Tag: shambleshark

Bruce Gray - April 14, 2014

Casual Encounters – Underappreciated cards of Magic sets past: G...

Master Biomancer

As I sit here writing we are slightly more than 6 months away from another rotation and seeing all those lovely cards from Return to Ravnica block disappearing from Standard.  In the world of Magic, six months is an eternity as there are countless events across the world.  The game will change week to week meaning that 6 months will take a very long time and there will be a near infinite combination of cards that can come together to redefine the game.  However, in real terms, 6 months isn’t very long at all.  In 6 months we’ll be finishing summer up and bracing for the return of cooler weather and another long bout of winter.  My work will be restarting the cycle of the school year for school aged children.  The new NHL or NFL season will just be starting.  6 months isn’t really that much time…and so it is the perfect time to be checking out those casual playable gems that may have been overlooked. Once again, today I will go through my pick for underappreciated card at each of the 4 card slots (common, uncommon, rare, mythic) in search of those hidden gems that a more casual player can make use of to help make their games fun and yet still keep an eye on their bottom line. Today’s set is Gatecrash.

While I was initially a little underwhelmed by Return to Ravnica (despite the high number of ultra powerful and valuable cards), Gatecrash was right in my wheel house and appealed to me straight away.  Boros and Gruul were immediately colour combinations that I could get behind.  The Simic colour combination was a little unusual, but the Evolve mechanic that they carried intrigued me and made me curious.  Extort and Orzhov quickly proved to be a powerhouse mechanic in a duel and absolutely devastating in a multiplayer game.  Dimir’s colour combination is always a force and some of the cards did not disappoint. All in all, it was a set full of terrific cards and some fantastic casual gems that a player like me can use to full advantage.

I also could fully get behind the set because this was the first time I had ventured into the realm of Limited play.  I experienced my first ever Draft with Gatecrash and immediately loved the experience.  Playing Limited is still my favorite way to play when I can find time to play at my local game shop.  I don’t claim to be an expert but I really enjoy the challenge of card evaluation and selection and then building a deck that is hopefully strong enough to get some wins.  Everyone is technically on the same even playing field and I have found that it makes for some great variety and fun games.



My common is a little guy that got overlooked for the most part but has time and time again proved to be a valuable little addition to most decks.  Shambleshark is a 2 mana 2/1 creature with Flash and the Evolve mechanic.  He isn’t going to wow anybody with his stats, but he is very versatile and a nice addition to decks running Green and Blue.  Flash is his biggest attribute because it gives him the ability to sneak in at any time.  Need a surprise blocker to mix up the combat math?  Need an inexpensive trigger to boost another Evolve creature? He has a quasi-haste like ability if you drop him on your opponents end step.  He trades favorably with “Bears” and can be used in all sorts of situations.  Some will say that this guy saw Standard play and had his moment in the sun, and I fully agree.  However, he is not omnipresent like Voice of resurgence, Blood Baron, Loxodon Smiter or some of the other powerful creatures in Standard.  He had a role in one particular deck that made waves for about 2 weeks, or until everyone figured it out.  However, the Standard format quickly recovered and is very much still defined by the three way dance that Mono-Black, Mono-Blue and Blue/White control. However, this little guy can still be a useful little critter not to be overlooked.



While Gatecrash facilitated a super aggressive format, in no small part to the Gruul and Boros guilds being hyper aggressive, there are a few other cards that can allow for some interesting abilities.  One such card starts to push into a hand disruption angle which can be very debilitating to players as the game moves along.  Vizkopa Confessor is a pricey 5 mana (1 White, 1 Black, 3 colourless) for a 1/3 with Extort, that when it enters the battlefield you may pay life and your opponent will reveal cards in his hand equal to the life paid and then you get to select a card he will discard.  This is an expensive card to play both from the mana invested and then in turn from the standpoint of the life paid to force him to reveal cards.  However, if you have gone the route of playing an Orzhov deck you likely have multiple Extort triggers in effect, particularly by the time you hit 5 land to cast this bad boy in which case you could make up the life lost simply by casting spells.  Also, if this is a multi-player game, the Extort triggers return an enormous amount of life points, so using life points as a resource to crush the hands of your opponent is probably just fine. The crushing of the hand is only escalated if you can flicker the Vizkopa Confessor with Cloudshift, or recently one of my new favorite tricks from Theros, Triad of Fates.

The biggest problem with this guy is the 1/3 body you get for your 5 mana.  It isn’t very big, but you aren’t playing this guy to lay a beating on your opponent.  I was running him in an Esper deck that was premised on destroying the hand of my opponent and this guy fit right in.  However, while I really like the Vizkopa Confessor, I didn’t like the deck and took it apart.  That doesn’t mean I’ve given up on him. What it means is that I am looking for another deck to make use of this guy and once I do I will use the ability to target hands of my opponents and leave them crippled and dejected.



My rare card of choice appears on the outset to be a hyper aggressive card, however with a little adjusting it can far more than just be an aggressive beater.  Rubblebelt Raiders is a 4 mana (3 hybrid red/green, and 1 colourless) for a 3/3 creature that gets a +1/+1 counter whenever it attacks for each creature you control that is attacking.  Ok, in a straight Red/Green deck this card is monstrous.  This card rewards R/G for casting dudes and attacking and in the process grows Rubblebelt Raiders into a gigantic monster.  However, if left unchecked Raiders become an instant target for a removal spell and then all that hard works goes for nothing.  So, how do you get more value for your Rubblebelt Raider?  Here’s how.

Instead of looking at Rubblebelt Raiders as a R/G spell, look at the hybrid casting cost as being all Green and then slide Raiders into a Simic build.  This will give you access to Zameck Guildmage and the very handy ability to transform +1/+1 counters into cards.  So, swing in with your Raiders and friends (I like Elusive Krasis as a starting point, but the more the merrier) and have Raiders power up a bunch of counters.  Eventually your opponent will play a removal spell to deal with the ridiculously large monster you have stomping around but this is when you start tapping your lands to turn those counters into cards. Also, you can protect your Raiders with a Simic Charm or Mizzium Skin to grant it hexproof and save your card draw engine.   You may or may not lose the raiders, but you can absolutely pickup 2,3 or maybe even 4 extra cards in the process by using your Zameck Guildmage.  Give//Take would afford you a similar ability if you lack a Guildmage.  Or more enjoyable yet still, Bioshift those counters onto your Elusive Krasis and have your Krasis bring the pain.  All those counters create so many possibilities and represent loads of resources that a Simic deck would love to rock. These quirky little relationships allow you to approach your casual game from a slightly different angle and presents you with more options, and potentially more ways to frustrate you opponents.



Once again, mythics are usually very strong and so it hard to identify one that is “underappreciated”, but in this set there is one that is ultimately quite playable, but never really fit anywhere.  Borborygmous Enraged was very straight forward and difficult to cast at a massive 8 mana.  Deathpact Angel wasn’t much different at 7 mana.  However, Master Biomancer was a very reasonable 4 mana and provided for a very interesting ability.

Master Biomancer is a 2/4 creature for 4 (1 blue, 1 green, 2 colourless) that grants each creature entering the battlefield a number of +1/+1 counters equal to Master Biomancer’s power.  So, at a minimum, your creatures enter the battlefield with +2/+2, but with the right deck this can result in creatures of a ridiculous size.  Slam Master Biomancer in a BUG deck and scavenge an early creature or two on to Master Biomancer and watch your little 1 drops turn into massive bombs.  Or, use the counters from Rubblebelt raiders and bioshift the counters onto Master Biomancer for a humungous boost.  It takes time, but often in a multiplayer game you can find yourself with an extra turn or two to put this combination together and have it come off looking pretty amazing.  Here would be a pretty fun example of how this might play out in a RUG deck rocking mostly Simic creatures:

Turn 1- forest, tap the forest, play experiment one.

Turn 2- island, tap forest and island, gyre sage, evolve experiment one (1 counter). Attack with experiment one

Turn 3- forest– tap your lands, Elusive Krasis (or Drakewing Krasis) evolve experiment 1 and Gyre sage. (2 counters this turn,  3 in total). Attack with Experiment one

Turn 4- forest, tap your lands, Rubblebelt Raiders, evolve Gyre Sage and Elusive Krasis (2 counters this turn, 5 total). Attack with Elusive Krasis and Experiment One.

Turn 5- Island– Attack with Raiders, Experiment one, and KrasisRaiders get three counters.  Second main phase drop master biomancer and bioshift counters off of the Raiders, and now Master Biomancer has 3 counters on it.  With one remaining mana cast another experiment one.  It comes into play with +5/+5 and is a 6/6 creature ready to lay down the beats…and the counter shenanigans start from there.

For some reason Master Biomancer was largely overlooked despite the obvious benefits it can provide.  It takes a little work in order to get Master Biomancer where it can be suitably explosive, but once he comes online he is well worth the investment.  You can trade the counters generated for cards, shift them around to make combat math a nightmare, or even use them in conjunction with Simic Manipulator to take control of creatures.  This is the perfect casual card for someone who likes to play around with counters and can be very entertaining. Don’t overlook this guy in your trade binder.  Instead, sleeve him up and take him out for a spin to see what he can do for you!

There we go…I have gone through my choices for common, uncommon, rare and mythic for Gatecrash that you should go and dig out of that box or that trade binder.  Give them a second look.  Maybe they can liven things a little the next time you sit down with some pals on a Saturday night.  Maybe you can go one better and build them into a funny combination that can make life difficult for an opponent.  Whatever you choose to do with them, I’m all ears…I love to hear about how those gems got used, or if you have some of your own that I’ve neglected.  The beauty with playing Magic is that everyone has an opinion and every opinion has merit.  So, drop me a line and let me know what you like, don’t like, or anything else that is on your mind.  Once again, thanks very much and may your next Casual Encounter be loads of fun.


Bruce Gray