One of my favorite things about playing Magic is that with over 20 years of cards available there are many options and obscure cards that are available to help fill out a deck. Sure, in some formats your choices are limited, but when you play casually you have countless options. The only catch is that the very best cards are super expensive and hard to come by, and then may not even help you win. However there are plenty of perfectly viable cards that cost a fraction of the money that often perform just as well as their more expensive cousins. Today I’m going to share a list of some very useful cards that are currently super cheap that should help in keeping your casual brews under budget and yet still fun to play.
I’m going start with some cards from Theros because it is a much-maligned set that many overlook for being able to offer anything interesting. I think this perception is a little misplaced for the simple inclusion of the Scry Lands. These are likely one of the most balanced land cycles I have come across and have a huge amount of utility in Casual games. They help fix your mana, but come into play tapped which is a fair trade off. This is certainly a drawback but they also allow you to Scry 1, which is hugely beneficial. That simple Scry 1 can allow you to help smooth out your draws in the early, mid, or late game and all the while helping to ensure that you are able to produce both colours of mana. The design itself is so clean that it really is remarkable and the ability seems so minor, but yet can be so crucial. To make matters better you can use all sorts of cards to eke extra value out of them like perhaps playing one of the Ravnica “bounce” lands, or a Kor Skyfisher. Furthermore, since essentially everything from Theros was so widely printed, the prices on these have fallen to precipitously-low levels. Many of these are available on Three Kings Loot for between $0.99 (CDN) and $2.99 (CDN) making them very modestly-priced and a real solid pickup.
Prognostic Sphinx is another very solid card for your Casual games as a 3/5 flier with Hexproof if you discard a card. A 3/5 Flying body that is able to protect itself quite inexpensively is a very solid addition and this could see plenty of play in many decks, particularly some sort of Grixis-coloured deck with a number of Madness-themed cards, but it can see application in any deck playing Blue. The real asset is the Scry 3 that is triggered when it attacks. This can really generate some significant value and make your deck operate extremely smoothly because Scry 3 offers you tons of control over the top of your deck. To make matters better, we are talking about essentially a bulk Rare at $0.49 (CDN) meaning that he costs you less that a cup of coffee. I call that some good value.
Another very sweet addition to Casual decks playing White is a little common from M15. M15 was largely a poor set with only a few truly interesting cards that might still see play, but Heliod’s Pilgrim is a tremendous little find. In my 4+ years playing MTG again I have seen plenty of games won on the back of a terrible Aura that people just can’t remove or interact with profitably. Well, if you have a casual deck with a potent aura hidden somewhere, Heliod’s Pilgrim acts like the ideal tutor. It it even leaves behind a body making it a very useful Tutor on a stick and an upgrade over Idyllic Tutor (that runs a very pricey $19.99). It is no Enlightened Tutor, but Enlightened Tutor is a $15 card while you can get the Pilgrim for a cool $0.20 (CDN). A bargain basement pickup if there ever was one.
There are a number of other totally innocuous cards from Eldritch Moon and that are well-worth keeping an eye on. The first is Grapple with the Past which can serve as an extremely versatile and potent “Regrowth” type effect. We have seen time and time again that self mill strategies can be extremely potent and in the Commander 2015 product there was a B/G Meren of Clan Nel Toth deck that looked to exploit its graveyard for extensive value. However, many of the Self-Mill cards recently printed reveal a certain number of cards and you select the required card, if it is among the revealed cards, and put it in your hand. (e.g. Mulch or Grisly Salvage). However, Grapple with the Past goes into a much different range in that after you dump the cards in your yard you can select a creature or a land card from your graveyard, not just from the cards that were revealed. Meaning, that as a late game play, once your yard has been filled up, you get to cherry pick the very best thing your graveyard has to offer. Now, the original version of this sort effect is Regrowth and was last reprinted in a regular set in Revised (but it has been printed in a number of supplemental products recently) and can be found available for anywhere between $1.15 and $9 (CDN) depending on your version. Grapple with the Past is a little more limited but can be found for a mere $0.37 at Three Kings Loot to help keep the old pocket book in check. In a world with many “value” creatures Grapple with the Past is a very effective option and is a considerable discount over some of the alternatives.
Another card to keep your eye on is Splendid Reclamation. I think everyone is aware that this card has the potential to be truly broken given the right circumstances. Personally I have been truly astounded to find myself in a situation in numerous decks where I have either purposefully or inadvertently discarded, milled, or generally had lands destroyed and end up in my graveyard. Splendid Reclamation does an amazing job of getting you all those lands back and essentially acting as a gigantic ramp spell. To my mind it is at its best in a self-milling strategy, but I could make a case for it in plenty of other situations as well. However, once you start to see a bunch of lands end up in your graveyard, this is the perfect way to jump from having 4-8 land to having something like 10-12 lands in a single spell. While you may not win the game on the spot on account of Splendid Reclamation, the truth is that you are now in a much more advantageous position because you have the ability to cast far more spells. Add in the fact that this recently-printed rare is languishing at a mere $1.25(CDN) and you’re talking about a real bargain for something that could result in you having the upper hand at your next casual game.
The final card that I have for you all is yet another common, but this time from Kaladesh. I have to say that I was astounded to find this card looking at me in my pre-release kit because I always figure this sort of effect is printed at uncommon or higher. However, for a mere 3 mana (2 generic and a Black) you get a Fortuitous Find, a modal card to allow you to potentially regrow TWO targets. The obvious first mode is to regrow a creature, that is very easy to predict, however the option to get back a potential artifact could be a hugely powerful play in the late game. I can well imagine a situation where you have landed an early piece of equipment or a strong Artifact creature (think a Gearhulk) and it gets destroyed by a well timed piece of artifact hate. To have the chance to regrow both your best creature target AND an artifact is potentially backbreaking. We all know that in many casual games your opponent can likely deal with your best threats the first time, but it is the ability to recur that threat a number of times that is truly the key asset and Fortuitous Find is a super cost-effective way to add that element of recursion to your deck.
Well, those are a few things to add a little versatility and to make you a little more resilient when you start losing threats to the removal of your opponents. There are plenty of great cards to help players of any budget, so I encourage you to go out and try a broad range of cards and see if you too can’t find a few highly effective budget options to help bring some versatility to your decks. By all means, if you find something fun and inexpensive share that with me here because I’d love to hear about a sweet new (or old) tech out there to spice up my next Casual game.
As always, thanks for stopping to read and be sure to stop in again next time for another Casual Encounter.
*Editor’s note: As with any discussion about prices, it’s important to remember that they’re always subject to change.
M15 Clash Packs are not replacing Event Decks, but instead will alternate with them for each release. That means you’ll see a Clash Pack for Magic 2015 and an Event Deck for Khans of Tarkir. The Clash Pack will then return for the second set in the Khans of Tarkir block.
A two-player product, the Clash Pack contains two sixty-card decks designed to be played against each other. It’s a great way to introduce new players to Magic. And it also comes with six premium foil cards with alternative art.
- Two ready-to-play sixty-card decks
- Six premium cards with alternative art
- Deck box
- Strategy insert
- Magic rules reference card
Languages: English, Japanese, French, German, and Chinese (Simplified)
Grand Prix Manchester Champion – Theros Block Constructed on June 1st 2014
Winner of ‘the other’ Theros Block Constructed tournament was Fabrizio Anteri playing a powerful BUG Midrange deck. This deck is the flip side of the Elspeth, Sun’s Champion coin and as such runs the means to beat it rather then join it. As was proven at Pro Tour Journey into Nyx that the battle lines were drawn with the majority taking sides between either Elspeth and Prognostic Sphinx then jamming in the formats Green acceleration package.
In this format the most commonly played cards it turns out are a pair of Green mana accelerants which most likely are going to become the dynamic duo come the next Standard season. This decks ideal opening lies with a turn one Scry land into a turn two Sylvan Caryatid followed by a turn three Courser of Kruphix before making your land drop. That provides the deck with the possibility of rushing out that early five drop which is where the deck plays into. The main avenue of attack lies in the Prognostic Sphinx which was discovered to be the main foil to Elspeth as it not only will fly over her ground forces but also is able to skirt her destroy creatures ability by virtue of being not too powerful. There is also additional beatdown provided by Reaper of the Wilds which sports great stats as a 4/5 for four mana able to protect itself if necessary, but also provides some added bonus with a Scry whenever another creature dies. A pair of planeswalkers are included with Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver doing a lot of heavy lifting by not only milling away possible threats and answers from the opponent but also stealing some of those threats away, and Kiora, the Crashing Wave which can add extra draw and acceleration, lock down a particularly troublesome creature or even ‘Call the Kraken’ if allowed to build up enough loyalty. As this deck chose the Midrange route instead of Control the only disruption in the deck is provided from a set of Thoughtseize to not only strip them of their most bothersome card but also provide you with all the information about their plans so you are able to set yourself up properly. Then we have the removal suite which is as robust as they come. Centering around the formats best there is a full set of Hero’s Downfall to rid the board of creatures or planeswalkers alike, a trio of the pseudo-sweeper in Silence the Believers which can often hit two or three necessary targets, a pair of Bile Blight that is extremely good at taking care of an army of Elspeth tokens, and a misers Unravel the Æther to deal with any troublesome artifacts or enchantments including Gods as they are shuffled back into the library. A solitary Read the Bones provides the deck just a tiny bit of draw power to help dig for the cards it needs.
We had on one side of the Theros Block coin the RG Elspeth deck and other White based decks like Patrick Chapin’s winning Junk Midrange running the powerful planeswalker Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. But the flip side of that coin has the decks which were able to figure out its natural enemy was Prognostic Sphinx. That second pillar which emerged in the format was BUG Control which used the Sphinx to attack into Elspeth through her natural defense, ramp up quickly with the staple Green creatures and dipped into Black for efficient removal. This is definitely going to be a player at Grand Prix Manchester.
It is no surprise to see that as a Green deck the creature package starts with both staples of the format in Sylvan Caryatid and Courser of Kruphix there to help ramp quickly into an early Sphinx or getting multiple planeswalkers out. The only other creature is Prognostic Sphinx who’s main goal is to fly over defenders to beatdown Elspeth and conveniently skirts her destroy ability, not to mention is already able to protect itself well with its Hexproof granting ability. Moving into planeswalkers there is first Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver that while there is a low threat density in the deck from creatures can often steal one of the opponents fatties to bring down the beats upon them. The other is Kiora, the Crashing Wave who plus is able to lockdown the biggest threat on the other side of the board, can do a fantastic impersonation of Explore, and realistically will be able to create an emblem to ‘Free the Kraken’ if you can offer he a bit of protection. The title is a bit misleading as it does not play a big permission role as a Control deck but more of a board control through removal which is why there is only the misers copy of Dissolve in the main deck. As far as removal though there’s a full set of Hero’s Downfall to smash either creatures or planeswalkers, the pseudo-sweeper Silence the Believers to banish at times two or three nuisance creatures, Bile Blight which is an excellent way to rid the board of an overwhelming amount of Soldier Tokens or any other creature they have out in multiples, and also Unravel the Æther which will save you from enchantment or artifact alike especially an Indestructible god that’s ruining your day. It wouldn’t be right for a Control deck running Black to not include some discard and for that we have a full set of Thoughtseize to not only strip away the opponents most relevant threat but also to provide you with some extremely valuable information about their game plan.
It’s going to be very interesting to see what configuration of this powerful deck emerges as the most dominant. I’m sure we will see some tweaks shake out to mold to the expected meta. As three different copies were able to make the top 8 at Pro Tour Journey into Nyx I would be surprised if it doesn’t show itself in Manchester. Definitely going forward into the next Standard season this is well positioned to be a powerplayer there as well.
Valentine’s Day has come and gone, and gifts of love have been exchanged.
But not all creatures are loved equally, and if there is any card that has been so utterly left unloved from the Theros set I would have to say that it is Spellheart Chimera. If you ever see your opponent play this card in draft you are pretty much guaranteed to win. If you see it in constructed you will probably be asking yourself what your opponent was thinking? Let’s take a closer look at it, shall we?
It has Flying and Trample and a static three toughness. It’s power fluctuates depending upon the number of sorcery and instant cards in your graveyard. It’s also aggressively costed at only three mana, a colourless, a red, and a blue.
Now in Limited this card is near unplayable because creatures are the name of the game, not spells. Your typical draft, or sealed, deck is going to be made up of at most five to seven non-creature spells. Which means that this flying roadblock’s Trample ability will be almost irrelevant as it’s power will be too low for it to matter.
In constructed however I may have found a home for it, in Block. If you read my “That’s Bull!” article then you already know what Block Constructed is, if not here is a brief description. It’s like any constructed format with a minimum of sixty cards in the deck, but you are limited to only a Block of cards. In this case we are using Theros Block, for obvious reasons.
Now the Block Constructed deck I started out with was based on the Scry mechanic. Every card in the deck had some interaction with Scry or had the Scry ability. This was the core of the design concept for the deck. Being able to rig your draws to be able to keep on curve or be able to ‘dig’ for the answers you needed to stop your opponent. If you look up all the cards that have Scry in red and blue from Theros alone you total seventeen, Born of the Gods adds an additional 8, bringing our grand total to twenty five different cards that have or use Scry.
Before the Chimera came to mind I was playtesting the deck online with the Flamespeaker Adept as it’s champion creature, and for good reason. With combat tricks like Titan’s Strength to make boost it’s power from the simple two to nine, and Aqueous Form to make him unblockable, he can be quite the little beatstick. On top of that if you can get the Prognostic Sphinx joining him in the air it makes for a near game ending combo.
That combo was what fueled this concept in the first place after I went undefeated in a Theros Draft after getting the Sphinx with two Adept’s a a couple of Magma Jet’s and Voyage’s End. It made me wonder if it was viable as a deck concept and that is when I decided to try it in Block Constructed. Let’s take a look at the deck
It’s initial testing was against blue green Prophet of Kruphix deck and was favorable as the creatures were weak enough to succumb to the first striking adept and it didn’t have enough to stop it in the air with the Sphinx. Next up was blue white heroic, which was too easily defeated with Voyage’s End and Sea God’s Revenge. The biggest test was going to be against naya monsters, which featured ramping with Voyaging Satyr and Sylvan Caryatid into Polakranos, World Eater and Stormbreath Dragon and Elspeth, Sun’s Champion and you get the point. Naya Monsters, at the time of this writing, makes up seventy-five percent of the online meta, which shows just how dominant it is.
Now the secret to beating naya monsters was to be patient and wait for them to cast their big creatures that they were relying on. They usually want to curve out and get their big threats in play as they expend all their mana, so cards like Dissolve and Stymied Hopes are great ways to combat them. Voyage’s End will buy you a turn, and the new Sudden Storm will buy you two turns, all while using Scry to set up your next big road block, or curve out, or threat.
And so after doing some testing with the original list I realized that Prescient Chimera wasn’t very beneficial and was way too expensive, but the deck couldn’t afford to lose anymore creatures. The deck was creature light already. And that’s where the Spellheart Chimera comes into play. The deck is using a lot of “counter/burn” to keep our opponent’s board in check, so why not have a cheap creature that can take advantage of all that. Spellheart Chimera is cheaper than the other chimera and grows larger as we cast more spells. What it doesn’t do is scry every time we play a spell, but that’s not bad because a lot of our spells already do that.
So let’s take a look at the new list.
It’s different, that is for sure and I can almost guarantee that nobody at your FNM is going to expect it and might even think you are crazy when you play out the Spellheart Chimera, but when you beat them with it you will make some people rethink what I though. Because, I never thought that the Spellheart Chimera would find a home, I thought it was absolute garbage. But, this redheaded bastard stepchild of the Theros set just might have found some love.
~ Gerald Knight
Extra Booty: Before you jump on me for that red-headed bastard comment, I was born a bastard, proud of it too, and I fathered a red-headed child who is now a step-child to my fiance. Don’t say that writers never talk about themselves!
UB Control – Dimir Control
4th place GP Shizuoka 2013
Other Spells (24)
After what was becoming a stale Standard meta abundant with Mono-Blue, Mono-Black and UW Control reigning supreme the Japanese Grand Prix in Shizuoka showcased for us more somewhat fringe decks. I’ve already broken down two new top decks with the GP champion Orzhov Human by Ryo Nakanada and second place Esper Human/Midrange by Shota Takao. These new decks are tuned for the meta with favorable match ups against those top three decks in Standard, something you’d expect when the Japanese start brewing. I wanted to call this deck Dimir Devotion because of it’s Master of Waves, but this is definitely much more then your standard UB control deck using a plethora of removal, counters, draw and disruption coupled with it’s finishers: Master of Waves and Prognostic Sphinx. Blue and Black has a very nice mana base with Dimir Guildgate, Watery Grave and Temple of Deceit so Shouta was able to add the full set of Mutavaults.
Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver could be considered a finisher, but his role is more against aggro decks where he slows them down by using +2 ability to exile the top three cards, followed by his -X to bring one of opponents creatures that was exiled to the battlefield usually as an additional blocker. He could become a problem for UW Control if you just keep using his +2 ability mill all his answers and hopefully their Elixir of Immortality till you finally ultimate which is usually good game. What you want to do against midrange and other control decks is bring in your Pack Rats from sideboard and flood the board with rats. Our next planewalker in the list is the good ole MVP for all control decks with a set of Jace, Architect of Thought who’s just great at slowing down the beatdown from aggro as well. Continuing down the list we see more answers against aggro with a plethora of black removal such as singletons Devour Flesh, Doom Blade and Ultimate Price as well as three Hero’s Downfall. Shota also added Domestication which has been gaining popularity in Mono-Blue builds with so much creatures with under 4 power like Master of Waves and Nightveil Specter making them a good catch-all. Another very interesting addition main deck are the three Ratchet Bombs to easily take care of tokens from Pack Rats, any Zombies from Xathrid Necromancer or Elementals from Master of Waves. Yasooka added more originality to his deck with a couple of Warped Physique. There probably mainly used as removal, but I wonder if he ever pumped a Prognostic Sphinx for the win.
It wouldn’t be much of a blue control deck without any counters. Yasooka opted for three Dissolve and Syncopate with a singleton Essence Scatter which sounds good to me. Finally with a couple of Opportunity as draw for late games as every blue control deck does just little less in this one.
The sideboard is tweaked to the metagame with two Gainsay and a Negate to bring in against UW control along with three Duress which seem very sound to me. Let’s not forget the Pack Rats in the sideboard against deck with little or no answers to a turn two Rats, they work especially well with the set of Mutavaults. The rest of the sideboard is pretty much self explanatory with Tidebinder Mage against Green or Red and Gainsay obvisously against Blue decks.
The Blood Baron of Vizkopa have been a common issue lately, but this deck had a lot of counters like Essence Scatter to stop it from resolving and a Devour Flesh main deck. I would prefer Far & Away for it’s versatility cause if the opponent has only two creatures and one of them is the Baron then you bounce the other so the Away resolves with opponent sac’ing the Baron. Another use Far is to bounce opponents creature like a Blood Baron and Thoughtseize it. This deck looks like a fun list, if you like control and your tired of the do-nothing draw-go cycle of UW Control you should try this one out. If anyone sees any more issues with this deck leave comments, i’m sure a lot more people got to test it by now.
Happy New Year everyone
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Now this is a Heroic ability that I can really get behind. Very good stats as well for the cost.
With every trigger of Heroic essentially equating to a +2/+2 he should definitely see some kind of standard play. It’s also pretty cool how he becomes a one shot kill with Enlarge into an empty board.
Pretty standard vanilla 3/3.
All five of the Ordeals look to have good effect. I could see the red playing a role in aggressive Boros/RDW style decks for extra reach. All should be midround draftable.
Not a terrible flying body with the ability to protect itself on a whim. Scry 3 is certainly nothing to laugh at but not overly impressive as a total package.
As a one-drop with 2 power I don’t doubt it has a chance to see play in White Weenie decks. The protection can be very relevant in the proper circumstances and life gain is always a bonus extra.
Demonheart Chimera’s power is equal to the number of instant and sorcery cards in your graveyard
Counter target enchantment, instant or sorcery spell. Its controller puts a 2/2 blue Bird creature token with flying onto the battlefield under his control.