Tag: supreme-verdict

Avatar Bruce Gray - January 27, 2015

Brewing a budget modern deck

Eidolon of Blossoms

Casual Encounters: Brewing a Budget Modern deck

By Bruce Gray 

With the banning of Cruise and Dig Through Time I thought I might take a bit of a stab at Modern. The format seems SOOO intimidating because it is just so powerful and with so many truly ridiculous archetypes that even getting into the format seems very challenging.  Now, I don’t have the money to jump into the format with one of the Big Boy decks, so I end up having to brew my own budget deck just so I can play.  Today, I thought I would share with you guys what sort of budget Modern Brew I’ve been working on.

Budget means different things in different formats.  To most of us a budget deck at Standard means that the deck costs less than $100.  At Modern that threshold changes significantly and puts you well into the hundreds of dollars, but considering that some of the Modern decks floating around can cost THOUSANDS of dollars, this still seems like a bargain.  The deck I have for you today costs a couple of hundred dollars and thus falls into this realm and could be a lot of fun to play.

Sometimes there are decks that you brew for one format that you like so much that you keep them together as they roll over into the next format.  That is the case for this deck that I ostensibly built for Standard during Return to Ravnica and Theros Block.  It wasn’t a mainstream deck by any stretch of the imagination, but it was a deck that I liked to play and it could do some awfully powerful things and steal a win out of nowhere. Let’s take a look at the deck list.


Bant Enchantress Auras – Modern Budget deck



Ok, a number of people are going to look at this list and just scoff because I have things like Plasm Capture…and I agree…but part of the idea behind this build was to do something a little off beat…and I think I’ve got it.  This deck is trying to do a number of things, and that might be its downfall.  It wants to be 1 part control deck, 1 part Hexproof, 1 part Enchantress and looks and feels a bit clunky, but with some streamlining could be really fun. Let’s have a peak at some of the cards.

The Hexproof package is the Aqueous Forms, Ethereal Armor, and Unflinching Courage and the game plan is pretty easy.  Suit up a Witchstalker and go nuts. The Lone Revenant was something I found in a janky binder and tossed in just in case I needed another target because I wrathed away the board…and the additional card draw is kind of a sleeper addition to the deck. Ajani is in here for his 2nd ability, to give a Witchstalker flying and double strike and it can well and truly end a game in a hurry.

The control package is the trio if Plasm Capture and Render Silent along with the Supreme Verdicts.  This is pretty straight forward in terms of concept but the choices I made are pretty unusual.  Counterspell and Plasm Capture are both likely too slow for Modern, but if there is going to be a 3 mana counter spell to run, Render Silent feels like a good option because it is Counterspell  and a Silence stapled together.  Plasm Capture is just a greedy spell that gets passed over, but even nabbing one spell with one is a huge tempo swing.  This package could no doubt be streamlined, but they provide for some interesting options and are spells your opponents would NEVER expect to contend with. Sphinx’s Revelation is just a powerful card draw spell that can’t be overlooked and some number larger than 0 felt like the right call.

The Enchantress package is powered by the ever popular Eidolon of Blossoms. I took one look at the large number of enchantments, particularly Auras, and decided that nothing makes an Aura based deck run better, and ruin more opponents, than cantripping into your other spells.  So, in went the Eidolon to abuse all those enchantments and off I went.

A few other pieces that are useful in here don’t fit with any real theme, but are versatile utility creatures.  Qasali Pridemage is great example as he wrecks other enchantments and can provide a meaningful boost to a solo attacker.  The original interaction of this deck had Fleecemane Lions but with those still being played heavily in Standard I made a suitable substitution.  Courser of Kruphix is another useful card that jives well with the Enchantress theme, but would likely get run anyway because it just provides so much value.  Thassa, the Charioteers, and the Bow of Nylea all offer similar utility for differing reasons, but all could be replaced without much trouble.



At Modern the Shocklands paired with Fetchlands are indeed the way to go so the mana base is most of the way there.  The Scry lands aren’t ideal and the “buddy” lands would be preferable…particularly the Hinterland Harbour and Glacial Fortress.  However, those are fairly modest adjustments to the mana base.

Render Silent and Plasm Capture are both targets for an upgrade provided you have a suitable option.  Mana Leak, Spell Pierce, Remand all come to mind, but some of those are more expensive. The permission shell has room for improvement and there are a number of possible ways to go.

I could run Slippery Boggle and Gladecover Scout as Hexproof one drops instead of the bulkier Witchstalker, but I like how the stalker could be used to punish Black and Blue decks who want to play on your turn.  Those +1/+1 counters accelerate the clock in a suitable way for sure. It might mean that the deck is too slow, but I’ll need to test it out and see.

Obviously the Aura package could stand to be improved with Hyena and Spider Umbra’s to help my Hexproof dudes have a little resilience as I wash away my opponent’s threats with Supreme Verdict.

The Lone Revenant is likely FAR too expensive…but I think he’s a funny card and something that could be an interesting solo threat.

Well, that’s my deck…it may not be much good and could most certainly be streamlined with a bunch of other options, but it is a fun and interesting deck.


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


By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter
Avatar Bruce Gray - August 26, 2014

Crack a Pack MTG Return to Ravnica with Bruce

Return to Ravnica booster packs - Crack a Pack MTG

Crack a Pack MTG Return to Ravnica with Bruce

by Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters

Welcome back to another Crack a Pack.  This week I have a special treat for everyone that will take us in the “Way back” time machine to almost 2 years ago.  Hard to believe. Last week I promised that I would bust open a pack from Return to Ravnica block, and true to my word, I picked up a pack of Return to Ravnica and will crack it open and see what we find.  Now, I admit, when I returned to playing Magic after a lengthy period of time off, I wasn’t exactly fond of the idea of drafting.  So, when RTR hit the stores I wasn’t much of a fan.  However, over time, I’ve come to really enjoy the format and totally wished I had been interested in drafting RTR when it was out and the new hot game in town.  Now, I just get to retro draft it…hopefully somewhere soon.  Anyway, no more wasting time, let’s open this exciting pack and see what we find.













Ok, so this looks like a bit of a messy pack with a bunch of unexciting cards and healthy bunch of gold cards.  With so many gold cards in this pack I am less worried about taking them because I know they are everywhere.  That should sort of help ease my thought process, but it still leaves me looking at an ungodly number of gold cards.


My eyes are immediately drawn to the Supreme Verdict.  This is a perfect card to grab first because it acts as a complete safety valve and reset button.  4 mana, uncounterable mass removal?! Sure…where do I sign up.  Add in the fact that it is Constructed playable and worth plenty, and you have a very strong contender for first pick.


Another card that gets my attention is the Centaur Healer. 3 mana 3/3 creatures with a Enter the Battlefield trigger is a very solid creature.  The extra 3 life is pretty reasonable and is a solid body to start attacking with or to plug up the ground.  Either way, this is a very useful card.


Splatter Thug is another because while the card reads 2/2 first strike, it is really a 3/3 thanks to the Unleash ability (you weren’t really on intending to block with it anyway).  The difference is the first strike which pushes this ahead because it trumps most other 3 drops, including the Centaur Healer. I also like the fact that it is in a single colour giving it a little more flexibility because it could splash it in a larger number of decks.


Selesnya Keyrune also sparks some interest because mana fixing could be pretty crucial in a format with so many gold cards. The fact that it can double as a creature makes it somewhat appealing because it dodges some of the removal, although it clearly is a tad slow and the activation is a little clunky.


Centaur’s Herald is an interesting 1 drop that can be redeemed for a larger body which makes it very useful and a solid mid-round pickup. If only it was a 1/1 and not a 0/1 we’d be golden.


Skull Rend is a card that I’m intrigued with.  I like the ability to deal 2 damage and make my opponent discard two cards at random, but if I’m in Rakdos I don’t want to spend 5 mana on mediocre spells that don’t continue to pile on the damage in very large chunks. I can likely do better things with that 5 mana and do more damage. This might be a card I pick late round if I’m already in Black or Red and see if I can splash it…but I’m unsure.  The rewards on the discard could be amazing, but the cost and loss of relative momentum from that point leaves me a little concerned.


Psychic Spiral could be an interesting card if you want to play the mill strategy.  Splash it in a Golgari grave yard deck and see if you can’t get the accidental mill win.  I don’t know…this feels like it could be a surprise and wreck the odd opponent, but will largely be underwhelming.


Cancel is a perfectly reasonable 3 mana counterspell.  If you are playing Blue you want to have at least a copy or two of this in your pile, but I’m not lining up around the block to grab these and am happy to wait and see if I can’t find one later in the packs.


Drainpipe Vermin and Perilous Shadow are both reasonable black creatures to fill out your curve.  Both have interesting abilities that come along with them and as a result might be something you want, but they are undoubtedly later picks because their relative power level is quite low.


Horncaller’s chant seems like a solid card, but the 8 mana price tag for a pair of 4/4 rhino’s is pretty steep.  I would likely shy away from this unless I had some big time mana ramp.  It is interesting, in M15 drafts I have seen Feral Incarnation has been cast with some devastating results and the cards are both very similar.  The difference is the Convoke ability on the Feral Incarnation while with the Horncaller’s Chant you just got to get there. I would likely be shying away from this until the very last moment.


Codex Shredder plays a little bit to the graveyard synergies of the Golgari, but could also be part of mill strategy.  In either case, this is a fringe card that you might opt to run. I wouldn’t get excited about this and certainly won’t prioritize it, but if the situation arises, I’ll be happy to pick it.


Destroy the Evidence would be just about the last card I’d want.  5 mana to take out a land seems very steep.  The Mill effect that accompanies it is quite reasonable, I suppose, but I’m unlikely to be keen to mill out my opponent’s whole deck so I’ll likely avoid it too.


Swift Justice is a very marginal combat trick that could be nice, but I’m not likely to give it a spot in my deck.  Pass it and move on.



Top 5 cards


  1. Supreme Verdict
  2. Centaur Healer
  3. Splatter Thug
  4. Selesnya Keyrune
  5. Cancel


First Pick

This week’s first pick is easy.  Supreme Verdict might be the best mass removal spell to have seen print in the last 5 years and to pass it would be criminal.  W/U is a colour combination I’m very comfortable in, the card plays right into that strategy beautifully, and even packs a little monetary value so after the draft I could trade it or sell it.  No, this is a pretty obvious first pick and one with a lot of upside.  The other cards in this pack are all mediocre but you aren’t going to rush out and jump on them and be excited.  You’ll play them, they’ll be acceptable, and you’ll pray that the next pack passed to you is better.


Well, there we have our pack for this week.  Did you enjoy the look back at a little Return to Ravnica?  I know I did…and I even found that Supreme Verdict, which has me pretty stoked. Would you have picked anything else? If yes, let me know, because I’d love to know what you would have taken instead.


Next week, for our 10th crack a pack (I know…where has the time gone!) I’ll be back to M15 as we start the final approach to Khans and the draft format changing all over again.  Don’t worry, I’ll be back to bust open a few Retro packs at some point too, but we need to get back to what’s hot right now and that’s M15.


Thanks for reading again this week and until next time may you open only Mythic Bombs.


by Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter
Avatar Bruce Gray - July 27, 2014

Deep Thoughts on…Inspiration

Aqueous Form - Bant Auras

Deep Thoughts on…Inspiration

by Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters


What motivates you to Brew?  Is it a card?  Is it a mechanic?  Is it a colour?  Brewing up a deck takes as much creativity as any other creative output, whether it is writing the next piece of great literature, or composing the next symphony, or even painting a masterpiece to be displayed.  No, regardless of what you do in your life, if you brew up decks at Magic, you need some sort of inspiration.  Let’s explore some of those sources of inspiration and where you go looking for creative ideas to make a deck.


There are lots of different types of decks out there and lots of different people out there brewing things up.  Not every one brews up first rate competitive decks…and that’s fine. Let’s be honest, the very creative and best are rare and hard to find.  If it was easy to be creative there would have been more Mozart’s, Rembrandt’s, or Shakespeare’s.  The same theory applies to creating a deck…the top deck builders are the top deck builders for a reason.  They “see” things that the average player misses, and that’s what makes them special.  However, we can learn a process, we can all improve, and the fact that we aren’t that special talent does not invalidate our own efforts to build decks.  In fact, there is a great deal of satisfaction in building your own deck even if it is never going to be used at more than a game at your kitchen table. Building decks is a creative activity that brings with it its own level of enjoyment and joy regardless of how talented you are.


So, when you sit down to brew, where do you start?  For me there are a couple of ways that often kick start the process. The first and most obvious jumping off point is you open up an automatic “build around me” card that it is just too tempting to turn up.  These are usually super powerful mythics or rares and come in a variety of colours and shapes, but these present an opportunity to exploit something very explosive and powerful.  However, sometimes these are commons or uncommons that can yield a more consistent result because you likely have a playset to fill out in your deck.  One such example would be the card Aqueous Form from Theros.  “Huh?” you ask, but let me run down how this could be such a card.  We have seen that unblockable creatures are super hard to contain and interact with…and the only thing harder is an unblockable creature that is also hexproof.  Basically, I took one look at Aqueous Form and said “ well…let’s make my own Hexproof/Unblockable creature and make the game totally degenerate”.  So, I next needed to find hexproof creatures…and I was off and running to build a deck all on the back of 4 common Aqueous Form cards.



Another approach for inspiration is looking at the decklists of others for ideas.  This does NOT mean straight out copying the deck list.  As much as that is a very popular form of building decks, it is not really inspiration because there is very little of your own creative thought that goes into the deck.  No, the idea spawned by the decklist is a decent place to start but you need to take that idea and then build around it by substituting and replacing pieces of your own.  This may be done on account of you not having the same pieces as the decklist that was posted, but sometimes it is to reflect your own interests.  Perhaps you want to push the linear mechanic in the deck further. Perhaps it is to reflect your playgroup and you make changes to deal with particular decks. Whatever your reason, you move away from the standard decklist that you found somewhere on the internet and take it in a different direction.  On occasion I have done this as well mostly to get a sense of some core pieces that can fit nicely together that interest me, but I then go around and fill out the shell with the cards that I want.


A third way to find some inspiration is looking at decks from previous formats and then modifying them with the use of cards that are currently in the Standard format.  The nice thing with Magic is that often similar cards get printed that have the same or similar effects.  This isn’t always the case, but you can find most effects you want printed in one form or another.  As a result, the same style of decks and archetypes can exists, but with slightly different cards and with some slight differences.  One such archetype that I have been enjoying is the Hexproof/Auras decks…particularly the Bant Auras deck that was played while Geist of Saint Traft and Invisible Stalker were in Standard.  Both of these cards are effectively broken and to arm them up with Auras makes for a potent deck.  My immediate thought when they rotated out was that Theros could NOT support such a strategy again because the deck was pretty degenerate.  Honestly, who wants to play a deck that allows for almost 0 interaction and races you with devastating effectiveness?  Not me…unless I’m the one running the deck! Then I saw a deck tech on the coverage for the Theros Pro-Tour that was a W/G Hexproof auras deck and my hopes were renewed as I took inspiration from source #2 (someone else’s deck).  This is where my interest in Aqueous Form, an idea for a current deck in the Meta, and a previous archetype coalesced to form one common deck idea.


Now, once you have a deck idea the actual brewing process can be very quick or it can take a long time to assemble the cards you want/need.  I’ve sat down and in 25 minutes put together a perfectly reasonable deck with a variety of synergistic pieces. That’s fine so long as you are prepared to play with a bunch of common and lower price tag cards.  However, I have also been building a deck for the better part of the last 8 months in an attempt to assemble all the cards I want.  Now, the prime reason it has taken me so long to build the deck is that I have been looking to pick up the premium rare cards and lands to make the deck go.  When you play Magic on a relatively tight budget it takes time to trade, acquire, scrimp and save enough to acquire the pieces you want for you deck.  That is exactly the situation in which I find myself and have had to piece together the cards for my latest deck.


Bant Auras “Aqueous Form” decklist

2015 Core set Standard



So, that’s the deck I’ve been building since September. It is a combination of all three forms of Inspiration that I usually use.  The common playset of Aqueous Form, the W/G Hexproof shell from Pro-our Theros, and some of the main tenets of Bant Auras as it existed while Geist and Stalker roamed the battlefield. I’m actually proud of this deck because I have yet to actually see a deck that looks like this in Standard anywhere.  Now, that likely means it is likely no good, but it is nice to think that is entirely my own brew and not copying or emulating any other deck running around Standard currently.  It is also a long way from being a budget deck.  That’s part of the reason it has taken me so long to build this deck and to take it out for a test drive.  Inspiration is great to give you direction…but sometimes the old bank account can hold you back from some of those goals. It has taken me 8 months to put together the pieces for this deck and will likely continue to evolve.


Further Deep Thoughts on Inspiration



I haven’t included much in the way of discussion around tribal decks because they are almost self evident.  You open up a bunch of Goblins…you make a Goblin deck.  Horsemen (Centaurs), make a Horsemen deck.  That’s easy enough, but just because it is easy doesn’t mean that it can’t be fun. Sometimes the simplest source of inspiration is the best sort.


Kor Skyfisher

I built a rather wonky casual deck around this one common and the interaction with Spark Trooper.  What could be more fun than a recurring Ball Lightning with Lifelink! Sometimes finding cards that extend across sets separated by a number of years can yield some fun and unexpected interactions and fun inspiration for a deck.



Sometimes I wake up and want to build a deck that will totally cause nothing but grief for my opponents.  It is not normally my style, but there is a sort of sick satisfaction from just hosing your opponent and locking him out and then crushing him.  Mill. Counter decks. Land Destruction. This can be immensely enjoyable…but only in small doses.


I have to say that a Monte Cristo sandwich is really quite delicious.  If you’ve never tried one, if you see it on the menu of a restaurant near you, give it a whirl.  Think Grilled cheese sandwich meets French Toast…and 100% delicious.  That’s some solid food to Brew on!!

Monte Cristo sandwich - Bant Auras



Thanks for reading…if you have any other ideas on what motivates you brew I’d love to hear about it.  Everyone is different and maybe you have a trick that you could share with the other readers. Shoot me a tweet and let me know.


Until next time keep it fun, keep it safe…keep it casual.


Bruce Gray


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 Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - July 9, 2014

Champion’s Deck – Esper Control by Gerard Fabiano (1st at ...

Esper Control -Detention Sphere

Esper Control by Gerard Fabiano

1st Place at StarCityGames Standard Open on 7/5/2014
As we get ready for a little metagame shake-up from the upcoming release of Magic 2015 we finish up the lame duck Standard with a final tournament. This one continues to show that Mono-Black Devotion is not the end all and be all of this metagame. We also see the Aggro dominance tamed by pro player and crowd favorite Gerard with a return of Esper Control to the spotlight.

Esper Control decklist


As with any Blue and White based control strategy we find a stock shell with this deck sporting a trio of Jace, Architect of Thought for draw and protection from creature swarms, a set of Sphinx’s Revelation to restock your hand with options and incidental lifegain to boot, a set of Supreme Verdict to deal with Aggro creature swarms, and a set of Detention Sphere which is able to answer most every other problem the deck may face. The meat of the deck comes from its planeswalkers, where we find the duo of the light and darkness alongside a pair of Jace options. First looking at the light we have Elspeth, Sun’s Champion as a primary win condition spitting out soldiers three at a time, while also able to sweep the board of all creatures with power greater then four and should she go ultimate will pump those soldiers of hers into veritable jet planes. Next plunging into darkness we find Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver who is especially powerful against creature decks to steal away their threats by milling away the top of the library and given enough support then dropping them into play. Then we have the two Jace, Architect of Thought integral to the deck surviving creature rush Aggro and grinding out card advantage, but also a singleton Memory Adept to work against Control strategies and mill them down to no library while you sit back playing a defensive role. The potatos of the deck come from a variety of Control staples of permission, removal and draw. The permission package is two-fold using the potent Thoughtseize to strip away their threats before they can play them while also providing you with very valuable information about what their plan is, and also a pair of Dissolve as the deck only real denial with a bonus Scry tacked on to help dig through your deck for more answers. As for removal this deck is chock full of including Supreme Verdict and Detention Sphere already mentioned, but also some spot removal with a trio of Devour Flesh to abolish that huge threat when the enemy doesn’t have a swarm present and a Doom Blade able to destroy anything in RG Monsters in a pinch. As for draw power the main tool lies in Revelation and Architect, but the deck also leans heavily on the eleven Temples for Scry to help filter draws into what is absolutely needed. We wrap up with the utility player Azorius Charm which can gain a few points of life with Soldiers if desperate, filters itself into a new draw when needed, and even bounces an attacking or blocking creature to the top of its owners library to set them back and save some life.


While it’s true we are on the verge of a new Standard format in a few weeks it is certain that UW Control will be a strategy to continue going forward. Normally I would also say that with the summer here and Magic in its dog days that it isn’t important what to play, but remember that the World Magic Cup Qualifers are coming up. If you like oppressive Control strategies then I would definitely recommend this deck for you but be sure to clue into the current meta as this is always a deck that needs to be tweeked and tuned for what’s current. And good luck chasing down that glory.

Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter
Email: ejseltzer@hotmail.com
Avatar Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - April 23, 2014

Champion’s Deck – UW Control by Simon Stahl (1st at SCG De...

U/W Control
Simon Stahl
1st Place at StarCityGames Standard Open on 4/19/2014
Fated Retribution
While it’s not a newcomer to the top of the pile this weeks winner was able to wrestle dominance away from the big bad Mono-Black menace. One of the most classic styles of control, UW is able to operate more fluidly then Esper versions even though they are relatively the same core concept. Control relies upon a good mix of permission and removal, backed up with a strong finisher once the board has been stabilized. This deck follows that structure to a tee while adding in a few interesting one ofs to round it out.

Since the printing of Return to Ravnica and with it the Azorius guild UW has had an arsenal of weapons that each decklist has been build on the foundation of. This deck is no different with four copies of each Jace, Architect of Thought, Sphinx’s Revelation, Supreme Verdict and Detention Sphere. That group alone is able to provide the deck with so much power and consistency, giving it answers to a plethora of threats. For permission we have a full set of Dissolve, which also help as pseudo-draw, and a pair of Syncopate, which can be key at stopping a dangerous two drop like Pack Rat. For removal you have primarily Detention Sphere to pick off pesky threats of varied permanent types or Supreme Verdict to sweep the board free of creatures, but also a Celestial Flare and two Last Breath as pinpoint removal. We also find the inclusion of Fated Retribution as a catchall reset against all creatures and planeswalkers if necessary. The deck keeps your hand full through the draw power of Sphinx’s Revelation and Jace, which both also help to keep your life total from falling too low, and also a couple of Divination. The finishers are a very tight package which has a one of Ætherling and two Elspeth, Sun’s Champion which you must be very mindfull to deploy only once you have taken over the game. Also, because the deck only runs two colors we find room to squeeze three Mutavault in the manabase which while small over time will produce more then enough damage on an empty board. Another versatile spell in the deck is the Azorius Charm which can either help gain back some life to stable against aggro decks, cycle itself away to dig for a necessary answer or as removal for a bothersome threat. The final card in the deck is some old tech in Elixir of Immortality which just keeps the deck churning even after you’ve depleted so many spells.

So with just a couple weeks left until new standard it is certain that people are looking forward to Journey Into Nyx instead of backwards at our current standard. While I don’t feel that this deck benefits too much from the new set there are two cards with an outside chance to slip in. Deicide could be a good piece of removal depending on how the Gods appear in the meta. Also, Aegis of the Gods is a great way to protect yourself from targeted oppression, but neither are backbreakers for the deck. We will see over the next few months how it plays out.
Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter
Avatar Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - March 26, 2014

Champion’s Deck – Esper Control by Kyle Boggemes (1st at G...

Esper Control
Kyle Boggemes
1st Place at Grand Prix on 3/23/2014
With the metagame in Standard much more defined now then it was a few months back it has slowly become time for the Control decks to shine. Once the major threats are known then Control mages are able to more easily prepare for the decks they expect to face. This has proven itself in the dominant showing of Esper Control this past weekend by winning both the Grand Prix and the SCG Open. And it is no secret that in the Esper colors of Blue, White and Black we find the integral pieces necessary to answer almost any threat that can be thrown at us.
The Control deck is a carefully crafted work of beauty and this list is no different. Looking at the win conditions of the deck we find a very precise package consisting of one Ætherling and a trio of Elspeth, Sun’s Champion which are meant to only be deployed once the deck has stabilized and taken command of the board. To do this we find a balance between permission and removal. For the permission suite there is a set of Dissolve and a duo of Syncopate used to deny the opponent from casting their most key of spells, especially if unable to handle it with the removal in hand. Then the removal consists of the requisite Blue/White staples with mass removal in Supreme Verdict to reset the battlefield in a pinch and the utility removal from Detention Sphere capable of dealing with almost any problem permanent especially those which are indestructible. For spot removal there is also two Doom Blade and a Last Breath to supplement and handle those threats which slip in especially creatures with Haste. As with any Control deck the final and perhaps most important aspect of the deck is its draw power and here we find that from full sets of both Jace, Architect of Thought and Sphinx’s Revelation both of which offer some extra utility be it in diminishing the opponents power or just straight lifegain to ensure continued survival. This deck also has the ’12 Temple’ package in its manabase which especially in the early turns can use the Scry ability to carefully craft it’s draw step. With the final odds and ends there is the utility player of Azorius Charm which is primarily used for the draw to cycle it at the end of an opponents turn, but is also very useful as a spot removal or can even prove as a savior by gaining a few points of necessary life. As far as hand control we only find discard in the form of two Thoughtseize to gain some important information and deal with any specifically difficult threat. Finally, there is also a duo of Mutavault which are able to skirt around sorcery speed removal and will be at time the final nail in the coffin.
As always Control decks need to adapt to an ever shifting metagame and this one will be no different. I am certain that this base will be a common sight going forward but expect to see constant tweaks and tuneups to stay a step ahead. All in all though Esper Control should continue to be a force to be reckoned with and you’ll need to be prepared to face it any round of your tournament.
Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter
Avatar Bruce Gray - March 18, 2014

Casual Encounters – The shiny rainbow flying lion


 Chromanticore. My muse. How intriguing you are, oh Chromanticore, all shiny and mutlicoloured with all those abilities…and borderline unplayable…ever.  With your ridicoulous casting cost and hilarious bestow ability you are like the forbidden fruit, that apple that is dangling from the tree, and is so obviously a trap…but yet, I find myself strangely drawn to you, oh Chromaticore.  I want to brew up a deck…but not just any deck…a Rainbow Chromanticore deck! Yes! Yes! It will be Legend- wait for it- ary!

Ok, so I’m mixing up some of my metaphors, but you get the point.  Chromanticore is out there and it gives a new meaning to difficult to cast, but hilarious to play.   Legend would have you believe that the Manticore were beasts that combined a lion with some other animal (usually a bird of some sort, but I have heard other animals suggested as well) and were dangerous and ferocious beasts.  I feel like Born of the Gods has one upped this legend and turned the Manticore into something more.  It’s not only a dangerous beast (if you can land it on the table), but it is for some the pinnacle of ridiculous casual cards that have recently been printed.  Sure, I can think of a few more…but this ranks right up there as far as cards that I want to cast in “fantasy ChristmanLand”.

Let’s take a look at Chromaticore and establish exactly why it is so difficult to play and why you might even want to consider it.  For 5 mana  you a get 4/4 flying first strike, trample, life link vigilance enchantment creature manticore that can be bestowed for 7 mana. These are all very powerful abilities with a very solid body and the ability to bestow it makes very appealing because you can avoid getting 2 for oned when the creature that it is enchanting is destroyed. It is a bomb and if bestowed makes your”bear” into a 6/6 behemoth.  All in all, a very cool card that has some potential.  However, the drawback is that it takes 1 mana of each colour (1 green, 1 blue, 1 white, 1 black, and 1 red) to cast it.  This makes it very difficult to cast, and even harder to Bestow because it costs an additional 2 colourless, but the same 5 colours.  That’s very difficult to achieve because few players are prepared to play all 5 colours in a deck. The mana base would be just too unreliable.  So, it would appear as if Chromanticore is destined live in trade binders across the Magic playing community, in search of a home.

However, while the Manticore is a creature of legend, so is the deck that is able to successfully cast and play mythical “Shiny Rainbow flying lion”.  However, I think that the pieces exist to put together a deck to play Chromanticore and have its abilities go crazy on the battlefield.  Let’s see if we can put it all together.

The first issue becomes how to manufacture enough mana fixing in order to even roll out your Chromanticore.  This is tough because you could play lands of all 5 basic colours, but the chances of you drawing the colours you need in succession is low to almost non-existent. So, we need to narrow down what colours we are playing and then find a way to splash for the missing colour or colours.  For this exercise my default colour combination would be Bant colours (Green, White, Blue) and the requisite lands.

So, our land base will be a full playsets of Hallowed Fountains, Breeding Pool, and Temple Garden and then 3 each of Temple of Mystery, Temple of Plenty and Temple of Enlightenment.  That makes up 21 land of the 25 lands in the deck and for the remainder I will suggest  running a pair of swamps and a pair of mountains as basics.  So, we largely have the mana base.  It may need some adjustments, but that can be done without much in the way of issues.

Next, how do we get access to the full rainbow of lands?  The first option is Traveler’s Amulet.  A one costed artifact that allows you to sacrifice to fetch out a basic land and put it in your hand.  This is a great way to take care of the mana fixing you need and access the full spectrum of lands you need.  Another option is to run Lay of the Land which allows you to search your land for another basic land, once again letting you dig up the swamp or mountain you need.  You could opt for Sylvan Caryatid as a solid 0/3 defender that taps for mana of any colour as a way to promote fixing your issues with the varying colours. The final way to fix for mana is Springleaf drum that allows you to tap a creature in order to produce a mana of any colour, giving you access to colours of mana you wouldn’t otherwise be able to access.  So, with these options available to you, fixing yourself for the mana to cast your Chromanticore should be achievable.

Next, we need to look at some options available to support your Chromanticore and exploit some of other mechanics available to you.  The one that has intrigued me since I read about it is the Inspired mechanic which pairs perfectly with the Springleaf drum as an inexpensive way to tap your creature without combat. I have been eyeing up one card in particular, Oreskos Sun Guide, as being a very interesting Inspired creature and one that could be a good fit in a Bant Chromanticore deck.  So, tap your Sun Guide for mana with your Springleaf drum and then when it untaps you will gaining the 2 life points, which is a fair trade off and could be really useful. Another strong addition would be Courser of Kruphix which could help you to grind out some extra card advantage and gain you some life as you put together the pieces to drop Chromanticore on the table.  Another interesting choice is Omenspeaker that will allow you to Scry 2 when it enters play in order to improve your card selection and help you to shape your hand. It also becomes a strong blocker and can tap easily for another land with your Springleaf Drum. The final piece is the need for an absolute bomb so that when you Bestow Chromanticore that you have something truly devastating that turn the heat way up.  A couple of premium choices would be Brimaz, or Archangel of Thune, but I have had my eyes on another creature from the Core Set.  Seraph of the sword fits into the curve as a 4 drop that is a 3/3 flying angel for 3 colourless and 1 white.  The reason this one is interesting is because combat damage is reduced to 0 with the Seraph, meaning your angel survives all sorts of combat shenanigans.  Yes, it still dies to targeted removal or a sweeper, but it is a little more robust than some of the others.  Besides, we all have 3 or 4 sitting in a box from the summer that we just aren’t playing, and now would be an awesome time.

So, this is what this deck starts to look like:

Bant Chromanticore

So, there’s our 60 card deck.  It obviously has a hard time dealing with heavy creature strategies and so in the remaining 3 card slots I slid in some supreme verdicts.  Yes, that wipes my board clean, but if the alternative having my face smashed, I’ll clear the board. There are a number of holes and so the next challenge will be to put together a 15 card sideboard in order to give you a little flexibility.  I am totally open to suggestions on what to include and hope to hear from many of you for creative ideas that will help take this funny deck into a higher stratosphere of ridiculous.

Now, is this intended to take out top tier 1 competitive standard decks?  Not a chance.  This is fun brew to try out at the kitchen table and play with your buds. Everyone will get a good laugh if you can get the Chromanticore out of your hand and on to the table, and you never know, it may even win you game.  However, what this deck does show is that even outlandish cards such as Chromanticore can find a deck to be played in, if given a little time and a little creative application of some of the cards available. The next task will be to put all the pieces together and take it for a test drive and see how it does.  Regardless of the outcome, I’m sure it will bring a smile to my face (and likely that of my opposition as well).

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

Bruce Gray