By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
Good morning and thanks for stopping by here at The Bag of Loot and my Casual Encounters column. For those who are new here, I will be cracking a pack of Fate Reforged and looking at what I would select first if this was Pick 1, Pack1 in my next draft. Let’s take a look at what I’ve got.
Fate Reforged seems a little more heavy with bombs than Khans was, so let’s start with the rare. Yasova Dragonclaw is a pretty strong starting place. She’s efficient to cast as a 4/2 for 3 mana and comes with Trample making her pretty solid from the outset. She triggers Ferocious if that matters to your deck as well, which is always a benefit. However, I get most of those same stats with an Alpine Grizzly so what makes her so appealing? Her ability to effectively Act of Treason one of their blockers each turn is actually really difficult to handle. Even if the creature you’re pulling aside isn’t a huge bomb, it can really upset combat math to pull aside their blocker and then swing in. The only catch is that she can only target a creature with power less than hers. That may or may not be ideal because you might only be pulling aside a Wetland Sambar or an Ainok Tracker. If you can find a way to Bolster her or to augment her to steal something larger then you might find things will get a little out of control. I’ve played against one in a match and while her ability is kind of tricky, it certainly is beatable. However, she’s still a very powerful card and would be pulled straight to the front of the pack for some careful consideration.
Mistfire Adept is a very nice uncommon and has some solid stats. The basic body is that of Hill Giant, which is quite reasonable. However, the Prowess and the ability to grant something Flying is the real perk here. You cast a spell and suddenly you have a 4/4 flier. That’s nothing to take lightly. There’s not really a whole lot of downside here because this is a useful to just about any deck playing Blue and would be getting a long hard look as well.
Renowned Weaponsmith is underwhelming in every regard. The artifact theme is not strong enough to warrant this guy, and the ability to tutor up a bad artifact is also not overly relevant. His base stats are a little on the poor side as well because he gets quickly outclassed. Sadly, this guy isn’t very good and will likely a late pickup for filler to someone in Blue.
Hewed Stone Retainers feels like a downgraded version of Illusory Angel. If this had Flying, or First Strike, or anything really, you’d consider playing it, but at a vanilla 4/4 the answer is probably not. Don’t get fooled by the casting cost, the fact that you need to cast this as the second spell this turn increases the cost of this and unless you have a deck with some cheap spells to fire off this might get stranded in your hand for a while.
Write into Being is a card I quite like. One of the concerns I have with the Manifest mechanic is that I often feel like I don’t have much control over what gets manifested. It might be that land I really need, or that super efficient removal spell, or that hyper expensive creature that I was really hoping to find in the late game. In all of these of situations having the card get Manifested is less than ideal. Write into Being gives you some measure of control over what spell you end up getting and that is very useful. The casting cost puts it right on curve with other Morphs and the fact that is a non creature spell helps provide you with fuel for Delve spells and triggers Prowess. While this is a long way from being a home run it is a deceptively powerful card and is ultimately very useful.
Temur Runemark is NOT something I like. Most auras are a surefire way to get yourself in a situation where you lose out in a 2 for 1 situation. Unless the Aura is really powerful, it is usually a better idea to play cards that stand on their own merit. I’m not going to say I won’t play an Aura, but I’m certainly not looking to play those auras unless I’m pretty desperate.
Collateral Damage is a card that I like in certain decks, but is usually not something I’m too keen to grab. I never like sacrificing MY board state to deal damage, so sequencing this spell just right to have maximum impact is tricky and pretty important. If I can’t find a way to sacrifice something that is being blocked (and dying anyway) to take out something else I’m just not overly keen to play this. The ONLY other way I play this if I have a tokens strategy where I can use the tokens as fodder, but even there I’m not going crazy with this card. This a tricky card and something that certainly has a benefit when played correctly, but not always available in the optimal way.
Whisperer of the Wilds was in last week’s pack too and I’m still a fan. I’d be flipping this to the front of the pack, but likely won’t be first picking this at this point.
Gurmag Angler is the sort of aggressive mid-round pickup you just love to see. The big body on this one is very appealing and the fact that the casting cost can be significantly reduced with Delve makes this very appealing. I don’t think I really want to first pick this because if you are in on the Delve plan you have a limited number of cards slots that can be devoted to delve cards and this guy may not be the best way to go. However, he is a very nice early pickup and a big body to sure up the board.
Typhoid Rats are one of those common cards that you always overlook, but it always makes your deck. Nobody likes attacking into or blocking a 1/1 deathtoucher and the rats just do some much work. It isn’t a first pick, but it certainly is a good mid-round pick.
Grim Contest is interesting because it is an unusual take on the “fight” mechanic that green usually gets for removal. The part I like about this is that it is at Instant speed meaning that you can use it on your opponent’s turn and leaving you to do whatever you like with your mana on your turn. Sadly, it is a gold card and fits into fewer decks, but if you have Green and Black in your deck I see no good reason not to take this mid-round and see if you can make it work for you. This would have been ideal in M15 Limited with Rotfeaster Maggot, but that is a digression. This is an interesting spell and something that will garner mild interest, but is in no way a first pick.
While a number of the cards in this pack are pretty interesting, there is no doubt that I would be taking Yasova from this pack with my first pick. I feel like Green leaves you open to go into some very powerful combinations by making Abzan, Sultai and Temur all available and her raw stats are very solid. Her two toughness is an issue because she dies readily to Wild Slash , Douse in Gloom and Debilitating Injury but there is plenty of upside to her because her repeatable “Act of Treason” is quite powerful and will really mess with combat. I don’t think she’s an insane bomb the way some of the Legendary Dragons are, but she’s very good and a cut above the other cards in this pack.
Thanks for stopping in today here at Casual Encounters and taking the time read. I hope you guys have an awesome MTG day!
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
In my New Year’s Resolution to keep my column up to date and a little more current I wanted to take a little time to write about some of thoughts I had during the course of the week about some MTG stuff. No deck list tonight…but some things that have caught my interest recently.
I’ve been back and playing Magic now for 2 1/2 years, but I’m finally NOW getting to the point where I am not just about the cards, but the broader community piece as a whole. By that I mean I am starting to appreciate that there is far more to playing Magic than just playing the game, but there are other areas where people can explore and enjoy this hobby as well.
One of the big ones I have overlooked until now has been Uncharted Realms, the fiction that is essentially the telling of the story of what is happening in Multi-verse and helping to explain how and why certain things are happening in the game. You can check it out for yourself here:
Now, the most recent short story was really intriguing because it showed how Sarkhan Vol essentially saved Ugin and prevented the demise of the Dragons on Tarkir by sheltering him from Nicol Bolas after their battle. It was a pretty neat read and I suggest you take a peak. However, as someone new to the tales of here are some of my impressions:
Sarkhan– Up until this point I largely thought this guy was a “Heel” (pardon to WWE reference) that is essentially a pawn of evil. The truth is the guy has had it pretty tough. If you have had MULTIPLE Dragon Planeswalkers in your head, you would be pretty messed up to. I have some interest in this character and will be sure to keep tabs on him. Hopefully they don’t kill him the way they did Elspeth at the end of Theros block. (Prediction: They are totally going to bring her back as a B/W iteration of her down the road when Erebos lets her go.)
Nicol Bolas– This Dude is a jerk of Epic proportions. I know every story needs a villain, and he’s about as good as they come. I like the classic Villain feel to him, although I still prefer his artwork from the original Legends set where he saw print as an Elder Dragon.
Yasova Dragonclaw– I’m not sure what I think of her…I feel like she’s part of the Villain cycle and I would NOT have thought that would be the alignment of the Temur. I really thought if there were going to be a Villain in this set it would be the Sultai…although I suppose that is too easy…but I didn’t think the Temur would be in cahoots with Bolas. Guess that shows how much I know.
Hedron- The cocoon that preserves Ugin…it came from Zendikar…and sure it saves Ugin and allows him to recover and preserve the Dragons. Sure, I get that…but does ANYONE else want to see Eldrazi show up because they can sense something from their plane is being used elsewhere? C’mon…who DOESN’T want to see Emrakul show up?
All in all, I’m a fan and will check back on the story line to see how it develops.
Enhanced Awareness and Card Evaluation
I initially took one look at Enhanced Awareness when I opened my pool at my pre-release and was initially really disappointed. There was some uneasy tension around playing the card and if you read my post about my pre-release you will get the vibe that I wasn’t a fan. I have spent some time thinking about and have clearly determined WHY I don’t much care for the card and unlikely to prioritize it highly as we move forward.
“you wish you had me in your draft pool”
From the outset, Enhanced Awareness looks like a pretty sweet card. 5 mana, instant speed, Draw 3 cards and discard 1. Right off the hop, we know it isn’t better that Jace’s Ingenuity, but it is a little easier to cast because Jace’s Ingenuity is 5 mana, but double Blue while Enhanced Awareness is only a single Blue. However what sets Enhanced Awareness far behind Jace’s Ingenuity is the actual real card advantage netted by casting this spell.
Ingenuity draws you three cards, but you spend 1 card in casting the spell meaning that you have netted +2 cards. 5 mana for 2 cards is pretty sizable and nice amount of card advantage to generate at Instant speed at your opponent’s end step.
Enhanced Awareness draws you three cards, and you spend 1 card in actually casting the spell…so at most you are getting +2 cards out of this spell. However, the added drawback of having to discard 1 more card means that the actual card advantage gained is only +1 card. 5 mana for only 1 card in terms of actual advantage is actual a very poor rate of return. You do just as well with Weave Fate, a much poorer card draw spell in the eyes of many players, and it costs a full mana cheaper.
“Not as bad as everyone thought…huh?”
The only advantage I can discern from this spell is that it actually enables Delve reasonably well, so Delve decks enjoy this. Meanwhile the rest of us aren’t going to play this because the rate of return is quite poor.
There are people that will argue that you do get to dig three cards deeper into your deck and filter for the cards you actually want, meaning that you get to sculpt your hand somewhat. These are true statements, but the fact remains that you are essentially spending your mana on “looting” and netting yourself only a single card for a pretty sizable investment. Players looking to win focus on the efficiency of their mana and the spells they need to cast because that is a prime factor in determining if the spell is going to help you, particularly in a Limited type deck. Think about it, the cost of playing Enhanced Awareness as your card draw is that you need to have a) 5 mana untapped and nothing better to do with it and b) cards in hand that are no good to you to discard in order to improve the card quality in your hand and accept that I am only netting 1 card. Weave Fate, the card that is in direct competition with Enhanced Awareness can be cast a whole turn earlier for 4 mana and doesn’t care one stitch about what you have in hand…and you STILL net 1 card.
I’m not saying that Enhanced Awareness is a bad card, but there are costs associated with it that you need to balance in your Limited deck and so it might not be something you are quick to slam in your draft and run.
This guy has caught my attention and I am clearly going to have to brew with this guy. You take one look at him and he SCREAMS “Jeskai Prowess Deck”. However, I am of the opinion that this guy doesn’t want a Jeskai Deck at all. He really wants a Temur or Bant build to make use of a couple of really disgusting interactions.
Flash is a ridiculous keyword and it is even GROSSER on Auras. You know who really wants Flash Auras? Shu Yun…that’s who. Green has a pair of good ones and Red has a third that is kind of interesting as well.
What could be more fun than attacking with Shu-Yun? Your opponent IMMEDIATELY knows you have something in hand because he’s a Prowess creature. Your opponent, not being a dummy, isn’t interested in creating an unprofitable block and walking into your trick declares no blocks. So, Flash in your Boon Satyr as an Aura, trigger his Prowess, trigger Shu Yun’s Double Strike ability…and end the game on the spot for 16 points of damage.
Ok, that is a best case and your opponent can still respond by removing Shu-Yun, but the exchange is appealing. yes it takes 7 mana to get the whole thing going and that’s steep, but not unimaginable. So, you want some cheaper options? ok.
Feral Invocation. Remember this little gem? This is much cheaper to cast and still means Shu-Yun hits for 12. That’s still a massive chunk of damage in a turn. Dragon Grip was behave in a similar way but is also somewhat more situational in order to meet the Ferocious trigger on the card, but it is an interesting choice as well.
So this is starting to come together. When I have something more final I will be sure to post it here for you guys.
That’s all for tonight guys…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.