Tag: pain-seer

Avatar Bruce Gray - June 2, 2014

The plight of the Underplayed Theros Block mechanics – Inspired,...

Inspired MTG deck - Tormented Hero

The plight of the Underplayed Theros block mechanics

by Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters

We all watched the Pro-tour with baited breath not all that long ago.  For starters, Congratulations must go out to Patrick Chapin.  I doubt he’ll ever read this article, but the truth is what he accomplished is tremendous.  To defeat the world’s best players and win a Pro-tour is the stuff dreams are made of (although he made it look frighteningly easy!).  However, in amidst all the talk of Block Constructed decks, did anyone notice that there were hardly ANY of the mechanics from Theros block on display?  A block committed to the Devotion mechanic by virtue of being tied to the Gods of Theros…and it was virtually totally ignored.  There were very few creatures carrying the Monstrous ability.  Constellation got some love…most in the form of Eidolon of Blossoms.  Inspired? Tribute? Bestow? These hardly even got a sniff.  In the end it was wars waged as Elspeth tokens crushed Elspeth tokens and Thoughtseize and Brain Maggot crippled the hands of countless players.  No…the mechanics of Theros were sadly underplayed and it felt…I don’t know…deflating.

Well, I’m here today to try and restore our faith in the little used mechanics of Theros and present a budget worthy Casual Brew that can grind down an opponent (or multiple opponents as the case may be) and find a way of getting you a win from seemingly out of nowhere. The mechanic I’m thinking about is the Inspired mechanic because it is so tempting…so poised with potential…that to not attempt to build a deck would just be wrong.

Now, we have seen that some of the mechanics in Theros are very powerful.  Devotion powered out crazy amounts of elemental tokens with Master of Waves, drained buckets of life with Gray Merchant, and pumped out dizzying amounts of mana with Nykthos.  No, Devotion is pretty safe.  Monstrous is the same way. With Stormbreath Dragon and Polukranos running around still Monstrous is a thing and they may be joined by Fleecemane lion as staples of this mechanic.  Bestow and Heroic have shown to be invaluable in Draft giving these decks new reach and greater power than ever before.  No, these three mechanics are just fine despite not being played much at the Pro-tour.  However, Inspired and Tribute, both Mechanics from Born of the Gods have hardly got off the ground.

It makes perfect sense for why Tribute has been largely ignored.  In almost every instance the cards carrying Tribute present an option for your opponent to dictate the terms of the creature.  This means that you are no longer in control and if you are looking for a desired effect, well, I can assure you that you won’t get it because your opponent is out to put the screws to you.  Snake of the Golden Grove is a perfect example because you either get 4 life…or a 7/7.  Let me assure you, 100% of the time you will give your opponent the life gain.  However, if you REALLY needed a 7/7 to help you block…well…tough, you are out of luck.

Inspired on the other hand actually holds some promise.  This is actually an ability that you could use because the only requirement is that the creature untaps.  Simply untap. It seems so simple…but yet getting your card to actually untap is pretty tricky.  The most common ways of tapping it is by virtue of attacking with it and then on your next turn untapping it.  The problem is that usually if you go into combat, something dies meaning you could very well lose your inspired creature.  Other options exist like Spring Leaf Drum, Retraction Helix, Epiphany Storm and Claim of Erebos which all allow the creature to tap without combat, but this is extra work for you and harder to set up.  So, how to maximize your chances of Inspired without as much set up cost to your deck?

I have long been a proponent of making combat as absolutely miserable for my opponent as I can manage. This means I pack decks full of combat tricks, death touch, first strike, double strike and haste, basically ensuring that my opponent really has to think twice before blocking ANYTHING.  Well, Inspired gives you even MORE incentive to pack your deck as full of nasty tricks as you can find so that no one is keen to actually block.  With this theory in mind let me share with you a little deck list that I’ve put together to exploit the Inspired mechanic.


B/W “Grindy” Theros block mechanics deck for Standard

The game plan behind this deck is actually pretty straight forward.  You are looking to do everything you can to drain off the life of your opponent without attacking , but the creature base in the deck is actually aggressive enough that you can start on the beat down path and not actually take your foot off.  All the while you are looking to exploit the Inspired Mechanic as much as you can wrangle.

For 1 drops we have Tormented Hero which is a solid 2/1 for 1 black.  Sure, it comes into play tapped, but play him turn 1 and attack turn 2 and you’re pretty golden.  Also, when he is targeted he does exactly what you want the deck to do and that is drain the life of your opponent.  At 2 we have a couple of bears, namely Sun Guide and Pain Seer.  These are both aggressive enough that they can come down early and swing in, hopefully triggering the Inspired trigger on either of them.  Baleful Eidolon and Spiteful Returned are technically 2 drops, but are really there for the Bestow ability to basically make something totally unpalatable for your opponent to block.  Spiteful returned is also triggered just by attacking, making him just extra value.  The last 2 drop is Cartel Aristocrat because when you are missing a way to sneak through, Sacrifice a creature and get in there.  At the 3 drop spot we have the bread and butter.  Scholar of Athreos is an awesome mana sink and a solid blocker to plug up the ground.  Servant of Tymaret is a wily little 2/1 with regenerate that I WANT to block with and need to regenerate in order to trigger the Inspired ability when it untaps after regenerating. The 4 drops are really there as Bestow creatures apart from King Macar,  but at 5 we have Gray Merchant and he is a sure fire way to drain out a bunch of life all at once.  The spells are pretty tame in a Gods Willing to protect something or more importantly to allow a creature the ability to sneak in for free.  Necrobite presents an awful combat trick for your opponent.  He will need to play around a situation where you have 3 mana up or risk trading something for a deathtouch creature…who now regenerates.  Whether this is Tormented Hero’s heroic trigger, or regenerating a Pain Seer, there is going to be value generated.  The last one is Asphyxiate which is a poor man’s Hero’s Downfall.  Same casting cost…but much slower and more conditional.  Not my first choice, but acceptable considering the financial cost of a playset of Hero’s Downfall.

Some would say that this looks like an Extort deck from Gatecrash and I can’t disagree…except I prefer this model to relying on the Extort mechanic of Gatecrash because Extort rewards you for durdling around with spells and paying the extra mana to drain the life.  In this deck there is no need to durdle around.  If you have open mana sink into something…like your Scholar of Athreos, attack with your Servant of Tymaret, or cast a Bestow creature to make blocking totally undesirable. You are being proactive and engaged instead of being rewarded by casting derdling spells and hiding.

This deck is weak to decks packed with fliers or with control elements like counter spells and plenty of targeted removal.  Oh, and it still gets run over by the pack rat/desecration demon game plan prevalent in Standard, so don’t take it there.  Where does this deck shine?  Multiplayer variants of all sorts.  Free for all, Two Headed Giant, Grand Melee…if any of these formats match what you like to play then this is a cheap and efficient deck that will do work.  Life drain is absolutely brutal in multiplayer matchups and this deck is no different.

So, I have done my part to restore faith in the mechanics of Theros…particularly Inspired.  Now it is up to you to go forth and Inspire that same belief in your opponents and drain the life right from their souls…without ever attacking!  Enjoy frustrating the heck out your opponents because you can bet I’ll be enjoying every minute of it.

Thanks very much…and until next time keep it fun, keep it safe…keep it Casual.


Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
Avatar Bruce Gray - February 6, 2014

Casual Encounters – My Favorite Cards From Born of the Gods

My favorite Born of the Gods cards that have been spoiled

While all the spoilers were unrolling the last couple of weeks my friends and I were looking at the new treats we would get to play with.  Everyone had their own favorite…apart from Brimaz (aka the Lion King), because he’ll be ridiculously good and a standard all-star soon enough. I will go through my pick for best card for Mythic, Rare, uncommon and common slots .  You may not agree, but as with anything in Magic, anyone is entitled to their own opinion.

Mythic of choice:

The first card that caught my eye was one of the minor gods.  Mogis is cool. Xenagos could make G/R monsters absolutely insane and power out bananas monsters that crush EVERYTHING.  However, neither of these got me excited.  One of the gods fit exactly into a deck I already have built, but is missing something…and the fact that she was staring right back, like an answer to a prayer, was tremendous. What caught my eye was Ephara, God of the Polis.  While her ability looks a little underwhelming, for the casual player, she is a bomb and a can’t miss all star.  Here’s what got me excited.

A little over a year ago I wrote an article detailing what is in essence an Azorius deck where I push the detain ability just about as far as I can go.  The deck list is as follows:

Azorius Detain (casual)

Now, this deck list wants to do exactly what Ephara is looking for: play lots of dudes! And with this deck, everytime you do, you’ll be detaining a creature and slowing down your opponent.  The problem that this deck runs into is the need to replenish your hand and while it has ways to this, Ephara is the perfect card draw engine to make things work for you even faster. You’ll cast your guys, slow down your opponent, and then refill your hand with new weapons to tie up your opponent.

Now, people will tell me “Wait! This deck isn’t standard! What are you doing!”.  True…this is not a standard legal deck, but at its heart Magic is game designed to be fun and this casual deck is exactly that.  It is also a deck that I routinely run in a multiplayer free-for-all environment and can be very effective and can shut down the whole table for turns on end. Also, it could certainly be adjusted to be Standard playable and the detain ability is still perfectly valid.  So, for those Standard players out there, with little adjustment, Ephara could play a role for you too.

Basically, at its simplest, this becomes a solid addition to simple decks looking to drop lots of creatures to turn sideways and smash your opponent.  However, it combos really well with Heliod in the Standard environment, or any Bant populate deck (which could totally become a thing with Advent of the Wurm  still running around).  The quiet ability of drawing extra cards for playing creatures is terrific.  It rewards you for doing exactly what we all want to do: play dudes and let them fight.

Rare of choice:

As an avowed Bant (G/W/U) mage by choice, I am rarely excited by cards in Black.  However, in this set one card immediately got my attention.  Pain Seer jumped out at me for the quasi “Bob” wording. Basically, if you can get this guy tapped and then have her live long enough to untap you can build some massive card advantage off of her.

So, while I was at excited, the sheer fact that this card is printed it amazing.  However, couple it with Springleaf Drum now you are a) able to ramp b) tap your Pain Seer without combat and c) get yourself cards.  Imagine this in a Mono-Black Devotion deck.  Turn 1: play a Swamp, cast Springleaf Drum – Turn 2: play a Swamp, cast Pain Seer, tap Pain Seer, play Thoughtseize – Turn 3: untap Pain Seer, draw your card, play a Swamp, tap Pain Seer, tap your Swamps, cast Desecration Demon Turn 4: untap Pain Seer, draw your card, play a Swamp, tap Pain Seer, tap your Swamps, cast Gray Merchant…and you’re off to the races. I’m sorry…Mono-Black just got one more way to accelerate into stuff, draw more cards and frankly, be even scarier than it already was. If this excites me for the impact it could have in a game just imagine what someone who LIKES to play Black will do with it. One word comes to mind: Gross.

Uncommon of choice:

My uncommon is one that grants an ability I haven’t seen in a while.  Noble Quarry is a Bestow creature with Lure on it.  Now, Lure was a ridiculous ability from when I was just a wee lad playing and it was awesome.  I was always so proud of my Thicket Basilisk (the ORIGINAL Deathtouch creature) with Lure that would wipe the board clear.  However, now Lure (I mean Noble Quarry) is back and it is pretty sweet.

This fits nicely in G or G/R creature heavy decks and games where the board state has stalled a little.  This can happen in a multiplayer game because people just can’t force through enough damage to finish off an opponent.  Little Noble Quarry will quickly result in a blow out.  Bestow it on your Sedge Scorpion, or some other innocuous creature (although Deathtouchers are always the most fun!) and watch the rest of your army punch through to your opponent and blow them out.  Sadly, your Scorpion dies, but guess what?  Noble Quarry, because it is now a creature allows you to untap, reload, and take out opponent number 2 with exactly the same maneuver.  This cute little unicorn is a game breaker and I love it!

Common of choice:

I’m going a little out of my comfort zone again and heading into Red for my common of choice.  With Heroic being a solid mechanic and Inspired being a mechanic that in the right deck could also be very interesting, Epiphany Storm is perfectly placed to be very useful and have some surprising impact.

We learned from Theros that cheap Heroic triggers are the way to go in order to take maximum advantage of the mechanic. So, Epiphany Storm being only one red mana is efficient and triggers Heroic on a creature.  A great example is my Akroan Crusader that acts like a little mini Assemble the Legion in a aggressive W/R deck.  I don’t REALLY want to attack with my Crusader, but I do want the tokens, so this is perfect and it can then be used to help me rummage through my deck to accelerate my aggressive deck.

The other ability is finding cheap ways to trigger the Inspired mechanic on…you guessed it…Pain Seer.  In a Rakdos B/R build this is the perfect enabler on a Pain Seer to get him to tap without forcing combat.  So, you’d rummage with the Epiphany Storm (to discard a card you don’t need), and then when Pain Seer untaps draw a card and then take your draw step.  So, for little investment you’ve just dug three cards deeper in your deck and hopefully found the gas you needed to continue to beat down…or find an answer to slow down your opponent.  Either way, this card is huge boon and something anyone looking to play Red should be looking to pick up in order to trigger Heroic or Inspired abilities.

Those are my picks for top cards for each of the four slots.  You may have different picks on your own, but the bottom line is that Born of the Gods looks like it could a very interesting set with lots of neat new tricks, fun choices, and things that continue to make Magic enjoyable and fresh.


Bruce Gray
@bgray8791 on Twitter

Avatar Three Kings Loot - January 13, 2014

Born of the Gods – Archetype of Imagination, Ashiok’s Adept, E...

Archetype of Imagination

Archetype of Imagination – Sure it is expensive for a 3/2 Flying creature but tack on that ability which basically reads ‘All of my creatures are unblockable’ and ‘Now I can block your flyers’ and you have what could easily become a powerhouse.

Ashiok’s AdeptEphara, God of the PolisEverflame EidolonNyxborn ShieldmateOreskos Sun GuidePain Seer

Pain Seer – What should be referred to as Confidant Lite this card definitely need an alternate tapping condition in order to ensure a steady stream of card advantage. This is without a doubt going to also be paired up with untapping abilities in order to gring out maximum value.

Gerald Knight was inspired from insomnia in this article on Pain Seer & Oreskos Sun Guide

Pharagax GiantSkyreapingSpringleaf DrumTemple of EnlightenmentTemple of MaliceTemple of Plenty

Avatar Three Kings Loot - January 12, 2014

Born of the Gods – Pre-release, Release, Buy-a-box and Game Day ...

Listed here are all the promos for the different events leading to Game Day. More info on Battle the Horde and the Hero’s path see this article.

Pre-Release Promos

Nessia Wilds Ravager

Eater of Hope

Eater of Hope – the demon always demands a sacrifice, but this time the sacrifice is beneficial and nonobligatory. While he isn’t horrible as a 6/4 Flying body for seven mana his abilities are pretty good as long as you have fodder to satisfy his hunger for sacrifice.  He’s got some built in protection with the first ability allowing him to sac another creature to regenerate. That second ability is what really makes him shine allowing you to feed the hunger of the demon to destroy pesky creatures. If you have a good token generator or naturally recurring creatures then this bad boy might be what you’re looking for.

Forgestoker Dragon

Forgestoker Dragon – a pretty standard dragon showing fairly typical stats but with a pretty intriguing ability. While fairly mana intensive if your opponent has a formidable air force that you are trying to bypass it isn’t always necessary to clear all blockers, just the ones that would be a nuisance. While not necessarily a dragon of choice for constructed this should definitely see play in casual formats and could be a great addition to a Kaalia Commander deck.

Arbiter of the Ideal

Arbiter of the Ideal – Some of the Inspired creatures with their more fragile bodies leave you scrambling to find ways to tap them that don’t involve attacking but with this 4/5 Flying body that should rarely be an issue. Paired with manipulation of the top of your deck this should often gain you tons of value with the downside of turning the new permanent into an enchantment more of a nuisance then a hindrance.

Silent Sentinel

Silent Sentinel  While extremely high end as a seven drop and requiring an attack to trigger its ability the sheer power of that ability is what could see this card see some action. Commander players who are already abusing enchantments will likely find this ability very welcoming especially in Uril, the Miststalker decks.

Release Promo


Tromokratis – Call the Kraken !!!  Here it is, a legendary kraken. This humongous sea monster has some pretty interesting abilities. The first I find is largely ineffectual which grants him Hexproof unless he is attacking or blocking, but if you have spot removal for him there’s a good chance it’s an instant so once he attacks blammo. It’s the second ability that I much prefer where if you are either able to tap one of your opponents creatures or make the kraken fly you can basically make him unblockable. Or combo with a Bow of Nylea and you can probably take down entire armies with this monstrosity of the sea.

Buy-A-Box promo

Fated Conflagration

Fated Conflagration – The ability to target a Planeswalker may be the saving grace of this removal spell. Five points of damage is really no small shakes but at four converted mana cost with triple red in there the amount of decks which will be able to cast this is very narrow.

Game Day promos

Kiora's Follower Game Day Promo

Pump, pump, pump it up! That’s what this Merfolk wants to do and he does it all day and everyday by unntaping lands, mana rocks, dorks and other abilities; the list goes on and on. He’s definitely going to find play in EDH for some added shenanigans. We already know that, but what about standard? The next set has Kiora, the Crashing Wave with her ability to Explore and also to “Release the Krakens”.  Simic might be finally ramping up to some Prime Speaker ZeganaProphet of KruphixMaster Biomancer and something else, right!?!? Ramping up in a deck with flash, counters and draw sound like a party, maybe even Plasm Capture could find a spot. To be continued…

Pain-Seer Game Day Promo

Pain Seer – What should be referred to as Confidant Lite this card definitely need an alternate tapping condition in order to ensure a steady stream of card advantage. This is without a doubt going to also be paired up with untapping abilities in order to gring out maximum value.

Gerald Knight was inspired from insomnia.