up some Fate Reforged for you in the not too distant future. Until next time, may you open nothing but Mythic bombs.

By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter
Bruce Gray - December 23, 2014

Crack a pack MTG Khans of Tarkir with Bruce #18 (7th)

Crack a pack MTG Khans of Tarkir booster

Crack a pack MTG Khans of Tarkir with Bruce #18 (7th)

By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters

Well Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you are enjoying the time with your friends and family…and maybe opening a few cool new treats that Santa left for you!  It’s a pretty busy time of year for everyone with visiting family, big turkey dinners, and generally being festive during the Holiday season.  However, I know that those of you who are Magic players can’t wait for Fate Reforged to drop in a couple of weeks and for the Draft format to get totally turned on its ear again, so I thought what better way to start getting ready than to crack open a holiday treat a little early and see what we find.  Let’s take a look.















Well then…we opened ourselves up a Mythic…and a pretty good one at that.  Zurgo is pretty devastating bomb to open up in limited because there really isn’t much in Limited that can handle him.  He attacks all the time and can be very difficult to handle when he attacks because of the indestructibility he gets.  Also, blocking profitably is really just an impossibility with this guy so you are always on your back foot.  Kill Shot and other such removal won’t really do the trick either.  So, you end up having to get him with clunkier sorcery removal on your turn…which is not a bad thing or impossible, but it just makes the whole process of killing him harder and more narrow.  5 mana isn’t impossible and the fact that he has 3 different colours might be an issue…but the fact is the upside in terms of power is likely well worth the risk.  He would immediately get moved to the front of the pack for serious consideration.

In this pack, to complement Zurgo, there is a Nomad Outpost, Highspire Mantis, a Ponyback Brigade, and a Trumpet blast.  All of these would see themselves thumbed to front of the pack as well.  We have the makings of a pretty solid Mardu deck that would absolutely cause our opponents a bunch of trouble.  However, here is the issue.  These are all good to very good Mardu cards meaning that one of your neighbors is going to take a look and decide that Mardu appears to be open and move in too.  That is an issue because Zurgo is going to reward you most when you have the ability to curve aggressively into him and then go on a massive offensive.  The very real reality could be that none of these cards wheel around to you and that you have a number of other players competing for the Mardu deck too.  So, while Zurgo is still a very strong card, and this pack has a whole of bunch of super nice cards to complement it, there are still going to be some issues that you will need to negotiate as you move through the draft.

Longshot Squad is likely the next card that gets my attention.  It is a very solid creature, has a relevant ability and is just a very useful Green creature.  I have been a fan since day one and will continue to be a big fan. It may not be a game breaker or spicy the way Zurgo is, but he’s solid, reliable, and knows his role.

Sidisi’s Pet…no…I’m not taking this.  A 1/4 is woefully inadequate in this set even with the Lifelink.  The ONLY plus is that he can be a Morph in a Secret Plans/Trail of Mystery deck, but since that doesn’t appear to be the direction I will head with this pack it would be WAY down my list of cards  for this pack.

Smoke Teller is a potentially useful 2/1 for 2…and that’s it.  He’s a Bear with an ability.  I feel like his ability is under-utilized, but I’m not really surprised.

Disdainful stroke is useful and shuts out pretty expensive bombs.  I would be looking at this in the mid-to late rounds of this first pack if I was in Blue, but since this pack looks Mardu heavy it will likely be a late pick.

Awaken the Bear…and no once again.  It is a marginal trick that in most situations is really just a Giant Growth.  Occasionally the trample will be relevant, but the biggest issue is the casting cost.  Giant Growth is 1 mana for +3/+3.  Titanic Growth is 2 mana for +4/+4.  This is 3 mana for +3/+3…and some trample.  No.  If you are looking for a pump spell, this really isn’t a good option.  It feels slow, is too expensive, and is not something I can get behind.

Gurmag Swiftwing has a load of abilities, and even flies…but is a 1/2. He could be useful, but I’m not lining up to get this little critter.  A serviceable choice in the mid-rounds, but that is about it.

Rakshasa’s Secret feels like an expensive way to target your opponent’s hand.  Yeah, 3 mana isn’t outlandish, but it feels a little slow to be relevant regularly and is likely on the outside looking in for most decks.  Besides, this pack is looking like a Mardu style pack and the Secret plays into a Sultai deck a little bit better.

Salt Road Patrol is just about the only reasonable White card in this whole pack but even that isn’t saying much.  Yes, 2/5 is tough to fight through, and to Outlast him once makes him just about impossible to fight through, but really, he’s kind of bland and just not overly exciting. I would take him in the mid-round and be pretty ok with it.  Like I mentioned earlier, this pack has a number of Mardu cards in it meaning that it could get striped of prime Mardu cards long before the pack wheels.  However, this might be something that you might find should the pack wheel  meaning you would at least get a second solid playable out of this pack for your Mardu deck.

Weave Fate is an acceptable card draw spell, but it is dwarfed by Treasure Cruise in terms of flexibility and overall power.  You might see this get forced at the end of this pack, and that’s ok…or you might see this card disappear to a Blue player around the table because blue cards in this pack are so sparse.  On the whole…Blue players will curse this pack while players packing Red are going to be drooling.



Top 5 Cards

  1. Zurgo Helmsmasher
  2. Nomad Outpost
  3. Highspire Mantis
  4. Ponyback Brigade
  5. Longshot Squad



First Pick

My first pick goes against almost all of my beliefs.  I don’t like taking a three coloured spell first…it potentially pigeon holes me into those three colours.  Three coloured spells are rough to cast because your mana invariably takes a beating and you lose a bunch of consistency. It just feels like you are forcing a very narrow understanding of your deck and not allowing the cards to come to you to make up your deck.  HOWEVER, I have seen that many of the three colour spells are just ridiculous BOMBS.  Villainous Wealth is evil.  Duneblast ends games on the spot in most situations.  There is no reason NOT to expect that Zurgo would have a significant impact on the game as well.  Also, just because I open up with a Mardu mythic creature does not mean that I am FORCED to play Mardu.  There are almost 3 full packs for me to change directions if I start to notice that something else is open.  So, with that in mind, I want to take a first pick that offers the most potential upside and highest power ceiling.  So, I’m going to grab Zurgo and cross my fingers some of those other Mardu treats come back my way.  I realize the Outpost and Mantis are likely gone, but there is an outside chance that the Ponyback brigade, Trumpet Blast or the Salt Road Patrol will come back meaning that I would have a complementary card for a Mardu deck.

Well, there we go.  That was an interesting pack to say the least.  A tough choice if you want to venture down the Mardu path because you know you will be fighting with a number of other players for the same pool of cards, but the upside on Zurgo might just be too much. What would you have done?  The Outpost for the fixing? The Mantis because it only leaves you in 2 colours?  Maybe the Longshot squad because you appreciate the simple reliability of it?  Let me know what you think.

Once again, Merry Christmas to all of you and I wish you all a happy holiday season with your friends and family.  May you have a terrific end to 2014 and an amazing start to 2015!

Until next time, may you open nothing but Mythic bombs.

By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter