Tag: standard-budget

Avatar 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

Avatar Bruce Gray - July 30, 2014

UWR American Bulk [Budget standard decks]

Daxos of Meletis - UWR American Bulk rares [Budget standard decks]

UWR American Bulk rares [Budget standard decks]

 by Bruce Gray – Casual Encouters

Here’s a situation we all face in this game.  Magic is a collectible card game.  As such, you are always collecting the cards and looking for the next card you want and need to add to your collection. Some of those cards you want for a new deck, others you want because of the cool art, or because they are foils, and other cards are just cool to collect.  Along the way you accumulate all sorts of other cards.  Many of these cards are commons and uncommons that seem to multiply in short order. Others are chase rare cards that you REALLY want to add to your collection.  Others are still rare, but aren’t very good…in fact, many of them are terrible.  These are called Bulk rares.  They are called “Bulk” because you can find them in the “bulk” bin at your LGS (Local Game Shop) and just sitting there doing nothing.


What to do with these bulk rares?  For many they sit in a binder and just…be.  They don’t get played.  They hardly get LOOKED at.  They just sit in their sleeve.  No one will actually trade for them.  Few stores will take them off your hands with their buylist.  No…these are truly cast away cards.  Even commons get more of a lease on life with Pauper formats.  However, Bulk rares just sit and do NOTHING.


Well, this is where I come along.  I’m always looking for some way to brew up a new deck without costing myself much in the way of money.  Let’s be real here…I have BOXES of stuff that I’m not playing.  That’s thousands of cards that are just sitting there and not getting played.  Surely, somewhere in amongst all those cards there are 60 cards that I can eke out into a deck.  Well, today I think I’ve managed to make it work…and surprise…I think I even found a way to slide in a couple of M15 beauties.  I call this Casual Masterpiece…American Bulk (rares)…BEHOLD!


American Bulk [Budget Standard decks]



This deck is actually very simple in terms of game plan.  Play a dude…suit him up with Bestow creatures.  Smash.  There are some of the best Bestow creatures in Hopeful Eidolon, Everflame Eidolon, Ghostbalde Eidolon and Thassa’s and Purphoros’s Emissaries that can all make combat just miserable.  Fencing Ace is another unheralded critter with Double-strike that can just make an opponent cry if he gets suited up.  The Ordeals have long been good, and Purphoros’s ordeal is a perfect fit. No, generally the game plan is very straight forward and not unlike the plan from many a Draft deck, however, mix in some bulk rares for variety’s sake and we can make for a spicy game with some interesting twists and turns.


The first piece of wonky deck-tech is Daxos.  This guy is so close to being good…he can let you play your opponents cards, has a form of quasi evasion and a 2/2 for 3 mana is just a shade under the curve meaning he’s playable…sort of…but just not quite. However, suit him up with a Bestow creature and suddenly he becomes far more interesting and more of a nuisance.  He can outclass 2 drops meaning your opponent will need to block with multiple creatures (which always feels bad) or have you start nabbing stuff off the top of their deck.  Perhaps it says something about the sort of player I am, but I really, really, REALLY enjoy beating up my opponent with their own creatures and spells.


The second piece of truly bizarre deck choice is Fated Retribution.  7 mana board wipes are completely unplayable in 60 card decks right?  Well, I for one am willing to give this one another lease of life.  It’s actually a very powerful spell, and at Instant speed could really be back breaking. I’m willing to give this a try and see whether or not it can cut it.


Perplexing Chimera is another odd choice, but there’s no mistaking that the ability to switch owners of a spell is intriguing and the fact that it sits there as a threat, waiting to de-rail a spell is enough for me.  I think this is a very funny card and really can shake things up as your opponent attempts to play around it.


Silent Sentinel is yet another odd choice but when you consider the context of the deck it quickly becomes apparent why he’s in this little build.  Whenever he attacks you get to return an enchantment from your graveyard to your hand.  This is quite a powerful ability when the bulk of the creatures in the deck are enchantment creatures.   A 4/6 flier is also pretty handy even though he’s a greedy mana sync, but as a one of is quite reasonable.


Boonweaver Giant and Spectra Ward are my latest discoveries.  This pair from M15 just scream “PUT ME IN AN ENCHANTMENT DECK!”.  So I did.  The absolute best part about this combo is that if you cast Boonweaver Giant you can tutor up Spectra Ward from almost ANYWHERE! Graveyard? Sure thing. How about in my hand? No Sweat! What about in my library?  Go nuts! Then, once you get Boonweaver all paired up with Spectra Ward you have a 6/6 creature with protection from basically everything.  It’s actually gross. Now people say “but it costs 7 mana!”…and I simply respond “it sure does…but when I’m digging up a 5 mana aura to attach to it, it’s like I’m casting 12 mana worth of spells and really only spending 7.  That’s a bargain if I’ve ever heard one”.  Besides, there are very few things that actually outclass a 6/6 creature with protection from EVERYTHING, 7 mana or not.


The last piece of truly bizarre deck-tech is the choice to run Pyxis of Pandemonium.  This is usually a terrible card and something that you don’t really want to play…unless you’re simply using it as disruption to throw your opponent off their game plan.  Many decks are developed to play a certain way and with a large number of Scry abilities want to set up their draw steps very carefully to maximize each and every time they draw.  However, slide this card into your deck and just start screwing with their scrying and exile the top card of their library.  You have no idea what you just exiled from their deck, but I bet they probably wanted it.  As for this deck, with 28 permanents and 24 lands you don’t really care what gets exiled because when you sacrifice the Pyxis you’re reasonably assured to get most of it back.  Besides, you’re playing a souped up draft deck with some bulk rares…who CARES what you exile…it can likely be replaced by something.  I just think this card makes for a hilarious random game and just puts such a monkey wrench in the game plan of so many decks that I just need to find it a slot.


How does this deck fair?  Well, as it is fairly experimental I haven’t had a chance to play it against too many people.  I had one of my friends stop by to play one evening and the deck fared very well.  The life gain that can be achieved by Bestowing a Hopeful Eidolon on something can really push a game and make it very difficult to dispatch this deck.  Attach the Eidolon to something with Double Strike and things get even better.  Also, the flexibility of having Bestow creatures actually lowers the curve where you can get out and play a number of smaller threats early and then later in the game, as you draw others, allows you to suit up one as you ready for the kill. Sea God’s Revenge is just a blow out waiting to happen and Voyage’s End is just a very versatile way of holding off an aggressive opponent.  Is it a finely polished deck ready to take down a PTQ?  No way…but as a cheap and fun casual brew I think it fits the bill and can do some funny things to keep things interesting.


Well, there we have yet another funny Casual Brew for you to test out at home.  Give it a whirl…I’d love to know if you have the same success I’ve had.  Also, go ahead and flip through that binder and see if there are any bulk rares you can use to spice up a deck.  No one said that every deck you make HAS to be tier 1 competitive ready…sometimes brewing fun Casual decks like this can be just as fun.


Well thanks for reading and until next time, keep it fun, keep it safe…keep it casual.


by Bruce Gray – Casual Encouters


Avatar Bruce Gray - July 20, 2014

Brewing on a Budget MTG Standard

Laboratory Maniac - Brewing on a Budget MTG

Brewing on a Budget MTG

by Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters


Since I started writing for Three Kings Loot back in February I’ve highlighted a fair number of decks.  The one thing that most of these decks have in common is that I would describe them all as being “budget” decks. This means that I am interested in trying to find a relatively inexpensive way to build a deck that is still powerful and presents a number of problems for my opponents.  These decks aren’t usually Tier 1 competitive decks, but they can surprise someone who underestimates what the deck can do.  Today, I’m going to showcase some budget substitutions that will allow you to build your own budget deck and help you to keep your cost down.  We’ll look at land, creatures, and lastly other spells in an effort to briefly touch on all the key elements of your very own budget deck.



If you routinely stop by here on The Bag of Loot you know that I have a thing for land.  Basically Magic is entirely dependent on the land you draw.  I don’t care how many awesome spells you have in your library, if you don’t have the land to cast them you are likely sunk (unless you’re playing Legacy/Vintage in which it seems possible to play with no land).  Without access to the correct land it doesn’t matter what spells you have, you’re likely to lose.  As a result, this is one of the few areas where you really can’t skimp too much.  You can use things like Guildgates and Life Gain lands from Zendikar if you aren’t fussy on format, but most people want to play Standard.  If you want to play Standard you need the lands.  It becomes even MORE apparent in the realm of Modern where Fetches and such are super expensive. Bottom line, unless you play Casually and you and your friends don’t mind you mixing in different things, you’re probably on the hook for having the “right” land for your deck.  Temples. Shocks. Mana Confluence. Nykthos. Guildgates. Pain Lands.  There is a large variety of lands available, some more expensive than others, but if you want to play you need to get the right ones for you and your deck and cheaping out and just running basics just won’t cut it usually.



While you can’t cut corners on your land, you most certainly can make up ground with the suite of creatures you opt to run.  Basically, at almost each and every converted mana cost along the curve you can run a variety of choices. Now, the creatures that are very expensive in a given format are expensive because they are the optimal creature for that converted mana cost in that colour.  That doesn’t mean that alternatives don’t exist.  These alternatives are typically much cheaper and can help keep your cost down.  Don’t believe me?  Let’s look at a few examples.


Let’s start with Stormbreath Dragon.  4/4 flying for 5 mana and has haste, protection from white, and a Monstrosity ability.  There’s no doubt this is a premium creature and well worth the $15 a card you’ll pay as a single.  However, there are other options available to you if you really wanted to run a creature at the 5 spot that was more inexpensive.  Hypersonic Dragon is the same 4/4 with haste and 5 mana (although a blue and red are part of its casting) meaning it could fit the bill.  Scourge of Valkas from M14 fits those stats pretty well too and is still a dragon.  Both of these options are red, can fill the same hole in your deck and cost you significantly less in terms of money to pick up.


Blood Baron of Vizkopa is another 5 mana creature, this one is 4/4 with protection from white and black, lifelink,  and can trigger some ridiculous bonus if you have enough life, or your opponent is running low on  life.  Some other options at 5 cmc are Serra Angel (which is unexciting, but still perfectly viable), Keepsake Gorgon, and Celestial Archon.  These are all very playable at five and are even in Black and White so they can hold a spot in your deck.  Don’t let me fool you…Blood Baron is the optimal choice, but if you’re budget is tight, these guys are viable options.


Polukranos a 4 mana for 5/5 hydra with a ridiculous Monstrosity ability.  This one is tough to replace because 5/5 for 4 mana AND has an ability is pretty ridiculous.  However, there are a few options available like Deadbridge Goliath. This is probably the closest from a statistical standpoint, and isn’t a bad card and makes a suitable alternative.  If you can splash another colour, Reaper of the Wilds is another solid option and much cheaper as well.  A 4/5 for 4 mana is pretty close and the abilities on it make it a tricky critter to deal with…and costs a fraction of what Polukranos costs.


Soldier of the Pantheon– The aggro decks out there are not immune from having some pricey cards too.  Soldier of the Pantheon is a $2 card that is a 2/1 for 1 mana.  There is no doubt that they are an optimal 1 drop to kick start your beatdown with an aggro deck, but $8 for four 1 mana creatures leaves me scratching my head and my wallet empty.  You could opt instead to run Favoured Hoplite or Satyr Hoplite, both 1 drops that can lead the beat down band wagon for you in place of the Soldier.  They need a little more work than the Soldier, but with their Heroic triggers might give you a bigger beat stick with which to bring the pain.  If you really wanted the 2/1 for 1 you can instead turn to RTR block and grab the Dryad Militant as an inexpensive option.


Boon Satyr – This super awesome 4/2 for 3 mana is a staple in Green decks, but can also Bestow for a very reasonable 5 mana…oh…and has flash.  There is really nothing else that approaches this level of versatility, explosive damage, and just being down right nasty to play against.  No wonder it’s $1.50 a card.  However, you could run Feral Invocation if you were looking for the Flash aura effect.  If you wanted the Flash effect on a creature, Briarpack Alpha probably comes closest as a 3/3 for 4 mana and a fun Enter the Battlefield trigger.


Brimaz, King of Oreskos– King Kitty is a huge threat at 3 mana and the abilities packed on him are just full on value…no wonder he’s $20 a card.  However, if you wanted a card with just about as much devastating punch, Fabled Hero runs you about a $1 and packs double strike and heroic.  Things can get out of control very quickly with our Hero…and the extra money you saved will bring a smile to your face as well.


Now, these are just some suggestions for substitutes in your deck to help keep the cost down.  All the substitutions have significant drawbacks compared to the optimal creatures in the deck.  I fully admit that a Serra Angel doesn’t stack up with Blood Baron very well, and that Fabled Hero is a poor substitute for King Kitty.  However, if you’re wallet can’t handle the $80 to pick up a playset of Brimaz, Fabled Hero can do in a pinch.



Spells are a little tougher to replace.  The super expensive spells and staples of a format are that way because they don’t have a substitute…or at least not exactly.  The thing is spells don’t leave behind a body that can be utilized after they have been cast, so you need the impact of the spell itself to be pretty terrific.  However, there are a few options for some of the spells.


Thoughtseize– This Legacy playable piece of hand disruption just crushes decks by stripping away all the most important pieces of your opponent’s hand.  It really is crippling…and it is going to be in rotation for another 14 months! Yikes.  However, at $20 a card is a little steep.  Duress is probably the closest option and is regularly reprinted.  It is a little more limited in terms of what it hits, but let’s be honest, you are almost always going to take an instant or sorcery spell from your opponent because you can find other answers in your deck to deal with creatures and planeswalkers.  So, Duress is a reasonable substitute.  Brain Maggot is another possible route, and it even gives you a body.  Sin Collector is the last option, but for 3 mana is significantly slower and not as optimal.


Supreme Verdict- Premium 4 mana wrath effects are always key to a control player’s strategy.  Supreme Verdict really has no equal because it also can’t be countered…meaning that you hit it and your opponent cries every time as they watch their board disappear.  However, at $8 a card this can burn a hole pretty quickly in your wallet.  The only REAL option is Planar Cleansing…but it’s a 6 mana sorcery…which feels kind of yucky.  Fated Retribution is another option…but it’s 7 mana (although thankfully at instant speed).  These can do in a pinch if you really want to play the control game, but you may have to alter you game strategy because you’ll need to get to at least 6 mana to have either of those spells come online.


Sphinx’s Revelation- Ok, there is no equal to this card.  Mass card draw AND life gain is a Control player’s dream come true.  However, the most important piece is always the card draw because it gives you access to more resources.  Divination is the cleanest way to get access to some of the card drawing power of Sphinx’s Revelation, but Jace’s Ingenuity from M15 will be another option that draws 3 cards for 5 mana at least at instant speed meaning you can jam it on your opponent’s turn. After that, you can play poorer spells like Inspiration, or the more expensive Opportunity, but you’re still longing to get a Sphinx’s Revelation and run it.


Hero’s Downfall- Instant speed spot removal of creatures AND Planeswalkers is huge.  However, Black has lots of good removal right now ranging from Ultimate Price to Bile Blight to Doom blade.  This means that Black decks should have no issue dealing with creatures…pick your removal spell of choice and go to work. Planeswalkers are tougher, but you can always resort to fighting them directly which always gives you at least one option.


Planeswalkers- I have no substitute for a Planeswalker.  Honestly, they represent 3 (or 4) potential different spells and abilities that you just can’t replace in your deck.  You can try but prioritizing which of the abilities are most pertinent to you and your deck and substituting for cards that recreate that effect, but you still need to pay for it while the Planeswalker can replicate that effect for free turn after turn.  No, there’s no real option to playing these guys if you want to emulate a Tier 1 deck, but lots of decks can also run just fine without a Planeswalker (just look at Mono-Black Devotion decks that typically run no Planeswalkers).


Well, there we have some options to help limit the damage done to your bank account while still allowing you to play and have fun with some solid decks.  Of course the options available go up significantly when you start shifting formats from Standard to Modern, but so do the price tags on the optimal cards.  I hope this was helpful to you guys and that it gives you a few options to go out and brew some of your own decks using some of these alternative pieces.


Thanks for reading and until next time Keep it fun, keep it safe…keep it casual.


Bruce Gray
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 - May 11, 2014

So you want to play Standard on a budget MTG?


Planes of Planechase - standard on a budget MTG

So you want to play Standard on a budget?

by Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters

Spring is here! Thank goodness because winter felt VERY long.  The sun feels warmer, the snow is all gone and the excitement of summer is just around the corner.  It is also the time of change.  New flowers, new leaves, new clothes, new activities, new plans…ah…new plans…here’s an idea.

The Spring set is here with Journey into Nyx.  Standard will start to evolve with the new cards, but rotation is only 4 months away with a new block on the way that will change the complexion of the Meta-game completely.  Players who aren’t already committed to this Standard format but are looking to get into playing Standard have a very serious conundrum. They COULD run around and track down the chase rares to put together a strong Standard deck, but that can be pretty pricey for a limited 4 month window where the cards will be well and truly playable.  And if you are on almost any sort of budget, well, now we are talking a near impossibility.  So what is an aspiring Standard player to do? Well, let this be a sort of a road map to help you find your way to getting ready to play Standard. I’ll lay out a series of steps that an aspiring Standard player on a tight budget could follow in order to get ready to join the ranks of competitive Standard players at any Local Game Shop.

Once again, here is my usual disclaimer. There will be some players out there that won’t heed a single word of this.  They have the deep pockets needed to pick up all the Standard playable staples they need.  I however have players with a limited budget each month.  What exactly is that budget?  I have no precise number in mind, but the basic tenets will remain the same.  Players with slightly larger budgets can likely accomplish the steps more quickly, but even those with tighter budgets can hope to get there following these steps. So, without further delay let’s see what we’ve got.


Step #1- Acquire the mana base you will need.

As uncool as this sounds, the mana base is the backbone to every deck.  I have often maintained that the mana base can’t win you the game…but you sure as heck can lose the game if you don’t have the right mana.  Now is the time to track down full play sets of all the Scry lands, Nykthos, and Mana Confluence as these will be key lands in every two colour (or more) deck once rotation hits.  The nice thing with the mana base, from a monetary standpoint, is that they at least seem to hold their value once you’ve invested in them.  So, once they rotate out, you can probably still find a taker who will be willing to either allow you to trade for reasonable value or a shop that will give you decent (notice…decent) value off their Buy list.

Now, this is absolutely an investment.  Lands don’t come cheap and the scry lands all look to run at least $5 a piece (more for some of them), but if you can find someone willing to trade with you for them ,or a decent price on them somewhere, your budget will be wisely spent on these.  Don’t worry if you get fleeced a little on your trade.  If your end goal is to play Standard, then you will need the lands to play, and if you have other older cards that someone is willing to trade for to give you those lands, well, guess what? You’re doing it.


Step #2- Draft…LOTS

One of the biggest traps that players fall into is that they want to “crack packs”.  I love cracking packs…we all do…but the numbers don’t play out very well in your favour.  So, how else do you get cards? The answer is easy…draft.  For your entry fee into a draft you get the equivalent of 3 packs of cards…AND you get to try those cards out in game play.  This is the perfect place to try out that kind of unusual rare card you opened, just to see what it does. Maybe you want to try out a different colour combination that isn’t your all time favorite in order to get a feel? Draft is a great place to get your feet wet experimenting and trying out new ideas.  Heck, you might even win a few prizes along the way to further expand your pool of available cards without costing you any extra. Don’t bank on the prizes because you are out experimenting, so your decks may be somewhat less streamlined than other players, but every once in a while a little prize support is a nice bonus for your night of drafting.

Now, the danger with draft this time of year is that soon the new stand alone set will be out.  Last year it was Modern Masters, this year it’s Conspiracy.  These cards aren’t Standard playable, so if you do sit down to draft these, this won’t help you much in terms of getting you ready for Standard post-rotation (although it is fun!). So, be sure to be familiar with the format you will be drafting and the sets that will be used.


Step #3- Play Block constructed

It has already been said by Gerald right here on Three Kings Loot that one of the best ways to prepare yourself for the NEXT Standard format is to sit down and make a conscious effort to play block constructed.  Whether that is with your buddies at a kitchen table, or at a shop if they host a Block Constructed event, the experience of limiting your key card pool will be a huge factor in determining how prepared you will be for the next Standard format.  You will see what cards emerge as cards that were underplayed in the current format and that might make a splash once rotation hits.  So, Herald of Torment…time to shine big guy!


Step #4 Read. Watch. Learn.

The biggest difference with Magic in 2014 versus when I started in 1996 is that the amount of information available to players is staggering.  Between all the various discussion groups, websites, articles, podcasts, and videos there is no shortage of information for the average player.  I would strongly suggest that you take the time to sit down and read the thoughts of players and writers you like and respect.  As we near rotation many of these players will have the advantage of sitting down and doing their utmost to figure out the best strategies in the new format and can give you some helpful tips to help you along…just by reading the internet.

The other great asset is all the coverage of various events available.  Between the Pro tour coverage and coverage from other events around the globe (and watching MTGO for those who have time) you can not only see the deck lists of these many top players, but you can actually see them in action.  This will give you a chance to see the decision making processes tied to each choice made.  This is super useful so that you can make optimal use of whatever strategy you like best.  Let’s be honest, many of the guys on the Pro-Tour are going to get maximum bang for their buck with each card and it is undoubtedly helpful for us less experienced players to see them in action.  The same can be said of watching players at your local game shop that you respect and like the way they play.  Yes, it can be nerve wracking to sit down and watch someone live and in person at a store, but if you start talking to them you might find that they are quite willing to sit and talk shop with you to give you some pointers


Step #5- Time

It takes a lot of time in order to get really good at something and Magic is no different.  If you want to play Standard, and presumably if you are playing on a competitive (or semi-competitive ) basis you would like to be as good as possible,  then you will need to sink time into this.  This is by far and away the hardest part of making this transition. Up until this point you can do most of the steps I’ve laid out with some money you’ve saved up or for free on open sources on the internet.  However, there is a finite amount of time in each day and unless you are independently wealthy or playing Magic for a living, there will be other things that will drain your time.   This will mean evening trips to the game shop to sit down and play.  It likely also means some weekend as well.  You will need to sit and read about changes to the meta game and how it will impact your deck of choice. And most of all, you will need to play. Play lots.  Play lots against just about anyone.  The more you play, the better you will get at playing your deck and the choices you will need against each other archetype. Time is absolutely a commodity and something else you will need to gauge closely if you hope to perform to the best of your abilities.

So, these are the 5 steps that I’ve seen and other players I know take in order to climb into the realm of Standard competitive Magic. For some this works out great because they are prepared to invest wholeheartedly.  For others, this process is difficult for a number of reasons.  Needless to say, these 5 steps each have their own pit falls that must be navigated and may not come easy.  This is part of the reason making the transition from playing Casual Magic to Standard is tricky.  Not impossible…but it is tricky.  Needless to say, it can be very rewarding once you get yourself into the format, but it is not for everyone, and that’s ok.  Not everyone on the planet needs to play Standard…there are formats aplenty for each and everyone.

Thanks everyone and I hope that some of you find this helpful.  If there are aspiring Standard players out there I hope I haven’t made the process seem too daunting.  It is achievable, but it does take a plan.  This is just one of many ways to getting to your end goal. In the mean time, I’ll go back to brewing up silliness and see where my Casual meandering takes my Magic and my decks.

Take care and until next time Keep it fun, Keep it Safe…Keep it Casual.

by Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
Avatar Bruce Gray - April 21, 2014

Casual Encounters- Kraken new deck ideals for Journey into Nyx –...


I love spoiler season! The new cards start to open up so many crazy and neat new ideas to make decks, revisit old ones, and brew up some silly things that I can take with me to my next Casual card night.  Well, Journey into Nyx is no different and has offered up loads of fun new ideas already and I wanted to take some time to share some of the Casual new brews I’ve been piecing together even before Nyx drops in May.

The first deck I started brewing up was for our return to “Hobo” night at our Casual card night.  I wrote about Hobo night in a previous article, but basically we all agreed that we would play no Rare or Mythic Rare cards in our decks, but we could play commons and uncommon from any set.  This really challenges you because many of the most potent spells that we all like to play are Rares or Mythics, so to force ourselves to play commons and uncommon is healthy and refreshing, and usually evens out the power level of the various decks.  Yes, this format is usually called Peasant, but that just sounds dull, so we opted to call it “Hobo” and the name has stuck.

My inspiration for the deck came from watching the coverage of the MTGO championships a couple of weeks ago where I saw a Standard take on a “dredge” style deck.  The deck exploited the power of cards in the graveyard to deal some pretty healthy amounts of damage and looked pretty exciting, so I sat down to see if I could create something similar for Hobo night.

I started with the auto include cards for this sort of deck, namely Satyr Wayfinder and Grisly Salvage.  These cards allow me to start to burn through the top of my library to find land or creatures and fills up my graveyard to be used at a later time. These are the “raison d`être” for this deck and need to be there in suitable quantities to fill up your yard, but more importantly ensure you never lack for land so that you can chain together powerful spells as the game moves along.

The next creature that is an automatic in this sort of deck, particularly in a Hobo variant, is Nemesis of Mortals.  The 5/5 for 6 mana sees the cost to cast him reduced by 1 colourless for every creature in your graveyard.  As a result, you could be casting this guy for much less than the 6 mana in the casting cost without much trouble.  However, Nemesis of Mortals gets better from there because his Monstrosity 5 ability gets reduced in cost by 1 colourless for each creature in your graveyard.  This guy can very easily get silly big for a bargain basement price thanks to all the graveyard shenanigans in your deck and makes the prospect of going into combat very difficult because it is such a huge monster.

However, what happens when some of my key components end up in the graveyard because I’ve put them there myself?  There are a number of ways to return lost creatures to your hand and have them be available to you again. Now, I will be honest, this isn’t the same dropping them onto the battlefield and cheating big fatties into play because you still need to cast the spells again, however it does ensure that you have access to the creatures and a chance to re-use them, which is very helpful.  Pharika’s Mender, Odunos River trawler, and other “Raise Dead” effect cards allow you to get your most potent threats back again and force your opponent to burn more removal spells on things that just don’t stay dead.

The final piece is the plethora of Bestow creatures that this deck packs.  Bestow has proven to be a very valuable ability in Limited formats, and once again this is a form of limited format.  Baleful Eidolon and Nyxborn Wolf can come down early as blockers to plug up the ground and play solid D to get us through to the point where our bigger bombs can take over.  Nyxborn Wolf, at 3/1 can trade up to take out larger creatures, but the Eidolon can shut down attacking by virtue of the Deathtouch ability.  Once they have served their purpose they can then be brought out of the yard and used to Voltron up another threat and really do some work.


Here’s the deck list.

Hobo – G/B “reanimator”

So, people will point out that this decklist isn’t Standard and my response is, you’re 100 percent correct.  However, without much trouble you could make this Standard playable.  A few minor adjustments like replacing Sign in Blood for Read the Bones would be the first switch. I could absolutely replace the Disentomb, and Raise Dead with Treasured Finds.  So without breaking the spirit of the Hobo deck I could make some adjustments and make it completely Standard Legal, but sifting through my boxes I came across these cards and they did the job just as well and for less mana.  It can also be ramped right up to match the Standard “Dredge” decks running around these days making this a decent skeleton upon which to build a more robust Standard deck.

The next deck is entirely Casual based on one of recurring theme in Theros block on Kraken, Octopuses, and other sea creatures.  Whelming Wave was given to us in Born of the Gods, and now with the spoilers from Journey into Nyx we have Scourge of Fleets.  With these two sweeper effects in Blue’s arsenal the possibility exists for a viable Kraken/Control deck.  Don’t believe me? Check this out.

Mono-Blue Kraken Control

The idea behind this deck revolves around the interaction between Archaeomancer and Mnemonic wall and Whelming Wave.  When you hit turn 4 you are banking that you have Whelming Wave in your hand and return all creatures that aren’t Kraken, Leviathans, Octopuses or Serpents to their owners hands.  Then on turn 5, cast your Archaeomancer or Mnemonic wall, buy back your Whelming Wave and restart the cycle.  You will continue to cast the wave and buy it back with the Archaeomancer/ Menmonic Wall interaction as you stall looking for one of your bigger Sea critters.  So, hit the Sealock monster and when you wash away your opponent’s creatures Sealock Monster stays and can now attack into a open board.  If you get stuck, Sea God’s Revenge approximates the same effect as you wait to piece together the combination and the dissolves are there to protect your creatures, should things get ugly.  Scourge of Fleets is another possible sweeper condition that comes with a huge body and is asymmetrical in design, so he’s sort of like Plan C if you need to go down that road.  The last pieces of this deck, the Hypnotic Siren and the Voyage’s End are to play some early interference as you set up your board.

Now, you may have missed it, but I stated that this was a Casual deck list.  There is no way I’d even attempt to play a Tier 1 Standard deck with this list, but the hilarious interactions between Archaeomancer and the Whelming Wave are well worth the risk.  I can’t wait to see the face of my opponent when I repeatedly wash away his stuff as I stall…and then swim across the table with my Sealock Monster and crush him.  That would be priceless.  It would certainly be entertaining and very flavourful with all that we have seen from Standard.

 So, there you have it. Some fun deck ideas that are flavourful, relatively inexpensive, and fun to play.  By all means, give them a try and see what think.  The Hobo Dredge deck might be really good for a player who isn’t convinced playing B/G Dredge is for them, but once they get the hang of it with this less high octane model might be willing to speed matters up and go play with the big boys of Standard.  The Wave deck is just funny and I can’t wait to put it together.

If you have other ideas or more fun ideas for funky decks I would love to hear about them.  I`m always working on some new deck  ideas that could make playing at my Kitchen table fun, entertaining, and fresh.

As always Keep it fun, Keep it safe…keep it casual.  Until next time!

Bruce Gray


Avatar Bruce Gray - April 11, 2014

Casual Encounters – Mono-Green Stompy (Budget Standard)

Arbor Colossus

One of my favorite types of decks is full of big, green, stompy creatures.  They have always been a thing, right from the days of War Mammoth and Craw Wurm right up to today.  Other archetypes have changed enormously but the contents of the Mono-Green deck is basically unchanging…lots and lots of creatures. So, with everyone’s favorite creature heavy archetype in mind I thought I would take a moment and share with all of you my version of a Budget Mono-Green deck that is fun to play and ridiculously inexpensive to build.

Mono-Green decks are sort of like a big piece of artillery that everyone can see.  You know that once the cannon fires, if it hits ANYTHING, it is game over, and there really isn’t much you can do about it.  So, you can watch the Mono-Green deck load up and cast ramping spells and creatures and all you’re hoping is that you can disrupt the canon just enough so perhaps it mis-fires, or you can dodge the bullet.  If you can’t shut the deck down it is just a matter of time before some hulking Green beast crushes you underfoot leaving you wondering what freight train just ran you over.

I’ve seen a number of iterations of Mono-Green stompy decks since the release of Theros and while I’m impressed I’m not satisfied.  I want MORE. I want BIGGER! I WANT MORE DAMAGE! And Born of the Gods gives me the perfect tool to drop wild amounts of damage on my opponent and to push mono-green from good to ridiculous. Here’s how.

In the past, Mono-green has been afflicted by the reality that usually big creatures are expensive. So, Green mages have developed all sorts of ways to ramp out lots of mana and then cast their giant fatties.  However, in today’s Standard environment green creatures are leaner and meaner than ever before but can still pack a mighty punch making Mono-Green really and truly something viable and fun.  I’ll go through some of the all stars I’ve picked out for my deck and why you should consider playing them in your Mono-Green deck.

Voyaging Satyr– Is there a better, inexpensive Mana dork than this guy?  Probably not.  He’s just good, and super readily available as an inexpensive creature.  Add in that he isn’t a 1/1 but a 1/2 and suddenly he has a little more upside as well.  This deck needs 4.

Swordwise Centaur– He is solid as a 3/2 for 2 green mana …and a devotion engine in this deck.  While I won’t call this a devotion deck, there are times when this is a useful attribute and well worth the time to put these guys in.  They start the beat down early and give you targets for some of your spells later in the game.  On a side note, you could just as easily play Kalonian Tusker as a 3/3 for 2 green, but I said this was a budget deck.  Sure, Tuskers are only $0.50 a card on Three King’s Loot, but Swordwise Centaur is $0.15…and you likely have a million thanks to any drafts you’ve played or packs you’ve cracked.  Save yourself the money and play the Centaur because you will rarely see any difference in terms of play.

Korozda Monitor– This 3/3 4 drop (2 Green, 2 Colourless) is the meat and potatoes of this deck.  He’s 3/3 and has trample, making him ideal for a Stompy deck of any sort.  Also, his scavenge ability is relevant because if your first one ends up in the yard, oh well, scavenge him onto something else (like another Monitor) and smash away.  With 2 green in his casting cost he is also a solid contributor to devotion.

Thrashing Mossdog– This handy 4 drop gives you a 3/3 with reach.  This is super relevant because this deck will struggle against decks that carry lots of fliers.  The reach can help settle down your defence, and again, when he dies, scavenge his on to a Korozda Monitor and have the 6/6 bring the pain.

Nylea’s Emissary– The 3rd 4 drop in the deck is essentially because he can grant something else you control trample, contributing to the Stompy nature of the deck. If you need him on the battlefield as a creature, that’s fine as well, but he’s exactly the sort of creature this deck wants.

The deck is running a playset of Forced Adaptations.  These can totally take your Korozda Monitor and turn him into an unstoppable beast very quickly and for 1 mana, who can go wrong.

However, the really spicy pieces are six cards that can only be described as back breaking.  The first is one out of the M14 Core set that was largely overlooked.  It isn’t flashy, but it just ends games.  Yup, you got it…Fireshrieker.  This seemingly innocuous 3 mana artifact gives something double strike.  Now, we all know that Double strike is powerful, but how powerful is it?  Trust me…on creatures with trample it straight up ends games…like…immediately.  So, a pair of Fireshriekers make the deck and give you an enormous ability to do damage.  The final 4 spells are from Born of the Gods and are one of the few spots where this deck actually cares about devotion.  Aspect of Hydra gets good reviews at Draft, so why not apply the same logic to constructed and put 4 in this deck?  It would mean that any creature with Trample would be able to do a devastating amount of damage and really turn the heat up on an opponent.

As a little demonstration let’s see what this deck can do.

Turn 1- Play Forest, pass the turn.

Turn 2- Play Forest, tap out, cast Swordwise Centaur.

Turn 3- Play Forest, tap out, cast Fireshrieker, Attack with Centaur.

Turn 4- Play Forest, tap out, Cast Korozda Monitor,

Turn 5- Play Forest, equip Fireshrieker on Monitor, cast Aspect of Hydra on Monitor, attack with the team. At this point The Monitor is 3/3 double striking and gets +4/+4 from the Aspect of Hydra…meaning he’s hitting for 14 points of trample damage.  That’s huge! And if the Centaur can sneak through as well it’s game over…or at the very least you are in the driver’s seat.  As always, this is against a goldfish with no responses, but the potential exists for this deck to deliver a wild amount of damage.

So, without further delay, here’s the deck list.


Mono-Green Stompy- Budget Standard

The nice piece with this deck is the cost to you in order to build.  Many budget decks put the threshold for overall cost at $2/card or maybe $50-75 for the whole deck.  This deck comes in at …under $20! Yup, for a crisp $20 dollar bill you to could be the proud owner of a ridiculously stompy mono green build.  However, this deck is like the old beat up Honda Civic you bought as a 17 year old kid…it’s straight forward, it works, and it gets the job done.  However, you could totally trick this deck out with some fun additions that will push your price tag up, but still keep it very affordable.

The first addition is a no-brainer…add in a couple of Arbor Colossus.  This gigantic 6/6 for 5 (2 colourless and 3 green) is an almost automatic include once you are prepared to open up your wallet and go a tad pricier.  He’s big, he kills fliers, he gets bigger when he’s monstrous, and is a huge devotion engine for your aspect of hydra.  He’s the first guy off the bench for sure.

Next, if you want to go a little further, is the Bow of Nylea.  This Swiss Army knife of an artifact does a little bit of everything with its various modes, but the real fun is giving everything you have deathtouch when you attack.  Who really wants to put something in front of a deathtouch creature?  Not me…so it makes combat super awkward and something most opponents will seriously re-evaluate.

The third addition is something that usually gets forgotten is Deadbridge Goliath.  He’s big at 5/5 for 4 and when he dies (as you likely hope that he does) you can scavenge his +5/+5 on to another creature giving you an instant WMD that will need to be answered.  Plus, he’s cheap to pick up because everyone has opted to play Poly (aka Polukranos) for the same 4 mana.

After that, the choices are up to you…do you want to play spells that draw you cards?  Hunter’s Prowess or Warriors’ Lessons are options.  How about just more damage?  Don’t forget Giant Growth. Want to kill things in the air? Plummet is always an option.  Are the Gods or other enchantments causing you grief?  Fade into Antiquity.  Need to kill a creature?  Pit fight or Time to Feed.  You can cover all the bases and the deck still doesn’t break the bank!

So, if you are looking for a very inexpensive deck to build and enter the realm of Standard, feel free to give this little guy a test drive and see what you think.  He’s fared pretty well for me in a number of match ups, and when your big fat stompy guy flattens an opponent the satisfaction is well worth it. So, give it a try and let me know how it goes for you and what changes you made to the deck…I’m always keen to hear how decks change and evolve.

So, until next time, keep it fun, keep it safe…keep it casual.

Bruce Gray


Avatar Bruce Gray - March 25, 2014

Casual Encounters – UW Tempo (Standard Pauper)

 Wavecrash Triton

          I have never been a guy to quibble much over format.  I’ve mostly just played whatever I had in whatever deck I felt like building.  This can yield some very interesting and fun deck ideas, but it is really only practical if you play with your friends at the kitchen table.  However, sometimes, as an exercise to challenge yourself,  it is interesting to limit your deck building options and force yourself to do as much (or perhaps more) with less.

To this end, my friends and I are meeting for our monthly game.  We get together once a month and it is a collection of people from all the stages of my life.  Some of the players are guys I played with as a teenager, others are friends that I have made through playing Magic, while others are spouses or acquaintances I have made elsewhere.  It is a very eclectic group with some of them having all the top tier 1 competitive decks.  Others are very much interested in brewing with a small number of cards in order to keep the relative cost down.  This can result in some match-ups that just aren’t super fun as one guy plays a Legacy “Show and Tell” deck, while the other guy plays a random smattering of cards from the most recent set.

To level the playing field a bit and to make the evening a little different I challenged my friends to build Standard Pauper decks for this month.  In case you aren’t overly familiar, Pauper is a format that only uses common cards.  By limiting the cards even further by only allowing cards that would be Standard legal (Return to Ravnica and Theros blocks) we have limited the pool of options available and evened out the power level of the cards that can be played.

This is a relatively new experience for me as I have never consciously made a Pauper deck.  Sure, I have used common cards and tried to limit my choices, but I have never been one to purposefully limit my card choices so dramatically. Herein lies the challenge: build a deck that I feel can win without leaning on the cards that I come to rely on.  My friends all jumped at the suggestion and so it is ON! This weekend we will battle with Pauper!

The first dilemma when trying to build any winning deck is anticipating what you will be playing against.  If I were going to be playing at a Stadard event at a local game shop I would come prepared to play against all the top decks like Mono-Black, Mono-Blue, and G/R Monsters.  However, we have no meta…this is one off…and so I need to instead rely on my understanding of my opponents and what some of their tendencies are.

Some of the players will be wild cards.  They are relatively inexperienced players (even compared to me) and are likely to bring decks packed with creatures and just looking to turn sideways and smash.  This likely means inexpensive white, green, and red creatures and ramping into some sort of fatty that will be hard to deal with.  With those decks in mind, I will need to ensure I have access to enough removal to slow them down and give myself a chance to get into the game.

My friend David likes mill decks.  He likes to play B/U and will undoubtedly slide in some cards that are designed to force me to grind through my library.  He will also likely play hand destruction, so I need to come prepared for that.  If his mill cards are creatures, then I should be okay because my removal should be able to handle them too, so that isn’t a concern for me overly.  The bigger issue is seeing enchantments or artifacts that force the milling of my deck.  So, some enchantment destruction needs to be considered in order to close down this angle to some degree.  Hand destruction is tougher to deal with because I will need countermagic, but Duress on turn 1 totally ruins the hope of any counter spells, so I may hedge my bets and hope David goes for creatures and not hand destruction.

Sam is a terrific player but invariably will be running a U/x deck with a bunch of counter magic.  Sam is the quintessential control player and I expect nothing different.  This is always a troubling matchup and Sam is good at it.  So, if I can’t beat the control match up…I may have to join it. This is the matchup that I need to be most interested in performing well, so time to go to the old box of stuff and see what I can put together.

I start off with cards from the most recent set, Born of the Gods, and see what I can find.  Divine Verdict is a fine reprint of a reasonable removal spell.  Most creatures need to attack, and this gets rid of them and is a solid card.  Stratus Walk is another strong card.  It gives something flying, draws me a card, and is reasonably costed. The last addition is a little steep in terms of cost, but potentially a bomb.  Sphinx’s Disciple makes use of the Inspired ability, so for 5 mana (3 colourless and 2 blue) I get a 2/2 flier, but whenever it untaps I draw a card.  If I can protect this guy, it could be a real card draw engine.  Card advantage in this sort of game will be key and this could be just the ticket.

Next, I look at some options in Theros.  Prescient Chimera is one place to start that could be a pretty good bomb.  For 5 mana (3 colourless and 2 blue) I get a 3/4  flier that let’s me Scry 1 every time I cast an Instant or Sorcery.  As a 5 drop at the top of my curve this is pretty strong creature that allows me to draw into better cards as the late game continues.  It also works pretty well with Sphinx’s Disciple to set up the Inspired trigger to ensure that the extra card is more valuable to me.  Next I need to look at some enchantments and conclude that Chosen by Heliod is a solid, inexpensive Aura that is useful and pairs really nicely to help protect Sphinx’s DiscipleChosen By Heliod is also a very dynamic card with Wingsteed Rider to trigger the Heroic trigger. All in all, some good fodder for a viable Pauper deck.

The last additions to the deck are from Return to Ravnica block and include Lyev Decree. Lyev Decree is very interesting because it allows me to tempo my opponents out by rendering their creatures unable to block.  It is cheap and efficient and allows me to power through some extra damage.  Shielded passage is another interesting little twist that protects cards, either Sphinx’s Disciple, or enacts the Heroic trigger on Wingsteed Rider, and triggers the Scry on Prescient Chimera.  All three are very relevant abilities in this deck making Shielded Passage a very interesting card and neat combat trick.  The last creature is Keening Apparition which builds in a little enchantment destruction and a very reasonable 2/2 body.  This is in essence a “Bear” with a bonus and raises its appeal considerably.

Here’s the Decklist

 U/W Tempo – Standard Pauper

In building this deck I looked at a variety of things and considered what pieces went together.  I started with my curve looking to curve out into my powerful creatures and not miss out on any of the spots if I could help it.  There is no Turn 1 play, which is unfortunate, but I struggled to fit a solid 1 drop in this deck and opted to pass on it.  Turn 2 I can play Concordia Pegasus or Keening Apparition, at 3 there is Wingsteed Rider and Wavecrash Triton.  I almost stumbled at 4, but I noticed Runewing and immediately saw that it was a viable option with an upside.  I curve out at 5 with Prescient Chimera and Sphinx’s Disciple giving yet more flying threats.

The Spells really serve three purposes.  My first play is to try and straight up remove my opponent’s creatures from the battlefield with Divine Verdict or Last Breath. If that doesn’t work I can use Lyev Decree to slow them down and punch my own creatures through their defences. All the other spells are there to protect my creatures and to trigger Heroic abilities on my Wingsteed Rider or Wavecrash Triton, which can also serve the dual role of adding to the tempoing out of my opponent by tapping their creatures.

Overall, I think the deck looks pretty solid and like it may have a good showing this weekend when I sit down for my Casual Encounter with my pals.  If you have any suggestions, let me know as I would love to hear what you guys think.  I’ll also give you an update on how it fares and what adjustments I intend to make down the line.  I have really enjoyed this process and think that this may be something I continue to bring forward to my Casual Encounters to keep them fun and different.

Until next time keep it fun, keep it safe…and keep it Casual.

Bruce Gray