FNM Promo for November 2013

grisly salvage fnm

Much better looking art than the original

While some might say that the FNM Grisly Salvage is released rather late and not in time to ‘foil up’ Junk Reanimator or 4-color Reanimator strategies, I disagree. It allows you to run more one of’s and is essentially a creature/land Impulse. Junk decks are usually creature-based and we have yet to see what Theros brings to the table. Sure there is no graveyard interaction yet, but this is with only 33 cards spoiled (20 of which are the customary Basic Lands). Varolz might see some more play post-rotation and we might get a Phyrexian Dreadnaught/ Death’s Shadow – type creature in Theros. Who knows?

On the flip side, there is no Farseek or equivalent ramp/hit your third land drop card out yet (well, Lay of the Land, but come on). This might offer the versatility a BG deck needs. I see Black/Green at the time being because we have yet to see what kind of lands we are getting in Theros. Devotion to <color> seems to imply that mono or two color strategies will be favored. I am somewhat for that as it was just ridiculous to see people jam their Standard decks with ‘good stuff’ only to incessantly complain about color-screw when their deck didn’t ‘work how it was supposed to’.

It kind of reminds me of when I played Street Fighter 2 at the arcades and my opponents would complain that they dragon punch wouldn’t come out and blamed the joystick. Truth was, I was jumping in deep at the right time and they were to late to react with their controller. Rather than improve and acknowledge this fact, they just kept complaining. I feel that in order to grow as a brewer/player, one needs to accept their failures,mistakes, technical errors and learn from them. The amount of time spent losing early on is irrelevant as long as you progress and continue improving.

Once again, you can get these promos by playing at your local gaming store:

FNM_logo

2 given to top 2 and 2 as random door prizes, so stay until the very end!

Theros Previews: Wave 1

 

previews wave 1

For the next month or so, we will be examining what’s been spoiled in the latest Magic: the Gathering set – Theros.

Let’s get things started:

Polukranos, World Eater

polukranos

Hydras are getting mighty popular as of late

When it was first spoiled a lot of players were in disbelief. It’s a 5/5 for 4 mana with a pretty sweet ability. I know I mentioned this before with Deadbridge Goliath (eventhough it saw some competitive pay in BG Fight deck), but this guy is even more legit.

You get to choose what you ‘fight’ for starters, as opposed to just lashing out at all opposing creatures and risk dying. You can activate this ability as an instant, but of course it costs a lot of mana. You can easily slam it down early and just use it as a beatstick, no need to activate Monstrosity right away. I had a rather heated argument with a local gaming store employee as to how ‘good’ this guy is. He basically used the lame Doom Blade argument, which is pretty much a shame if that’s how you gauge creatures. He was willing to bet that it would not see much play in Top 8 lists and said it was not nearly as awesome a creature as Snapcaster Mage.

In my humble opinion, a creature that can remove opposing creatures will putting the beatdown to your opponent definitely merits a spot in ‘competitve decks’ (ie: Angel of Serenity). You just need to gauge the card on its own merits and on how well it would fit in the new format ( one that has yet to be defined). I believe that Wizards of the Coast is trending more towards creatures having abilities while in play versus the past 2 years of come-into-play abilities of Standard that we had. I might be completely wrong, but it sure seems that way with M14 and what’s been show in Theros so far.

I know that I will be trying to snatch up every copy of this card, despite it being printed in the Heroes vs. Monsters Duel deck. At very worst, I know it will be an auto-include in various Commander decks where you sometimes have more than one opponent. We all know how crazy mana ramp can get in those duels.

Anax and Cymede

anax and cymede

Boros represent!

Here we have an example of the Heroic Keyword (as opposed to Monstrous that we saw just above). It encourages you to cast ‘pump’ spells or does it? That’s what you would originally believe. The truth is: enchantments matter!

When you cast an Enchantment – Aura, you are targeting the permanent already. In the case of Anax and Cymede, even if your target were to expire – you would still get the Heroic ability to trigger.  It sometimes seems minor, but you have to think big. Big, as in what happens if you had an Assemble the Legion in play with quite a few counters and tokens in play. Yeah, it can get pretty ‘interesting’.

As we will see later, the Aura aspect can become even less ‘risky’ than we are used to. Will we no longer live in fear of two for one’ing ourselves? Maybe…

Destructive Revelry

destructive revelry

Shock meets Naturalize

I know, big deal right? Well, actually it is quite the big deal. In a format where we will see some enchantments being cast, this card is going to be in many many sideboards. The 2 damage is quite relevant because we can always redirect it to a planeswalker and possibly finish it off. It also gives Gruul decks a little more reach so that they can continue to churn out damage, as opposed to drawing a late-game Naturalize when they need that little bit of burn to win.

Satyr Hedonist

satyr hedonist

Let’s hope there’s no random child that happens to walk by …

We get a rather interesting fusion of red and green here. Satyr Hedonist can be cast on turn 2 as a ‘bear’ and then attack for two, sac himself and we get to cast some turn 5 fatty, planeswalker or other exciting card. Not too bad overall. More ‘explosive’ than a regular mana dork, but you only get that one-shot burst of mana. Fair enough, right?

Cavalry Pegasus

cavalry pegasus

Humans get to ride in style in Theros

Humans and Pegasus working side by side, isn’t that what Magic: the Gathering is all about? Well, not really. We get a cute little quote from Cymede (that was previewed just above) and a small hint that ‘Humans matter’ also in this block, but probably not as much as they did in Innistrad block

In limited it’s bound to be a high enough pick as it does what Trained Condor does in M14, only for potentially more value.

Basic Lands

We get 20 new basic lands here, detailing the wonderful landscapes of Theros (or ancient Greece). Thank goodness that these were reprinted because if they weren’t we would be stuck making all non-basic land manabases and we all know how costly those are, right?

Ordeal of Poruphoros

ordeal of poruphoros

Interesting way to ‘quest’ a Lightning Bolt

Whether or not this will get played in constructed is up in the air, but it’s an interesting take on the enchantment genre. It somewhat reminds me of the Zendikar ‘Quests’ , but also does something extra before you get to the quest reward. Another thing is that I noticed as a Greek-speaking person: Wizards has used the letter u (which sounds like an e in Greek) where they would otherwise put the letter Y (because in Greek u is y).

Pyrphoros – you get a sense of the ‘fire’, like with Pyro.

Poly-kranos – Poly as in many and kranos (cranium or head)

Just thought I’d point that out, most of you probably caught on to that anyways.

Bident of Thassa

bidentofthassa

Weird mix of Types and subtypes we don’t commonly see

So instead of getting Neptune’s Trident (Roman Mythology) we get the Greek Sea King’s (Poseidon) Bident. One less tooth. Also Thassa seems to be a shortened form for Thalassa (the Sea, in greek).

It’s essentially a Coastal Piracy with a random bonus. In the worst case scenario, it allows you to force would-be chump blockers to swing at you and die so that you can Counterstrike with your bigger dudes. It’s a cute combination of complimentary abilities, I’ll give it that much.

Anthousa, Setessan Hero

anthousa

At first, I thought she was tugging on their beards

Another nice Heroic ability on a reasonably costed body. You just don’t get to untap the lands (like with Rude Awakening), but you can easily just get a big ‘surprise’ swing to finish a somewhat long game or ‘flash in’ some blockers when you’re outnumber on defense. A simple Giant Growth cast before combat can lead to a potential 13 damage. Not bad at all! The Giant Growth example was just a random one, I’m sure we will get better cards to target her with in Theros.

The important point is that if you’re planning to attack with her AND her friends, you will probably need to waste your would-be combat trick before combat.

Ember Swallower

ember swallower

Even less than half of the Wildfire effect is pretty good

You might overlook this little guy, but it’s effect is quite insane, especially if you accelerate the Monstrosity ability with a Satyr Hedonist (above). There has not been much in terms of decent land destruction and it’s understandable since it usually grinds games down to a halt. It makes people unable to cast things and rage quit. Standard is not meant to be as ‘tight’ on mana as its Legacy and to a certain extent, Modern counterparts.

As with most red creatures, it seems rather strong at first until you realize that it doesn’t really fit into the flow of a regular game. Say you get it off to monstrous on turn 5 (with Satyr) , you basically sacrifice your 3 lands, going down to 2 lands and your opponent would go down to 1-2 lands. Sure, I can kind of see that happening barring any other kind of interactions occuring. It’s just that it can be slightly awkward sometimes, plus you don’t get to resolve the Monstrous ability if he gets dealt with prior to it getting +1/+1 counters (Doom Blade, lol).

It can reward you for building a sort of land destruction deck around it, but I’m not convinced that will be effective with all the playtesting that goes into Magic: the Gathering sets these days.

Abhorrent Overlord

abhorent overlord

Yet another Lord of the Pit

If we take it for face value, we get 2 little harpies and a big flyer for 7 mana. By the time we need to attack, we lose a harpy on upkeep then maybe get a big 6 damage in. Next upkeep, we ditch the harpy and swing in for another 6. On the next upkeep we lose our Abhorrent Overlord.

I know I made it seem a little on the bad side, but it really isn’t. The even worse scenario is he gets killed before his Devotion to black ability resolves on your empty board. The ability would check and see that the Abhorrent Overlord is no longer in play and you have no permanents with black mana symbols thus giving you zero harpies.

Despite all these bleak scenarios, there are times where you’ll just be getting insane value with this hitting play and you having a Dark Prophecy or two in play. Good times!

Shipbreaker Kraken

shipbreaker kraken

Release the Kraken indeed!

A reasonably costed kraken? Woah! there must be a catch. Nope, no usually ‘can only attack if your opponent controls an island’ garbage. The Monstous ability makes it a semi- Lorthos. If anything this thing will turn up in some casual Quest for Ula’s Temple decks.

quest for ula's temple

Perhaps it’s time for that Sea Creature blue-green planeswalker to make an appearance

If that much rumoured planeswalker does not appear over the course of this block, I doubt she’ll ever become a card. Kiora Atua is her name and she is found in one of the Duels of the Planeswalkers games.

kiora atua

Come out come out, wherever you are!

Celestial Archon

celestial archon

The new ‘safest way’ to travel

Remember how I had mentioned above that there was a better way to trigger Heroic with Auras? Well, this is it!

The main drawback of Auras is basically negated by the Bestow ability. Your enchantment targets no longer in play? No problem, you still get your enchantment as a creature into play. Think of it as a ‘Safe Kicker’ ability, you pay more but you are pretty much guaranteed to get something (barring counterspells).

This one is just the tip of the iceberg too, we will probably get lots more interesting ones spoiled later. The other bonus to note is that it will also basically become a creature if say – your opponent plays Supreme Verdict. You will get to recover from that pretty nicely. It will be interesting to see how control decks play around this strategy or if the format will still continue being mostly aggro.

Let’s hope we get to see more cool cards like Celestial Archon (note: he is a starter deck Rare) as the weeks pass.

and finally, we have a ‘God’

Thassa, God of the Sea

thassa god

Puts the ‘G’ in OMGWTF?

It’s pretty much confirmed on various other sites, so I’ll go ahead and show it anyways. I’m not sure what the ‘God’ subtype does but it seems strangely familiar to another to another CCG I played, Epic. I remember the ‘God’ type being talked about , but that was right before the game ceased to exist. However, I vaguely remember it being meant as a blatant rip-off of the planeswalker card type. Oh well…

Let’s examine this multi-faceted card.

I’m not entirely sure if the ‘isn’t a creature’ ability applies only when it’s in play or regardless of what zone it’s in. We will probably have to wait for the Theros FAQ for confirmation. It is a nice bonus even if it doesn’t feel that way. You basically have a kind of swiss army knife enchantment.

You get to scry every upkeep, reminiscent of Sensei’s Divining Top, only not as broken. You have protection from things that would otherwise destroy enchantments, since it’s indestructible even in enchantment form. You can cast a board whipe like Supreme Verdict since it’s also indestructible in creature form. Oh, and just in case you decided you need to win, you can make it or any other creature you control indestructible. In essence, this thing is like a planeswalker without actually being one.

The answers to it are going to be things like Detention Sphere and Celestial Flare or an instant ‘exile target creature or enchantment’ effect. So basically if you think this card is rated ‘R’ (for Retarded), you are very much correct. Thessa is going to cause a lot of headaches for the next 2 years. Of that you can be sure!

More to come …

 

Stay tuned for Wave 2

New Judge Promos: Vindicate and Genesis

vindicate

Sorin adding his flavor to an already spicy card

Every Legacy and Commander player will be clamouring for this update Vindicate. The old one is still nice and so is the original Judge promo, but let’s face it: most new players don’t know about the Weatherlight Saga nor do they care about some random dude stabbing the ground with his sword.

The quote is really really good too, making Sorin appear god-like (as planeswalkers are pretty much supposed to be). In Legacy it’s often used in Orzhov, Esper or Junk decks that ca support it. Destroying lands is really relevant in the format, but lower budget decks usually go with Oblvion Ring instead. It’s a toss-up as the O-Ring also takes care of baddies like Emrakul, especially if your opponent Show and Tells it into play (another card that got the Judge foil makeover).

genesis judge

Every Commander player’s favorite Incarnation

Genesis did not receive the artwork makeover as the original art is pretty appropriate despite being old. He too, was played in older Legacy decklists prior to Survival of the Fittest being banned (again another card that was Judge Promo’ed). Feel free to jam this into any green-based EDH/Commander deck and revive your favorite creature from the graveyard. The effect may seem a tad slow, but remember that Commander games tend to last longer than regular games barring infinite combos.

You can also just cast this guy and have him just die instead of trying to figure out other cute ways of discarding him to get him in your graveyard ( Fauna Shaman). I don’t know if anyone’s done a custom alter of this card featuring the Genesis 16-bit videogame console, but that would be pretty sweet!

Exquisite Bond

exquisite bond 2

by Steve ‘DDT’ Giannopoulos

I recall that it wasn’t that long ago when Exquisite Blood was gaining some casual momentum and people were really trying to build the Exquisite Blood/Sanguine Bond combo deck. It was probably Modern legal most of the time, but not exactly a ‘thing’. Then Magic 2014 happened and they decided to reprint this:

 

sanguine bond

Looks like a blood donor ad, no?

I instantly wanted to make it work and had the perfect ‘curve’ planned out for it:

Turn 4: Trading Post

Turn 5: Sanguine Bond

Turn 6: Exquisite Blood, win

Of course this implies that you are playing a land every turn here (even the 6th one, since you need to cast the enchantment and activate Trading Post).

It seems good in theory and you can even sub your turn 4 for a Diabolic Tutor to fetch a combo piece if you have a lifegain permanent already in play (Vampire Nighthawk). Of course, things never really work out that way in practice. The format is rather quick in Standard (don’t even get me started on Modern). You will not be afforded the luxury of having a high life total on turn 5. People play decks like Red-Green Aggro and Mono-Red that just rip apart your life total rather quickly.

We have to play the control role early on if necessary in order to achieve our mid to late game combo. For those not familiar with the combo, it’s rather simple:

With both enchantments in play ( Sanguine Bond + Exquisite Blood) either lifegain or opponent life loss will allow us to ‘go infinite’ and win. One enchantment will trigger the other and then loop until we decide to end it (or most likely when the opponent has lost all his life). It offers us a relatively risk-free win condition (barring counterspells, mostly).

exquisite blood

Yummy, yummy, yummy! I got blood in my tummy!

The reprinting of Trading Post inspired a pretty neat way to gain life, thus enabling the combo. It also gave us a great way to stave off some aggro so we may survive long enough to land and activate our combo. In addition to these bonuses, it also allowed us to effectively ‘Warleader’s Helix‘ our opponent each turn with a Sanguine Bond in play. This gives us the ability to win the game without necessarily having to combo. It also gets twice as good if we draw 2 Sanguine Bond instead of our Exquisite Blood (this is the main reason the deck plays a 4/2 split).

While we can still have played the deck without the Trading Post reprint in M14, it allows for some nice possibilities depending on what Theros will bring. If anything we can do sill things with Angelic Accord as well once Exquisite Blood rotates (end of October). Plus goats are big in Greece and Greek mythology, so there’s bound to be a Goat-related card to be released.

trading post goats

I even made a Trading Post playmat for the occasion (Now with more goats!)

We also have a little ‘backup combo enabler’ in Vizkopa Guildmage. He basically acts as Sanguine Bond # 5 in the deck in case our opponent does something nasty to our combo. Something like, oh, I dont know: resolving a Slaughter Games.

Here’s our tidy little decklist:

Exquisite Bond
4 Godless Shrine
4 Isolated Chapel
2 Mutavault
14 Swamp

24 Lands

2 Vampire Nighthawk
1 Vizkopa Guildmage

3 Creatures
2 Oblivion Ring
2 Prophetic Prism
2 Ratchet Bomb
4 Trading Post
1 Haunted Plate Mail
4 Sign in Blood
4 Mutilate
4 Barter in Blood
2 Exquisite Blood
4 Sanguine Bond
2 Diabolic Tutor

33 Spells

 
Sideboard:

3 Liliana of the Veil
2 Curse of Death’s Hold
2 Tormod’s Crypt
3 Sin Collector
3 Lifebane Zombie
2 Underworld Connections

You’ll notice that the deck is almost entirely monoblack with a few exceptions. In the main, you have Oblivion Ring which pretty much deals with permanent types that black typical cannot deal with (planeswalkers, enchantments and artifacts). It also allows us to play Vizkopa Guildmage as noted earlier.

Lastly, we get to cast Sin Collectors from our sideboard so that we can have a sporting chance against the blue decks ( I would almost be tempted to go with a fourth Sin Collector here).

The ‘final’ decklist underwent a few changes but the core stayed the same: we need to combo to win. It requires more testing, but we discovered this little Return to Ravnica gem:

 

codex shredder

Straight from your last month’s draft deck

This also, strangely enough, gave us an interesting alternate win condition. While one of these is unlikely to mill out our opponent, two might do the trick. It also fills the role that Nephalia Drownyard did in the Esper Control decks of months past: allows us to dig for cards (artifacts to recover with Trading Post). Lastly, its ‘Regrowth‘ option is just what the deck needed. Lost a combo piece? No need to jam Auramancer into the deck, just keep it all in the Artifact family.

The final list also runs Orzhov Keyrunes over Vampire Nighthawks (to hopefully accelerate into turn 4 Exquisite Blood or Sanguine Bond). While the deck is not 100% perfected, it does showcase an interesting slew of possibilities for this ‘archetype’. It’s not the kind of deck you’ll run to a Grand Prix or Pro Tour Qualifier with, but it’s a blast to try out at your local FNM or even Grand Prix Trial events.

Another route to maybe take here is to squeeze in one or more copies of this limited combo piece:

angelic accord

Wait, what?

We’ve all probably face this plus Bubbling Cauldron in draft or sealed events at our local gaming stores. Now with the ability to ‘Codex Shredder‘ back combo pieces we can go more all out on the enchantments while keeping a decent amount of artifacts and 0 creatures. We can pretty much make almost all of our opponent’s creature removal spells dead cards. If you absolutely must run a creature because not having any in your deck makes you a little uncomfortable, might I suggest one of these two:

blood baron of vizkopa

If he connects once, he can get the Angelic Accord ball rolling

If you have ever had to face off against this you surely know how much of a pain he can be to play against. Barring mass removal or cards like Mizzium Mortars, this guy is nigh-unkillable. It may sound a little exaggerated, but there are very few commonly played removal cards that can deal with him. Sure, he can get countered. We can still get him back if need be with a Codex Shredder every other turn (except if he was Dissipated).

He just keeps us in the game and can pretty much end it on his own even without the combo in play, thanks to his second ‘Achievement unlocked’ ability. Opponent at 10 life or less? Swing in and win!

of course, there’s the ‘safer’ pick:

obzedat

The Orzhov would like to have a word …

These Orzhov guys are good at dodging removal spells. While Obzedat is almost immune to mass removal and sorcery speed removal due to his ‘blink out for the turn’ ability, he is often going to get hit by the removal spells that the Blood Baron won’t. I’m talking about Putrefy, Murder, Orzhov Charm and the list goes on. Luckily, not many of those are really played (except for Putrefy in Jund builds). He slowly drains your opponent and simply casting him with the combo pieces in play will give you the game. No need to attack or anything, that would be un-Orzhov-like.

One little piece of removal both cards should watch out for (or almost any creature should, for that matter) is Turn/Burn.

turn burn

Stops almost any critter dead in its tracks 

Oh well! we can’t win them all, eh? From dealing with Thragtusk to Angel of Serenity, this little spell does wonders. It’s not commonly played at the moment aside from being a 2-of in various Red-White-Blue or ‘USA’ Flash builds.

If you are very concerned with your one creature getting countered you might be tempted to run a copy or two of Cavern of Souls. Don’t! It will ruin your mana base and just not be worth it in the big picture. If you doubt that, I invite you to experiment a little. That is why there is no real ‘finalized’ decklist. It’s more of a basic shell that you can customize according to your local metagame. Feel free to try things with the deck and reply with some results even.

After the end of September the deck will lose Exquisite Blood but it will still be mostly legal in some new form no doubt (possible with another splash color or just new colors altogether). Who knows? The only semi-engine to build around a bit will be Angel’s Accord and Trading Post. We know that Theros is going to be an ‘enchantment matters’ set, so we might be able to dust off those Underworld Connections we’ve been saving and create something spicy.

underworld connectiosn wallpaper

Speaking of Underworld Connections, I ‘ve been trying to find space for 2 in the main deck but it seems a little tight. 

Have fun experimenting and happy brewing!