By Roy Anderson – Sockymans
Hello fellow Looters, its Sockymans here with part two of my experience at Grand Prix San Jose (GPSJ.) If you want to read my account of day one, you can find it here. If you have already read day one or just like to skip ahead, well then you are in the right place and we can begin.
First off, Spoiler Alert! My team and I, The Ainok Bond-Kins, did not make day two of GPSJ. We made it to round seven before losing eligibility to move on. In addition to that, I have a fun side note that was omitted from my day one story. We forgot to drop from round eight and we ended up being paired in the next round. We decided to go to our opponents and let them know they had a free win. Turns out, they were a no show. This technically means that our record was 5-3 and not 4-3. See, you are already being rewarded with an extra story for reading the first article then coming here. Anyway, it is time to move onto day two, after all, that is the reason why you are here.
So, there was no day two of the Grand Prix (GP) to play, what was I to do? The answer: Trading, vendors, and most of all side events. They had drafts, chaos drafts, sealed, as well as many other things I could do. I had a specific event in mind though, I wanted to play in the Super Sunday Series (SSS.) This was a limited sealed event with three packs of Khans of Tarkir (KTK) and three packs of Fate Reforged (FRF.) It was an eight round tournament which would take the whole day, however, the winner gets an invite to Wizards of the Coast for the SSS Championships. I had gotten a recommendation from someone that it was a fun and rewarding tournament so I figured I would try it out.
So we get a pool, register it, pass it, etc… Finally I get my pool. First off, the tournament had a 30 dollar entry fee which was understandable for the high-prize support. No matter what record or prizes I got that tournament, I had one of those rare pools that pay for themselves. Two fetch-lands, Brutal Hordechief, and a Soulfire Grand Master. At the time of the tournament, those cards totaled to about 32 dollars cash trade in. That is when you take a reduced value from the cards.
After analyzing my pool and trying to make a deck with the obviously powerful cards, I settled on a nice Jeskai list. The deck I ran is listed below:
I was very happy overall with this deck. The only problem is I was missing some key prowess creatures that make up a good Jeskai prowess deck. Cards like Jeskai Windscout would have been a good addition to my deck. Instead of functioning like a standard prowess deck, my deck was slightly more “explosive.” I was able to swing games and deal massive amounts of damage in just one turn. Goblin Heelcutter, Jeering Instigator, and Crippling Chill really helped me punch through massive amounts of damage while removing opponent’s blockers when they thought they were safe. The Canyon Lurkers, Weaponmaster Efreet, and Bloodfire Enforcers helped deal massive amounts of damage in one turn. That coupled with some of the game swinging cards I had helped me win a good number of games I would have lost. Even the games I did lose, I only lost by one turn. I had a good sideboard for every match up as well. I had two Treasure Cruises in my pool which really helped against the control matches. Extra removal was also helpful against creatures and aggressive decks. Finally, the midrange matchup can be helped with additional ways to punch through such as Will of the Naga.
My deck did suffer in one major way however. Since it was not traditional, it could not beat certain creature match ups that would curve out with a really nice creature curve. It would always lose by a turn or flood out slightly in land. I feel that I should have run 17 lands instead of the 18. However, I was able to mitigate some of the flood by boarding in Tormenting Voice in some games. This was a good replacement for Treasure Cruise in the faster aggressive match up.
Now if you have read my articles before, I tend to detail my experiences round by round. In the interest of time, and since I already wrote an article this week about day one, I will shorten it a little bit.
I started the tournament with a 1-0 record which left me very hopeful. In order to make top eight in this tournament you pretty much needed a record of X-1 or better and I felt good after my first match. I quickly lost out of top eight contention and was just playing for prizes. What was even worse was my eventual record of 5-3. This put me in 68th place which was just out of prize support. Well isn’t that a fun way to spend an entire day? The decks that I lost to the most were usually an Abzan or Mardu list. Mardu would beat me with superior speed. Abzan would win through well bodied fliers and efficient creatures. These were strategies that my deck was little equipped to deal with. Even against those decks, I still managed to take each one to game three.
Going into the last round, I was sitting exactly in 64th place. This left me with nine packs if I won so I was determined then. If I won, my prize support may have been upgraded as well. Either way, my opponent had the Abzan strategy that I outlined earlier. It was a rather intense set of games. It went to game three and both of us were in top deck mode. I happened to draw just a few too many lands and ended up flooding out. My opponent was a nice guy so I wasn’t too sad about the loss. Also, as I said, my pool paid for itself so I essentially paid for itself.
This event did last slightly shorter than the main event did which gave me a little bit of time to shop at the vendors. At this point is was 7pm on the last day of the GP. Most of the vendors were cleaning up and starting to leave. I didn’t manage to get everything I was hoping for. However, I did get some nice pickups. Azusa, Lost but Seeking was a good last minute pick up. A foil Ajani Goldmane as well as a foil promo Liliana Vess joined my foil planeswalker collection as well. Although I got these the day before, it is also worth noting something I really like seeing at GP vendor’s tables. I love it when they have the 5 foils for a dollar boxes. You can find some great things in those boxes. If you are a fan of foils, you should definitely check them out. Some of the notable things I picked up were: War Priest of Thune, Lumithread Field, and a few foil lands.
Well, thank you for reading my story about GPSJ. I wish anyone who read this could have been there and I highly suggest everyone go to any GP that happens to appear in their neck of the woods. Next week, my article will take a slightly more analytical turn and we will look at the current limited meta-game. Until next week, this is me signing out.
By Roy Anderson
@Sockymans on Twitter
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
Well, welcome back to our continuing Crack a pack MTG Series here at Casual Encounters and Three Kings Loot. I’m very happy to say that this is crack a pack number 20 for me! I can’t believe that I’ve got to 20. It seems like not all that long ago I was pitching the series to the guys at Three Kings Loot. The goal for 2015 is to continue writing these and hopefully build up some more readers who are keen to get into a discussion about the cards and the selections. So, let’s see what we’ve got on deck for today!
Today we’ll be opening a shiny new pack of Fate Reforged. Remember, as Fate Reforged enters the draft environment we are now drafting one pack of Fate and 2 packs of Khans meaning you will still be pretty heavily Khans focused. That said, Fate Reforged dove tails pretty well with Khans so it should move pretty seamlessly. Here we go.
Oh boy…we just opened something pretty spicy in Crux of Fate. People have been calling for a re-print of Damnation for a long time and this may be as close as we ever get. This is an awesome mass removal spell in Black, something that doesn’t come along in every set. The fact that this is modal could be relevant in Draft if you have a couple of the uncommon dragons on board and need a way to punch them through, but you will mostly look at this as premium mass removal that you will grab first almost each and every time.
Valorous Stance is a tremendously versatile card and both modes are very relevant. It is extremely efficiently costed at 2 manaand just does exactly what you need it to do every time. In most packs this would be first pickable, but today it’ll like slide to the 2nd pick in this pack.
Neutralizing Blast is a very underwhelming counter spell. The fact that it only targets multi-coloured spells is a huge issue because the number of such spells is quite low. Think about it, there were some in Khans, but many of those were Morph creatures (that aren’t multi-coloured if cast face down) and a cycle of uncommon spells like Ride Down. In Fate, there is once again a cycle of common spells and the cycle of Rare Dragons. That means that there aren’t a lot of relevant targets for this…so you’re likely just best to pass this and see if you grab it late as a sideboard option for the greedy 5 colour deck that the guy next to you is building.
Shifting Loyalties is a super powerful effect and could really turn the tide quickly as you trade you junky creature for their awesome one…but the variance on this is high. If they only have a Gore Swine do you really want to spend 6 mana and trade you Jeskai Sage for it? Likely not. So you have a dead card in hand. If you have a Jeskai Sage and they have Atarka…well…that’s different. I’d be careful with this one and wouldn’t prioritize it too highly because it could really backfire and just sit dead in your hand.
Sandteppe Outcast is a very useful 3 drop. 3 mana for a 2/1 creature and a 1/1 flier OR a 3/2 creature is nice versatility. I imagine the 1/1 flier is the most likely mode you’ll pick, but I could make a case that you really want the 3/2 if you have the Abzan Falconer or Abzan Battle Priest on board. Either way, this is very good and efficiently costed and could be a first pick if you were hard pressed.
Write Into Being is an interesting take on Manifest. It is a sorcery that only costs 2 and a Blue for a total of 3 mana. That is on par with Morphs…so that’s a perfectly acceptable casting cost for a 2/2. However, the fact that you get to look at the top two cards and pick which one gets Manifested is actually excellent value. You can essentially craft exactly which card you want turned over as a 2/2. That gives you a lot of control and could allow you to play some very fun head games with your opponent. Not a first pick, but a nice spell that likely goes in the early half of the round.
Fierce Invocation is another Manifest Sorcery. I like this one less, but it is still a 4/4 for 5 mana which isn’t bad…and if it is a creature…you’re in business. This is a mid-round pick up.
Douse in Gloom is Pharika’s Cure…just slightly more expensive. This is another early pick in this pack because it deals with everything from facedown creatures to Alpine Grizzly without any difficulty. This one isn’t flashy, but is the backbone of most limited decks.
Cunning Strike feels too expensive and just not good enough for 5 mana. At 5 mana I want to do something AWESOME…this just feels slow and awkward. Couple that with the fact that it is two colours and there is no doubt that this will table. I’d pass and only take this as a last resort.
Arashin Cleric…and the consensus is…NO. It doesn’t do enough. It can’t block Morphs and Manifested decks profitably, the life gain is fairly modest, and it gets outclassed quite quickly. No, don’t take this, you can do better.
Collateral Damage is a spell I really like. In a tokens strategy, or heck, just with that dumpy Arashin Cleric, sacrifice the creature for 1 red mana (at instant speed) for a Lightning Bolt. That seems fine to me. Not a crazy high pick, but very reasonable once you establish your colours as a mid-round pick up for some inexpensive removal/damage.
Gore Swine is just a 4/1 vanilla creature. I’m not going to dump on this creature because it can be quite serviceable, but if I have better options I’m taking those long before I take this. All that can be said for this thing is that at least it triggers Ferocious.
Bathe In Dragonfire is an excellent red removal spell. The 4 damage is very useful and deals with most threats. I’m not a fan of the Sorcery speed on this thing because it won’t catch Dash creatures, but you can’t expect too much from a common. For the record, this continuing the trend of seeing removal slowly become more and more expensive…so while this is pretty reasonable it likely would have been cheaper had it appeared in a set 3-5 years ago.
This is pretty much a no brainer…you grab Crux of Fate and move on. There really isn’t anything that would match up well with Crux, and if suggested anything else I would out right lying to you. So, while the other cards are pretty good…Crux is the hands down winner.
Wow…that was easy.
Well, thanks for reading folks and thanks for coming along for the ride to get to 20 Crack a Pack MTG. 20 may not seem like a lot to you guys, but let me assure it has been quite the trip. Let’s see if we can get to 30! Thanks for reading and until next time may you open nothing but Mythic rares.
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter
So, I’ve already gone and taken a look at Fate Reforged for Casual play…how about we explore a little Constructed play…namely Standard? Let’s get right into this and take a look.
10– Valorous Stance– This is similar to Reprisal in many regards because it can be used as a removal spell to whack big stuff. Now, 4 toughness can be a bit of hurdle to leap over, but there are many bigger creatures that pack 4 toughness that this efficiently mops up. Butcher of the Horde, the Dragons, Polukranos, Courser, Siege Rhino, Wingmate Roc and a number of other threats all get taken out by this. On top of that, the other mode might make it more relevant than Ajani’s Presence…and the fact that this card can do BOTH things is what truly makes it a solid addition to Standard play. I expect this will certainly see sideboard play, at a minimum, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see this creep into the main board of a few decks.
9- Silumgar, the Drifting Death– I can make a case for this one creeping into a B/U or Esper control build as the win condition along side Ashiok, Prognostic Sphinx, or Pearl Lake Ancient. The evasion, hexproof, and a nasty ability puts this into the realm of discussion and I expect that people will give it a try. What I will remind people is that while this is 3/7 it tussles with other creatures very effectively because it essentially can fight through 4 toughness creatures meaning that Wingmate Roc, Butcher or the Horde, and even a Stormbreath Dragon are hard pressed to block this effectively. The 7 toughness makes it very difficult to kill via combat meaning your only option is a board wipe (or I suppose a Sacrifice outlet) and the control deck ought to have enough counter spells to make that threat fairly minimal. Expect to see this dragon lurking around in Standard for the foreseeable future.
8- Flamewake Phoenix– Temur or R/G Monsters just got one sweet addition to really turn up the pressure. Chandra’s Phoenix was extremely solid last year and this looks no different. It is 2/2 for 3 mana, flies, has Haste, and serves an almost identical purpose. The caveat where you need to attack each turn is no biggie either because if you are on the deck that wants this guy in Constructed then Blocking isn’t really your thing anyway. The trigger to get this guy back is a little different and might be a little harder to trigger depending on the deck, but with things like Ashcloud Phoenix, Savage Knuckleblade, Polukranos and Stormbreath Dragon being in the potential home for this guy it might be feasible. Here comes the nuisance that is a repeatable burn source to Standard.
7- Dromoka, the Eternal– This is intended to be the Abzan curve topper that we could see replace Wingmate Roc. With the Abzan Aggro decks looking to curve out by playing a 2 drop, a 3 drop, a 4 drop and then a 5 drop, this could slide right in. The fact that it can also pump your other creatures can’t be overlooked. Sure, Wingmate Roc can trigger some additional life gain, but the sheer power of a 5/5 flier that adds counters just can not be dismissed. People will certainly test this one out and see what this can do.
6- Wild Slash– Hmmm…an upgrade on Shock you say? Well…Shock has been very good for a long time, so I expect this one to be good too. It will find a way into every single deck playing Red burn spells and no one will miss a beat. At Limited, it will be good too, but it will not win you the game out right. You will need back up in order to seal up those wins, but Wild Slash will be a nice addition to your deck because it pairs well with Ferocious OR Prowess. Enjoy some more first rate burn.
5- Reality Shift– : Is this Blue Removal? It sure looks that way…because you just exiled their Butcher, or Dragon, or God, or …or…ANYTHING and replaced it with a 2/2. I think that’s a good trade in most situations. This looks like it could get insane and really give Blue the ability to deal with relevant threats after they hit the board. So much for respecting the Colour Pie! Blue Removal to the rescue!
4- Soulfire Grand Master: Jeskai Burn/Wins decks just got insane. This unassuming “Bear” just makes Burn decks plain old ridiculous. Your spells get LIFELINK?! You can get them back in your hand?! Good grief. The Lifelink is the back breaker here because it gives burn players a longer lease on life with which to find that all needed burn spell to finish you off by gaining 3,6 maybe even 10 points of life depending on the sequence of spells you can cast. The secondary ability is disgusting, the get your spell back, but it is a pricey cost to pay and most burn decks won’t really be interested in that. I mean, do you really want to spend 3 mana on your Jeskai Charm to burn him for 4…and then pay 4 more mana to get it back? You just spent 7 mana on the spell. If you have 7 mana to play around with in your Burn deck (and you haven’t won outright) you are doing something wrong. So, because of the high cost on the secondary ability I don’t think this will creep into Modern as anything more than a sideboard card, but in Standard I feel like this could take the Jeskai Burn decks to a whole new level.
3- Crux of Fate: I saw this card and said “well, there is your functional reprint of Damnation everyone. Sure, Damnation is 4 mana…and this is 5…but face it folks, you aren’t getting wrath effects at 4 mana any longer. We’ve seen that trend and Wizards has admitted as much. So, 5 mana Black sweepers is the best you can do…and really, wasn’t Damnation just a 4 mana Black sweeper à la Day of Judgment? So, here is your “updated” Damnation card that is Modal. Whatever. No biggie. Now, the 5 mana cost essentially prohibits this from seeing play in Modern or any format where Damnation is legal because Damnation is likely just better in every circumstance, but in Standard, for EDH players looking for a Black wrath effect, and in Limited this will do just as well. Decks rocking Black…thank R & D. That is all.
2- Mardu Shadowspear…So the B/W tribal warriors deck might be good enough to see play in Standard moving forward. Fate Reforged has given us a ton of new Warriors to complement the already disgusting amount of Warriors already available. If you look at the abilities of these new Warriors the deck could take on some frightening abilities and really punish slower decks. The Shadowspear and his Warrior buddies will just run wild and will surprise a lot of people…and while I’m headling Shadowspear here, the truth is he will have a whole pile of his friends that will coming to the party right along with him and will be bringing down the house.
1- Ugin, the Spirit Dragon– And now for the elephant in the room. Is Ugin good enough for Standard…well, he’s certainly good enough, but can you get him onto the battlefield. I figure lots of people are going to try and why not? He’s colourless, ridiculously powerful, and just plain warps the board. This guy is an absolute menace and his ultimate is just plain wrong. His –x ability wipes the board…so why wouldn’t a control deck try and play him? Mono Green Devotion would be keen to give him a try as well, because if you hit that ultimate, what could be more fun than dumping Hornet Queen and Polukranos onto the battlefield for free? No, people are certainly going to try and make Ugin work for them so be ready to have Ugin see play in Standard for a while.
Well, there we have ourselves some of the sweet new treats that Standard is going to get to rock out with. Let’s see how many of these make the cut…and what ones I missed. The Middle set of a block can always be tricky because the cards need to fit into an existing mold and we’ll see just what shakes out in the weeks to come.
Thanks for reading…By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters @bgray8791 on Twitter
Fate Reforged pre-release will introduce special promo ‘Time Shifted Cards’. During the event you get to pick your Tarkir Clan and will also receive a special ‘Ugin’s Fate” booster pack which contains a Token, a Land card and certain amount of ‘Time Shifted Cards’ from a pool of 40 holo foil stamped cards with alternate art which demonstrates how the plane of Tarkir has changed. The PAX Australia panel showcased three of these cards.