Magic 2015 Limited Review: Blue

Diving straight in. Here’s the Gatherer link.

Aeronaut Tinkerer: A 2/3 body for three mana is not the worst thing you could buy. I’ve played my fair share of Crackling Tritons in non-red decks. The flying buff for controlling an artifact is a nice bonus, and again, 3 toughness looks like a good number in this format. This is especially true for a (potential) flyer – it stops cards like Welkin Tern and Carrion Crows.

AEtherspouts: While holding up five mana into multiple attacking creatures is unlikely to go unnoticed by an opponent, the impact of hitting multiple creatures with this is quite significant. Even if all the creatures get put on top, the fact they only get back one at a time gains you a whole bunch of time. You can even possibly counter some scary ones on the way back down.

Amphin Pathmage: Solid limited finisher. Will probably target himself more then other creatures thanks to his 3/2 stats. I can easily see this guy being the reach for aggressive Welkin Tern decks.

Chasm Skulker: An obviously powerful threat. Skulker naturally scales and the card will demand an answer. The opponent might be able to avoid the tokens, between the bounce effects available and the exile on Pillar of Light. Still, the base body being reasonable and the potential bonus if it dies is more then enough to make him a first-pick.

Chief Engineer: This guy seems destined to do great things in Constructed more then Limited. That being said, I do want to give at least one Ornithopter Convoke before this set stops being drafted.

Chronostutter: Six mana is a lot, so casting this will be kind of clunky. It is a good catch-all answer to a problem creature, however, so I wouldn’t fault anyone for having one of this if they have no better answers available (eg, not in Black, or Blue/Red vs. a high toughness creature).

Coral Barrier: A reasonably tidy package for three mana. Both bodies will be able to trade with any aggressive X/1’s (Oreskos Swiftclaw), and the fact that you get two creatures gives this card even more value if you’re running a few Convoke spells.

Diffusion Sliver: Again, a card that will be fantastic when he’s at home with his tribe in Constructed. In Limited, this is a two mana 1/1. Pass it on.

Dissipate: A catch-all counterspell with a bonus that could potentially be relevant (Souls, Phytotitan, cards that care about creatures in graveyards). You’ll want this if you’re blue, so take it if you see it.

Divination: Back for another round at the limited tables. Card is fine, if not terribly exciting (unless you’re LSV). Grab them if you need them, but I wouldn’t value them too highly.

Encrust: This is as close to premium removal as blue gets. Locking something down and even stopping activated abilities? That’s about as good as killing it outright. Again, and I know I keep harping on about this, but it stops the Souls. Grab these highly, but don’t overload on them. I’d say three is the theoretical maximum.

Ensoul Artifact: I’d say this is probably a trap, since getting hit by any of the bounce in the format means you lose the aura (and even gets around the Darksteel Citadel). While we all want to live the dream of turn two attack for 5 with Ornithopter, I think in the long run we’ll find it’s just not worth it.

Frost Lynx: Looks like one of the strongest tempo plays in the format. I expect this cat to partner with Quicklings and Peel from Realities to lock down some troublesome creature in a great many games of Limited, preferably while Welkin Terns are beating down. Another premium common for blue, so take highly.

Fugitive Wizard: This one, not so much. You’d have to be scraping for your 23rd card to even consider playing the Wizard.

Glacial Crasher: I don’t get the flavor of this card at all. That being said, a 5/5 body is a much better size then anything else at common, and it even has trample! I don’t think you can run this card without being Blue/Red, however, as relying on your opponent for the Mountain seems like a shaky proposition.

Hydrosurge: Filler common. Ignore unless you’re desperate for a trick.

Illusory Angel: A 4/4 flying creature is enough to get my attention. While this does have a drawback, casting it on turn five with a two-drop is not the worst deal in the world. Besides, I’ll accept more reasons to run Ornithopter quite happily.

Into the Void: A “smaller” Sea God’s Revenge, and anyone who’s played Theros Limited can tell you how good that effect was. In a pinch, can also rebuy your own creature for enters-the-battlefield effects. Very solid card.

Invisibility: The cost is reasonably restrictive, and there’s enough of a Wall subtheme in this set such that it isn’t straight unblockable. Nevertheless, if you need a way to grant evasion to push through the last few points, you could do a lot worse then this.

Jace, the Living Guildpact: Most Planeswalkers are very strong in Limited, and Jace seems like no exception. He starts on a massive amount of loyalty, so will soak a lot of damage for you if an opponent tries to take him out. This one seems like you just want to go for the ultimate, but a free bounce in emergency scenarios will be relevant when it’s needed.

Jace’s Ingenuity: Solid for any control deck. While there will be aggro blue decks in the format that don’t want this effect, there will be other decks that do. While it likely won’t be as good as Opportunity in M14, this is likely still first-pickable barring a super fast format, which I don’t think this will be.

Jalira, Master Polymorphist: Another card likely to do more fun things in Commander then anywhere else. Running this card isn’t exactly terrible – you can cash in creatures for a random one if they’re about to die, for example – there isn’t a lot of cheating of mana costs going on here, which limits the power of this considerably. (And if you are running mono seven-drops, you likely have other problems).

Jorubai Murk-Lurker: Another exciting member of the land type cycle. Jorubai gives us a cheaper Pillarfield Ox, and an amazingly cheap lifelink activation. If you get this one active, it will be very hard to race. I’m excited to play with this one.

Kapsho Kitefins: Looks like the top-end for those aggressive Blue decks I’ve been mentioning. I like that it triggers for itself, as well. Definitely a potent finisher. Bonus points if you kill your Chasm Skulker after playing this guy.

Master of Predicaments: Five mana 4/4 flier? Already good enough. Playing mindgames whenever you hit your opponent? An excellent bonus.

Mercurial Pretender: Notably, this Clone variant can only target your creatures, which lowers his value quite significantly. He’s likely still fine, though, provided all your creatures aren’t just terrible (Hi, Fugitive Wizard).

Military Intelligence: Oh my goodness is this card pushed. It’s just two mana! It rewards aggressive decks for doing what they already want to do! It’s awesome! If you see this, you are obligated to pick every Welkin Tern you see afterward always.

Mind Sculpt: The “six Mind Sculpts” deck was a staple of M13 draft, and would randomly get people. This time there’s no Archaeomancer, but there’s… Satyr Wayfinder? Necromancer’s Assistant? Keep in mind you’re going deep if you pick this, but hey, that’s where the fun lies.

Negate: I’ve always been a fan of the one-of Negate to catch any problematic non-creatures. it’s especially good when you nab an opposing Planeswalker. They usually go late, however.

Nimbus of the Isles: Messenger Drake was unavailable for this core set, so here is his replacement. Still perfectly acceptable, of course, but the loss of value is mourned.

Paragon of Gathering Mists: This Paragon, in contrast to the White one, is likely more about the activated ability then the static buff. That being said, most of the blue creatures already have flying, and the idea of 3/2 Welkin Terns does sound appealing. This guy will be a solid addition to many blue decks.

Peel from Reality: Reads like a drawback, but blue has enough cheap creatures/creatures with enters-the-battlefield abilities that it isn’t much of one. Notably, this is the only cheap instant bounce in the set, so keep an eye out for it.

Polymorphist’s Jest: I soooo want to run this with Circle of Flame and just get people. This is still fine as a standalone card, however. Even a lowly Coral Barrier will eliminate a frog, so the blowouts caused by this card will likely be great.

Quickling: Flash flying 2/2 for two? That’s excellent right there. Once again, the drawback can be manipulated to your advantage, such as Frost Lynx, or saving a bomb from a removal spell.

Research Assistant: A poor looter is still a looter. Yes, the cost is expensive, but if the game runs long, the advantage you’ll get will outweigh that significantly.

Soul of Ravnica: Like the other Souls, a straight up Limited bomb. 6/6 flier for six? Deal. We get more cards, even if it dies? Why, you’re too kind.

Statute of Denial: I’ve seen most people dismissing this, but I’ve grown a fondness for unconditional hard counters since playing with Countermand. Granted, there aren’t nearly as many four-mana tricks to disguise it in in this format, but it’s still worth trying before outright rejecting it. The looting is reasonable upside, as well. Finally, I love how Wizards are sneaking Fblthp into more cards. It’s so good.

Stormtide Leviathan: It’s eight mana, but this one kinda reads “You win the game”. Obviously, you’ll have to ensure that all opposing fliers are removed and that you’ve baited out all there removal, but if that’s the case, Stormtide should close the game quickly.

Turn to Frog: A reasonable trick for Blue. Blue has a number of 1/3’s that can capitalize on the diminished size. Remember that this can kill fliers thanks to “loses all abilities”.

Void Snare: Seems built for the aggro Blue decks as a means of temporarily clearing blocks out of the way, given it’s nature as a sorcery. You don’t want too many of these, but the ones you have will probably do work.

Wall of Frost: You know your deck is durdly when you’re excited to mainboard Wall of Frost. Grindy control decks looking for the lategame are the only decks that want these, so seeing one is an obvious signal of intent. Will stall some aggro seriously well.

Welkin Tern: At last, he’s been name-dropped all over this article. Welkin Tern is the premier reason a Blue beatdown deck will even exist in this format. Vaporkin did a fine job in Theros Limited, and this guy looks like he has even more support around him. Be afraid of any deck with 3+ Terns. I, for one, will be trying it.

Notable observations from this review
– There’s no Essence Scatter: All the unconditional counters are three mana or more, so we don’t have to be afraid of casting creatures into two mana.
– Most of the bounce is sorcery speed: This was mentioned in Peel from Reality’s writeup, with Chronostutter being the followup instant bounce. Combat tricks are more likely to resolve as a result.
– Blue looks to be playing a more supportive role: Outside of rare+, there aren’t exactly a lot of high-impact bombs in the colour. Blue is likely going to be best supporting the strategies of another colour.

And that concludes the Blue review! Let’s move on to Black…

Random.

 

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Magic 2015 Limited Review – White

I’m going to be trying something different for my set review this time around. I’m going to try commenting on every card this time around – however, I don’t want to litter this page too much with card images. As this site isn’t exactly optimized to view decklists, here’s a quick link to M15 in Gatherer instead. Hopefully, following along on a different page isn’t too much of a hassle, but we’ll see how we go.

Ajani Steadfast: An obvious bomb in Limited. The +1/+1 and first strike will ensure your creature survives the vast majority of combats, and the lifelink pulls you ahead (And this is ignoring the vigilance!). The -2 also promises get things in a weenie build with cards like Raise the Alarm. A slam first pick in draft and an amazing reason to be white.

Ajani’s Pridemate: A cute little build-around-me. While a two drop that scales as the game progresses is good, I wouldn’t want to go too deep on Soulmenders, and I’m not sure there’s enough incidental lifegain elsewhere in the set. Solemn Offering requires opposing artifacts or enchantments, and Tireless Missionaries is very mediocre. Ideally, this deck wants more cards like Sungrace Pegasus. If there’s enough support for Pridemate, however, he will be extremely powerful.

Avacyn, Guardian Angel: 5/4 Flying Vigilance? Sweet. Oh, there are more abilities? Awesome. Seriously though, the base body is good enough to run by itself (see Serra Angel), and while the protection abilities will be good, they’re just extra value on an already sweet card.

Battle Mastery: Likely looks better then it plays. Most of the creatures in this format have only 2 or 3 power, and while 3 is okay with double strike, you kind of want more oomph. Unless you’re paired with Green, then, it’ll likely be a bit lackluster. At the end of the day, this is still a three mana Aura, which is not typically the most impressive card by itself.

Boonweaver Giant: Seven mana. That is a lot of mana. Furthermore, there aren’t exactly a lot of exciting auras that you’ll want to put on this guy. Maybe, maybe, if you have a Spectra Ward it’s acceptable to run him, as even if you draw it first the Giant gives you a rebuy, and a 6/6 pro-colours is hard to beat. Otherwise, the best options seem like Marked by Honor and the aforementioned Battle Mastery, which are both fine, just unexciting. And you still get blown out by a bounce spell.

Congregate: Potential sideboard against a very aggressive deck (if they exist in this format), and maybe even mainboard if you’re going real deep on Pridemates. You’d have to have like 3+ though, which seems unlikely.

Constricting Sliver: Banisher Priest Sliver is a fine… thing, and certainly a very high pick. Despite the hefty six mana price tag. Removal that leaves a 3/3 behind is still quite good. This one doesn’t need other Slivers to be a great card.

Dauntless River Marshal: Assuming you’re in the correct colours, this is a two mana 3/2, which is already quite good. What interests me the most though is the tap ability. Not for the effect itself (we know that’s good already), but because the Marshal himself doesn’t have to tap to use it. I can very easily see this dominating late-game board states. If you’re not Blue, however, then this guy is just Bronze Sable, which is significantly less exciting.

Devouring Light: Divine Verdict this is not. Three mana already makes this a better deal overall, and the upside of exiling is significant (Black has some graveyard recursion in this set). However, the best part is obviously the ability to Convoke. This can be a zero-mana trick! I have a feeling the first few weeks of M15 Limited are going to involve people getting blown out by this card while their opponent is tapped out until they learn to respect it. An excellent card, take it highly.

Divine Favor: More fodder for the lifegain deck. The extra 3 toughness can be relevant, and was in M14 Limited. We all know the risks associated with auras, however.

Ephemeral Shields: Another sweet Convoke spell with the ability to “get” your opponent. Protecting a threat is always nice, and the ability to negate cards like Flesh to Dust is excellent. Likely a 5th-8th pick, but a very solid card for White.

First Response: Notably, this says “each upkeep”. That means things like Sign in Blood will net you a token in your opponents upkeep. Four mana is slightly expensive however, especially because it doesn’t do something right away. I’m not certain there’s a way to reliably lose a single life point either, to maximize the output of this card. Ultimately, this card is worth testing, but my gut is leaning toward “not playable”.

Geist of the Moors: 3 power flier for three mana? Deal. Try to avoid any Forge Devils.

Heliod’s Pilgrim: Oddly enough, this one is actually much better then the Giant, because it doesn’t place the aura on him. This allows you to go get stuff like Stab Wound and Crippling Blight instead. If you have a powerful aura, or even just a decent aura (like Marked by Honor) I would definitely try running this guy.

Hushwing Gryff: 2/1 flash flying for three is perfectly fine by itself. Try not to hose yourself, however, as that last ability affects both players. Wouldn’t want to play a Heliod’s Pilgrim when this is out.

Kinsbale Skirmisher: Generic two mana body is generic. If you’re a white weenie aggro deck, you’ll run this. If you need a body at the two slot, you’ll run this. Pretty straightforward.

Marked by Honor: We’ve touched on this card in some of the previous entries. +2/+2 and vigilance is certainly powerful enough to not immediately dismiss this card, and I would likely run a single copy in a white deck. One again, though, it’s an aura. Auras are risky.

Mass Calcify: Seven mana, but you could win the game if it resolves. I’d likely start it sideboard and bring it in if it’s going to be amazing, though I suppose I wouldn’t fault someone for mainboarding. Just be sure you have a plan for what to do in the meantime.

Meditation Puzzle: Straight lifegain is generally not worth a card, and the puzzle is no exception.

Midnight Guard: Another generic three mana body, this one with quasi-vigilance. He’ll do his job well. Remember this triggers when any creature enters the battlefield, not just yours.

Oppressive Rays: The activated abilities clause could be a lot more relevant here then it was in Theros block, between the Paragons, the land type cycle (River Marshal et al.) and even possibly the Souls. I wouldn’t value this too highly, but I think having a few is not the worst.

Oreskos Swiftclaw: Apparently I decided to re-review Journey. 3 power is big, as it looks like 3 toughness is the magic number for the format from early glances. Otherwise, generic two-drop that will fill the curve he needs to.

Paragon of New Dawns: The Paragon most likely to be employed for just the static buff. White has a strong theme of going wide in this core set, and +1/+1 to all of them is a significant boost. Vigilance is fine, but likely just upside. This Paragon likes to Raise the Alarm a few times.

Pillar of Light: A card I was quite happy to see in the full spoiler. With the graveyard ability on all the Souls, I was slightly concerned that the format could be “oh, you opened a Soul? Enjoy your free wins”. Exiling puts a stop to those shenanigans. That being said, you likely don’t want more then two of these, as that condition is, well, quite conditional. Especially so if three does turn out to be the relevant toughness number for the format.

Preeminent Captain: A quick search for Soldiers in M15 brings up five other soldiers, all of whom we passed by on the way to this card. While he will go on to do bigger things in constructed (hopefully), a 2/2 first strike for three mana is acceptable, if not exciting.

Raise the Alarm: Likely a very strong card in this set. It helps boost Convoke early. It supports the white weenie strategy. It’s an instant way to untap Midnight Guard. The list of synergies goes on.

Razorfoot Griffin: A four mana 2/2 is quite below the curve nowadays. So the question is how much does flying and first strike help it? The answer to that depends on how many fliers it’s beating in combat. Offhand, I can think of Carrion Crow, but this is one we’ll need to revisit after we have a better idea of what it’s facing.

Resolute Archangel: Again, seven mana. This time, however, it’s a 4/4 flying bomb that trumps anything in the air and also resets your life total so you don’t immediately die after casting it. Definitely worthwhile.

Return to the Ranks: If you’re the most dedicated white weenie aggro deck, then this is the card for you. Otherwise, give it a miss.

Sanctified Charge: I might have mentioned this, but Wizards wants white to go wide in this Limited format. This is one of those incentives to do so. Even a lowly 1/1 soldier token can become a 3-power first striker, which will likely win a lot of combats.

Selfless Cathar: A decent enough trick. He won’t be amazing, but he will make combats more annoying for your opponent. Pick him up if you’re aggro.

Seraph of the Masses: Very likely an uncommon bomb. Convoke allows this to come out reasonably early, and if it’s a 4/4, that’s likely good enough. Take highly.

Solemn Offering: Sideboard material only. Pick one up to be safe.

Soul of Theros: Bomb. Bomb bomb bomb bomb bomb. A single activation of this guy should be enough to put the game completely away. Can even be used from the graveyard. Good luck beating this card.

Soulmender: If you really want to be the Ajani’s Pridemate deck, Soulmender is here to help. Otherwise, stay away.

Spectra Ward: Planting this on any creature should be enough to make it into an unkillable threat. A creature with vigilance is likely preferred, though. Make sure your opponent is tapped out before you cast this to ensure it resolves.

Spirit Bonds: This card seems, dare I say it, oppressive in Limited. You get free (card-wise) 1/1 spirits for playing creatures, and those spirits can protect your other creatures? How do you ever beat this outside of destroying the enchantment? This seems incredible.

Sungrace Pegasus: As I mentioned, this is likely an integral part of the Pridemate deck. It’s not a bad target for Divine Favor either. I just realized Divine Favor is in this set without Dark Favor. Woah.

Tireless Missionaries: Five mana for a 2/3 is not going to cut it in the vast majority of decks. This likely means that it’ll be passed around to the lifegain decks that want it.

Triplicate Spirits: An early frontrunner for best white common, this is good for all the reasons Raise the Alarm is good. However, this time you get an extra token, and they all fly. I’ll give up my instant speed for that. Remember that creatures just summoned can contribute to other Convoke spells, so these guys can hold up an Ephemeral Shields, for example.

Wall of Essence: Another cornerstone for the lifegain deck. Also good for non-aggro white builds. Will likely be quite the stumbling block for the aggro builds.

Warden of the Beyond: If you can reliably get something into exile, this guy is obviously very powerful. the big ones that spring to mind are Devouring Light and Pillar of Light (Light exiles. Noted). If he’s consistent, a 4/4 vigilance is certainly a big obstacle for opposing decks.

That’s all for White! While doing a write-up for each card makes the article quite a bit longer, I feel it’s also providing a greater overview of the set. Let me know what you think.

Join us next time for the Blue cards.

Until then, Random.

Preparing for GP Sydney

M15 is fully spoiled, and prerelease is nearly upon us. The joys of a new set are some of the best times in Magic.

As the title so rudely spoils, I plan on attending GP Sydney in August this year, and the format as M15 Limited. It’s in my interests to knuckle down and start learning what makes the format tick, and I think the best way to do that is to document it all here on this blog.

After I do my initial set review, like I did for Born and Journey, I intend to post any practice events, be they paper events or MTGO, right here. The details will probably have to be worked out on the fly, as I have no recording software, and the camera on my iPad is straight up awful, but I’ll work it out.

While I’ve been reasonably distracted with Conspiracy drafting (and Vintage Masters also to a degree), I’m excited to get back to this blog and do my best in Sydney.

Going Deep with Dictates

Marshall Sutcliffe recently ran an excellent article about “going deep” in Limited. The basic premise of this is intentionally forcing an obscure or alternative draft strategy, mostly just to see how it works. The example Marshall uses in his article is Burning Vengeance from Innistrad. Build-around-me uncommons are an excellent example of this practice, especially in a triple-set draft environment, but it can apply to mechanics as well. For example, you could go deep on inspired in BTT draft, using Springleaf Drum and Triton Tactics to extract maximum value from inspired creatures.

A few drafts ago, I had the opportunity to go deep myself. However, the card I went deep on was no simple uncommon…

Pack 1 Pick 1: Hour of Need. An excellent uncommon and a great start to the draft. You pick up the next pack, and thumb through the available options. You pause when you reach the rare, which is still in the pack. A Dictate of Kruphix.

You consider the merits of taking a the Dictate. It’s on-colour with your first pick, and can certainly be quite powerful if properly built around. You also haven’t yet played a Dictate, through you have passed one in a previous draft. Eventually you decide to give it a try. The best way to judge a card is by playing with it, and who knows when you’ll see another one.

As it happens, the answer to that question is “real soon”. As you pick up the 4th pack and skim through it, you find yourself once again being met by a Dictate of Kruphix. You put your head in your hands and consider just how deep you should go. Somewhere deep inside, however, you already know the answer.

It’s time to go real deep.

Without further ado, I present the deck in all its glory:

Dictate Mill
2 Dictate of Kruphix
1 Bronze Sable
1 Deepwater Hypnotist
1 Sigiled Starfish
2 Nyxborn Triton
1 Chorus of the Tides
2 Bladetusk Boar
1 Mnemonic Wall
1 Prescient Chimera
1 Siren of the Fanged Coast
2 Lightning Strike
1 Magma Jet
1 Bolt of Keranos
1 Nullify
1 Thassa’s Rebuff
2 Countermand
1 Hour of Need
1 Griptide
1 Sudden Storm
9 Island
5 Mountain
2 Temple of Epiphany

This deck would definitely not have existed without my decision to go deep on the Dictates. Building around the flash enchantment substantially changed my pick priorities. I’ll break down some general categories:

Countermand – Once I had the second Dictate, I valued Countermand extremely highly. While the mill text is generally irrelevant to a majority of games, for this deck, it was an active avenue to victory as it would cause my opponents to run out of cards first. I only ended up with two, but I likely would have played a third given the option.

Burn – I was confident that my deck would be able to win the long game, due to Dictates and Countermands. My concern was surviving up until that point. The Theros pack was extremely kind to me in this regard. I think my first 3 picks of Theros were Strike, Strike, Jet, and they were all fantastic. Dealing with the early threats gave the deck room to breathe, and sometimes I could just play a tempo game with fliers, and then point the burn at my opponents faces to finish them.

Early Creatures – These guys were a concession to not being run over by a fast aggro deck. Starfish is clearly the MVP here, purely by doing what Starfish normally does. Nyxborn Triton was an acceptable body due to blocking the 2/X’s of the format, that had extra utility due to bestow.

Late Creatures – However, the 4-drops and above were generally very clunky, due to the need to hold up removal while deploying threats. This made Bladetusk Boar likely the worst creature in the deck – there was just no room to cast him while holding up a counter or burn until beyond turn 6. Chorus of the Tides was similarly weak, though amusingly if it had been Cloaked Siren it would have been one of the best creatures in the deck. Siren was probably the best of the creatures that attack, as between the rest of the removal in the deck, he generally became a 4/4 because my opponents couldn’t give up the only creature they had in play.

Mnemonic Wall – Yeah, this gets its own section. This was possibly the best Mnemonic Wall deck I have built in the format. With the wide variety of spells available to the deck, the Wall was able to provide exactly the effect that was required at any point. Wall returning Strike was a common one, but my absolute favourite of the night was 9 mana, Wall returning Countermand, when my opponent had no creatures in play.

Other Stuff – This deck was 16 lands, which was a conscious decision. I figured between the Dictates and all the scry available in the deck, I would have no concerns not hitting my land drops, and I was basically correct. When the deck made it to full-on turbo Dictate mode, I never had any concerns with land drops.
The Thassa’s Rebuff was possibly the worst mistake in the deck, however. I figured it would be okay with a Dictate and some random blue creatures. However, it frequently did nothing while I had no nonland permanents on the board.
Hour of Need was still good in this deck, despite it not being used that much. The additional angle of attack Hour gives a blue deck is phenomenal, and it was still great here.

My first game was an interesting one, mostly because my deck didn’t function at all like I planned it to. I was paired up against RW aggro and narrowly won a close game after beating down with my fliers and Boars. The second game, however, delivered. It was a glorious display of Burn, Dictate, Counter, more removal, and eventually finding my second Dictate and milling the opponent. I could have won with Hour of Need, but when you build a deck that wins with Dictate, you just want to make it happen.

Ultimately, this deck came second in the draft pod, losing only to the eventual first place player in round 2. Round 3 saw another match vs aggro, which also died to a flurry of lighting, followed by mass card draw (they even had a Fate Unraveler, the nerve!). This goes to show that “going deep” doesn’t necessary mean “losing with style”. If you can figure out your strategy to win, and correctly prioritize the cards that will enable that strategy, then you too could end up with a sweet deck that is doing something unconventional, but also something super fun.

If I hadn’t decided to go deep, I wouldn’t have ended up with one of the most fun decks I’ve played in the format. Hopefully, you too can come up with a sweet brew by deviating from the conventional draft strategies and trying something new.

Until next time,

Random.

Brewing with Blossoms

Recently I was bitten by the Eidolon of Blossoms bug, and found myself idly thinking about how to build around it in Standard. I then was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to play with it in Draft. Lets just say that didn’t help this condition, even with the amount of support my deck had for it. Today, I’d like to go through the process of building a deck around Eidolon of Blossoms and try to reach its full potential.

4 Eidolon of Blossoms
4 Courser of Kruphix

This seems like the default core of any Eidolon deck. Beyond the obvious synergy of Courser triggering Eidolon, Courser also filters lands off the top of the deck, helping ensure the Eidolon continually draws into impactful cards.

Sticking with just Green for now, let’s examine what the deck wants. Some early game ramp is probably desired (Elvish Mystic, Sylvan Caryatid), along with some more Enchantments to trigger Eidolon (Boon Satyr, Nylea). Finally, the deck would like some decent finishers so you actually have a way to win the game after drawing a million cards (Polukranos, Primeval Bounty). With all this, the first iteration of the deck looks like this:

4 Elvish Mystic
4 Sylvan Caryatid
4 Voyaging Satyr
4 Scavenging Ooze
4 Boon Satyr
4 Courser of Kruphix
4 Eidolon of Blossoms
4 Polukranos, World Eater
1 Nylea, God of the Hunt
1 Primeval Bounty
3 Setessan Tactics
23 Forest

At this point, it seems obvious that the deck is sharing some similarities with the Mono-Green Devotion variants that exist out there. The deck already contains Voyaging Satyr, Nylea and Polukranos. Perhaps we should encourage the Devotion aspect while using Eidolon as a value card. This will involve a few changes (Kalonian Tusker, Garruk, Nykthos).

4 Elvish Mystic
4 Voyaging Satyr
2 Sylvan Caryatid
4 Kalonian Tusker
3 Boon Satyr
4 Courser of Kruphix
4 Eidolon of Blossoms
4 Polukranos, World Eater
2 Nylea, God of the Hunt
2 Garruk, Caller of Beasts
1 Hydra Broodmaster
3 Setessan Tactics
19 Forest
4 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx

Ultimately though, the problem with a mono-Green build comes down to consistency issues. The green devotion builds are fairly prone to drawing too much mana with nothing to do with it, or opening hands with too many high-end cards that are forced mulligans. On top of this, Lifebane Zombie is a card that poses massive problems for green decks, and it usually comes with it’s friend Thoughtseize.

Splashing a colour to give the deck a bit more game seems like a great idea. Doing so will also allow the deck to play some temples, helping to improve draws, as well as interacting nicely with Courser. Let’s return to the four-of Courser and Eidolon shell.

If you can’t beat them, join them, right? Black offers a very appealing set of cards for this deck. It provides access to a very nice disruption package in Thoughtseize + Hero’s Downfall, and the deck also gets to run Brain Maggot as additional disruption that plays nicely with Eidolon. Herald of Torment is also an excellent enchantment creature that can help push through damage, even if bestowed on something like a Courser of Kruphix. Courser even helps mitigate the life loss!  Black even gives the deck the option of Doomwake Giant, which could be a very effective card against Elspeth, and Pharika, who makes enchantment tokens.

4 Elvish Mystic
4 Sylvan Caryatid
3 Brain Maggot
3 Herald of Torment
4 Courser of Kruphix
4 Eidolon of Blossoms
3 Polukranos, World Eater
1 Pharika, God of Affliction
4 Thoughtseize
3 Abrupt Decay
4 Hero’s Downfall
4 Temple of Malady
4 Overgrown Tomb
7 Forest
5 Swamp
3 Mutavault

Odd numbering is due to testing a new deck. Doomwake Giant was excluded in this build, although it might just be really awesome with Pharika, and it’s possible the deck should lean more in that direction. The sideboard for this deck also seems really good, and would include hits like Golgari Charm, Bow of Nylea, and Mistcutter Hydra. A single Whip also seems like it could be reasonable in this build.

What if we were to go maximum greed, however? White provides a sweet removal spell in Banishing light that also happens to be an enchantment, and allows the deck to use Elspeth as a top end win condition.

4 Sylvan Caryatid
2 Loxodon Smiter
4 Courser of Kruphix
4 Eidolon of Blossoms
3 Polukranos, World Eater
2 Archangel of Thune
2 Ajani, Mentor of Heroes
3 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
4 Thoughtseize
3 Abrupt Decay
4 Hero’s Downfall
2 Banishing Light
4 Temple of Plenty
4 Temple of Malady
2 Temple of Silence
2 Overgrown Tomb
2 Godless Shrine
6 Forest
3 Swamp

This is easily the most midrange (and the most greedy) of the versions we have, and the one most pulling away from the Eidolon plan. It seems very likely to me that this deck wants Underworld Connections as its card advantage source instead, freeing up more slots for game-winning threats. A straight Green/White version of this deck might exist, but I feel like that’s basically worse then just playing Hexproof and killing people (Unflinching Courage is pretty good).

Ultimately, the Green/Black version looks like the most interesting to me. The Eidolon offsets the 1-for-1 nature of cards like Thoughtseize and Hero’s Downfall, allowing you to get ahead and force through damage with cards like Herald and Polukranos. The deck also has enough interaction with spot removal spells, and the sideboard should be capable of handling anything other decks can throw at it. I’m genuinely excited to actually try building that list and see how it plays.

While this was a fun foray into Constructed, I feel like talking some more Limited! Journey into Nyx has had plenty of time to show it’s influence on the format, so in the coming weeks, I’ll be talking about those changes, reviewing my initial impressions from the preview season, and showcasing the most fun decks I’ve played in the format so far.

Until then,

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Journey into Nyx Draft Review: Multicolour and Artifacts

Concluding the remainder of the Journey into Nyx cards.

Disciple of Deceit

This guy seems real neat for the blue/black control decks of the format. All those decks ever want on turn two is a 3-toughness guy to block anyway, so we’re already winning here. On top of that, we have the ability to search for almost anything in our deck (discard 1-drop, acquire Mistcutter =D), making it more likely the deck can close out a game once it has stabilized. I like this guy and look forward to seeing what he’ll do for the control archetype.

Fleetfeather Cockatrice

As a proud member of the Simic Combine, this card confuses me greatly. I mean, don’t get me wrong, flash, flying and deathtouch are very nice and very clearly points toward this being used as a trick to kill things. It’s the monstrosity after that that is confusing. Are we supposed to ram this up against giant creatures so the deathtouch goes to work? Or are we supposed to be beating their faces with a 6/6? Either way, both mode are fairly good, so that card still does fine work. Even so, giant question marks.

Nyx Weaver

A lovely little enabler for the Green/Black graveyard theme that has been woven throughout the set (Pharika’s Mender, Saytr Wayfinder, etc). 2/3 reach blocks the majority of the annoying stuff in the air, and putting stuff in your graveyard enables cards like Nemesis of Mortals and the aforementioned Mender (Or even Nighthowler if you’re really like). The exile ability serves two really neat purposes: Stopping you from milling yourself, and ensuring that all the self-mill is not wasteful. Really like it, and I hope to see the full archetype in action during drafts.

Stormchaser Chimera

Solid creature, and solid beater. Seems like a great finisher for these colours, doing both heavy damage and card filtering. Also, the picture is sweet. ELECTRIC MINOTAUR HORNS.

Underworld Coinsmith

I just love this guy for his whole synergy with the grindy Black/White strategy. Goes well with all the Grim Guardians, provides a nice bit of reach alongside Scholar of Athreos, and in general just seems all around awesome. Another archetype I can’t wait to draft and grind to victory.

Armory of Iroas

Unquestionably a powerful effect. I just wonder if it’s too slow for the world of Theros. I tried it at prerelease, and while it was good the times it went off, I just question if that is the norm or the exception. The 2 mana equip is slightly clunky as well.

Chariot of Victory

This will most likely be at it’s best in red or green, where the average creature size is relevant enough to make these abilities matter. As really, first strike on a  2/2 in the late game is just not that impressive. Of course, you could have some giant suited up creature, but then you’re probably already winning? Not to mention the increased hate the Voltron strategy has. I believe the best use for this will be giving haste to freshly-played creatures, enabling you to keep the pressure on in the late game.

Deserter's Quarters

I want this card to be good, but the fact of the matter is we’re living in a world with a significant amount of instant-speed untap effects to support inspired (Savage Surge, Triton Tactics, etc). If you really need this to lock something down, which is the only reason honestly to run something like this, it’s entirely possible that one of these effects will come down to ruin your day at the most inopportune moment. I want to like it, but I don’t think it will deliver.

Gold-Forged Sentinel

I compare this card to Horizon Scholar, a six mana finisher that I was never really excited to run, but would if I had to. Here, we’re removing the enters the battlefield scry 2 in exchange for having a colourless creature. Decks that want a 4/4 flier will know if they want it (how do I beat a Prescient Chimera ever? etc), and everyone else will happily pass it. Solid role-filler.

And that concludes our examination of the Journey into Nyx cards! I can’t wait to get to drafting this set, it looks like a lot has been added to the format to really shake it up. Over the next few weeks, I plan to try something new and go over the rares in the format, before moving on to first impressions and how the landscape of the set has shifted.

See you next time.

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Journey into Nyx Draft Review: Green

We’re almost done with our journey through Journey. Two more to go!

Bassara Tower Archer

A very cheap, hexproof body seems deceptively powerful in the world of aura magic. Even a simple Feral Invocation makes this guy a legitimate threat. The fact he also provides two devotion is also a nice plus. Don’t let this one fool you – he’s probably going to be a very powerful force in drafts.

Colossal Heroics

This card is a good example of just how powerful and flexible strive can be. Expensive Savage Surge, as a base mode, is fine but not exciting. Hitting two creatures, especially in the middle of combat, moves more toward awesome territory. Anything after that, while unlikely, is great for breaking board stalls. I’m a big fan of the strive cards as long as the base mode is okay, and this one delivers.

Consign to Dust

Speaking of awesome strive cards, this one is great. We now have the whole block available for drafting, and enchantments are more important then ever. While it was always fine to have a one of Revoke Existence or similar, this one, of course, allows you to hit multiples without devoting several cards in your deck. Casting this for six mana seems like it will always be great, and I suspect this is going to be a very high pick.

Font of Fertility

I’m a huge fan of this font. Having it in your opening hand is basically fantastic, since there isn’t much else you want to do then aside from Sedge Scorpion. The colour fixing is welcome in any deck, allowing more freedom for three colours, or two with a splash. Finally, even if you draw it late, it’s a cheap trigger for constellation, and can even provide some devotion if you care about that. All around fantastic card, and I’d always be happy to have one in any green deck.

Golden Hind

Voyaging Satyr was widely considered the best common in Theros. This one has the potential to be even better. Not only does he functionally provide the important part of a Voyaging Satyr (jumping you from 2 to 4 mana), he delivers the beats and trades better thanks to his increased power. Super solid card and will be picked highly.

Nessian Game Warden

If you’re a green deck, you probably care about creatures. That makes this guy into a respectable 5-drop with “draw a card”. Except, it’s actually even better then that, because it’s the best creature within the top few cards of your library. Assuming you can cast this with at least 3 or even 4 Forests, I doubt this one will disappoint.

Pheres-Band Thunderhoof

Slightly weaker Centaur Battlemaster is now common? Actually, I’m not really sure this one is weaker, since the extra point of toughness goes a long way toward making him not embarrassing when you haven’t targeted him yet. And when you do, the difference betweena  5/6 and a 6/6 is pretty marginal. And if you could target either a second time, you’re probably winning anyway. Solid card, but competes with the plethora of 5-drop creatures available in Green. Still, he won’t let you down.

Ravenous Leucrocota

Another card I discussed during preview week, this one met all of my expectations at the prerelease (yeah, I’ll be cheating for the reminder of this article and drawing from actual gameplay). Slapping a Baleful Eidolon onto this guy is just plan sweet, simultaneously grinding the opponents’ offense to a halt, while you bring the beats as they search for an answer. An amazing 4-drop that helps fill the slight hole Green had in its curve. Love it.

Renowned Weaver

A sweet thing I discover at prerelease is that this is a way to trigger constellation abilities at instant speed, thanks to the Spider token being an enchantment. This can really help provide an edge in combat, thanks to abilities like the +1/+1 or prevent damage Nymphs. The 1/3 reach is not insignificant either, blocking random annoying things like Vaporkins, Cavalry Pegasus, and Loyal Pegasus. Considering the difficulty Green has with random flying things, having one of these on your side is perfectly fine.

Swarmborn Giant

This card was almost immediately pegged by most drafters as a very difficult card to evaluate. Undercosted fattie, but with a very significant drawback. What I found in actual gameplay was that it makes this a very skill-intensive card. You obviously can’t just jam it and hope for the best, as any random flier will make you sad. Or if they’re a weenie strategy swarming the board, he’s also kinda miserable. However, if you can plan out the course of the game, containing the evasive threats and making sure you have favorable blocks, this guy will dominate and take over the game. I persoanlly found it a very fun card to play with for this reason.

That’s all for Green! Green’s flavor hasn’t really changed from the last two sets: Play giant monsters, beat face with giant monsters. The differences typically lie with what your support colour is. All hail our G/B overlords.

Moving right on to multicolour and artifacts. Let’s go!

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