Category: Deck Reviews


Magic 2012 Event Decks: Illusionary Might Review

illusionary-might-event-deck

Some time ago, we delved into the first of two Magic 2012 Core Set Event Decks, Vampire Onslaught. Today we will be looking at its brother, Illusionary Might. The mono-blue counterpart to the mono-black Vampire Onslaught deck, while Illusionary Might may not have the “money” cards that its Vampire cousin does. The Vampire deck is easily the better value overall, but there are some interesting cards still in here even now.

At the time, 2011, the Illusionary Might deck actually was probably the better buy for newer players, believe it or not. The reason for this lies in the editions of the cards. The Vampire deck had a great many cards from Zendikar, Worldwake, and Rise of the Eldrazi. That Fall’s Standard rotation meant the end of those cards being playable in Standard.

The Illusionary cards, however, were all from Magic 2012, and most of the other cards in the deck were in the Scars f Mirrodin block, which followed Zendikar block and was staying in Standard for another full year plus. In fact, you’dl be hard pressed to find a card that was cycling out with the next Standard rotation. The only notable one was the playset of Preordain, which was only ever printed in Magic 2011 Core Set and the Venser vs Koth Duel Decks.

Basically if you were looking to win in Standard at that moment, the Vampire deck gave you the better shell to start from. Long-term, however, this deck actually was the better choice for players not concerned with hanging onto what would be the few money cards in the deck long-term – the one Verdant Catacombs and the 2 Bloodghast.

One thing that Wizards began to do with these event decks was providing one deck that can pretty much win out of the box with minor changes – like the Stoneforge Mystic deck, which turned out to be a major marketing mistake upon the aforementioned broken card’s banning in Standard. The other deck could usually be had for much cheaper (though they have identical MSRP’s according to Wizards) and contain cards that would not be rotating out of Standard for at least a year. That was obviously quite on purpose, but it would end up back-firing sales-wise and hobby stores ended up with a craptonne of the “other deck”. Most of the time they’d sell them off for super cheap: $10 or so, and this deck actually has a couple cards that make that price tag actually reasonable, including Phantasmal Image.

While the New Phyrexia Infect deck was undoubtedly under-powered (and Stoneforge Mystic of course regained some value for its play in Legacy and EDH) the Illusion deck is actually not. Granted, it could use a couple more copies of the key cards. But when you break the deck down, especially by the value at the time, if you were to buy the deck from Star City Games, who had it at $14.95 vs the $34.95 of the Vampire deck, you were going to make all of your money back just in single card value.

Let’s look at the deck list:

Mana Base (24)

  • 19 Islands – Your standard basic lands.

glimmerpost

  • 4 Glimmerpost – Personally, I’m not a huge fan of this card in this deck, but it makes sense with the 2 play sets of creatures with Phyrexian mana costs. It’s not a bad play, really, but many would probably swap these with more Islands, or Glacial Fortresses depending on what other changes are made to the build.

glacial-fortress

  • 1 Glacial Fortress – This is a very good inclusion. It may not be a money card, but it’s still a card that stayed in Standard for awhile, and dual lands are always good cards to have, especially for EDH. It is a bit peculiar to place in a mono-colored Blue deck, however, but you could appreciate throwing in a token rare land that’s very playable.

Creatures (25)

aether-adept

  • 4 Aether Adept – Not a bad card at all in Limited, and it’s a Cube favorite that also sees play in EDH. But running four copies in this deck seems a bit extreme. There’s certainly nothing wrong with having an Unsummon effect on a 2/2 stick, but there were more efficient cards available, such as Vapor Snag.

grand-architect

  • 2 Grand Architect – This guy’s a lot of fun, and actually saw a lot of play at the time. Making your blue creatures gain +1/+1 is more than welcome, and he becomes a second Lord for your Illusions. He also combos well with your artifacts, also making them blue for a turn. He’s no money card, but he’s a solid play in this build.

lord-of-the-unreal

  • 1 Lord of the Unreal – Granted, you will want a second copy of this guy before playing this deck competitively, and wasn’t expensive at all, perhaps $2-3 USD. This guy’s extremely good, the Illusion Lord that makes this deck work. Unfortunately, he never saw much rise in value as Illusions never became a popular archetype. Although the next card has continued to be extremely good…

phantasmal-image

  • 1 Phantasmal Image – Perhaps the “money” card of this deck (he was worth about $5 USD on the secondary market and is a bit more now as of this writing), Phantasmal Image is the cheapest (as far as mana cost is concerned) Clone-type card ever created. Granted, it has the downfall of being an Illusion, but this isn’t an issue with Lord of the Unreal on the board. This is a guy you’d want a couple more copies of to make this deck competitive. It’s too bad I quit Standard not long after buying this deck, due to a bevy of reasons, but I wish I’d made a deck with 4 Images and 4 Lords at the core, with the Grand Architects to complement them. I think Illusions could have actually done something, at least at FNM and Local Game Shop events.

phantasmal-bear

  • 4 Phantasmal Bear – This is just a good card, and the perfect Turn 1 play for this deck. Quick, aggressive one-drops can win you many games, and for these guys to become 3/3 Hexproof beat-sticks with Lord of the Unreal on the board is just silly.

phantasmal-dragon

  • 3 Phantasmal Dragon – a 5/5 flyer for 4 mana? Pretty cool stuff, especially when they become 6/6 HEXPROOF flyers for 4 mana.

porcelain-legionnaire

  • 4 Porcelain Legionnaire – If you’re looking to be very aggressive with this deck, he’s not a bad play. He’s very playable for 2 colorless mana and 2 life (and you do have that one Glacial Fortress available to hard-cast him, as well). With the Glimmerposts, that loss of life won’t sting too much. But you may as well just run 4 Glacial Fortress.

spined-thopter

  • 4 Spined Thopter – A favorite in New Phyrexia limited, for sure, a 2/1 flyer for 3 mana (or 2 and 2 life) isn’t the best, but considering he’s easily a 3/2 with Grand Architect on the board is not too shabby. He’s already blue, so he’s easy to hard-cast and actually is well at home in this build. He’s a keeper.

precursor-golem

  • 1 Precursor Golem – A very interesting inclusion, and it isn’t too hard to see how this works. First of all, he creates 2 3/3 Golems besides himself. The trick is that anything that targets any of your Golems affects every single one of your Golems. Granted, with Grand Architect’s ability to change an artifact to blue, this is actually a plus for you, since all three of your 3/3 golems would become 4/4. He’s an interesting addition to this deck. You could perhaps build a deck that features Blade Splicers vs Porcelain Legionnaires, and do fairly well (but you’d need the 4 Glacial Fortress and perhaps a couple of Seachrome Coast to make it consistent.) Still, the Golem provides you with a couple of directions to go with this deck, and running the one copy certainly isn’t too bad, as there’s some synergy especially with the Images being able to get serious value from copying him.

steel-hellkite

  • 1 Steel Hellkite – I can see this card being fun in this deck. He combos with all of the other artifact support in this deck, and he also has some very interesting abilities of his own. He’s been played in the Grand Architect decks before, and at 6 mana could be tutored by Treasure Mage (along with his stalwart buddies Wurmcoil Engine and Blightsteel Colossus.) His pseudo-firebreathing ability isn’t too shabby, and he’s a flyer. The most interesting ability that I believe is often overlooked is his Ratchet Bomb like effect. By paying X mana, you can destroy all non-land permanents of a player that was dealt combat damage this turn (which becomes very one-sided considering that Ratchet Bomb hits you as well). While this sort of removal is a bit niche in nature, it can win you games out of nowhere.

Other spells (11)

mana-leak

  • 4 Mana Leak – A great inclusion in this deck. Granted, Mana Leak is a fairly inexpensive card, but it’s welcome to have a playset handed to you. This is going to be a fun card to slow your opponent down while you swarm the field with Illusions!.

mind-control

  • 3 Mind Control – This is a good card, and a very old favorite at that. Ordinarily, its casting cost is considered to be a little high to be very playable in Constructed, but with this deck, considering that you’re likely going to fill the board far more quickly than your opponent, a late-game Mind Control on an opponent’s boss creature could spell their doom. There’s also a fourth copy in the Sideboard, which we will get to.

preordain-m11

  • 4 Preordain – This is in fact the ONLY card from this deck that rotated out of Standard in October 2011. Granted, you did want to run it until then, and replace the play-set with Ponders come rotation time. However, Preordain is still a handy common playset to have in other formats, and being only a common, there’s really only minor loss of monetary value here. Setting up your draws is very important, so either Preordain or Ponder works in this slot (some competitive Standard players at the time liked to play 3 Preordain and 1 Ponder, in fact.)

If you add up the value of the 60-card deck, you would’ve easily regained the $15 USD in value that this deck sold for at the time – which well below MSRP, of course,.

Now on to the sideboard, which doesn’t have money cards, but very playable cards that should indeed be in your sideboard.

Sideboard (15)

  • 2 Flashfreeze – This has been a no-brainer side board card for blue decks since its inception in Coldsnap. In fact, for a common, it tends to be generally difficult to acquire, as popular as Blue decks are. It just makes red and green spells very sad.
  • 2 Frost Breath – One of the best common control cards ever printed. Tap down two opponent’s creatuers, and they don’t untap during their next untap step? That spells the end if you have lethal damage on the board and it becomes a numbers game between open blockers and attackers.
  • 3 Master Thief – While I’m not the biggest fan of Master Thief, it is essentially Mind Control for artifacts. Considering the great many artifacts played in Standard currently, it’s a decent sideboard play.
  • 1 Mind Control – The fourth copy of Mind Control that you will very rarely, if ever, actually sideboard in.
  • 2 Negate – A card that I personally am very glad to see back in Standard. Originally printed in Morningtide as an answer to Lorwyn’s brand new planeswalkers, it’s strictly better than Spell Pierce in that it’s still extremely playable late game. You would sideboard into these in favour of a couple of Mana Leaks against decks with consdierable mana acceleration. I can’t say how many times I will draw a Mana Leak or Spell Pierce and have it be an absolutely dead draw by that point in the game. Negate solves some serious problems, and is often best played late in the game, so it’s worth holding for that late game planeswalker or Genesis Wave drop. Great card.
  • 4 Neurok Commando – An interesting uncommon from Mirrodin Besieged, which are very good in matches versus control decks. With Shroud and cheap card draw, it’s a decent card. There are probably better sideboard options, but it’s not a bad inclusion.
  • 1 Stoic Rebuttal – Essentially a Cancel that becomes Counterspell if you control 3 artifacts. A second copy of this versus the extra Mind Control is probably the way to go here.

Clearly, this was a very good, playable deck, with some inexpensive additions. All you would need are a couple more Lord of the Unreal and Phantasmal Image and this deck can pick you up a lot of cheap wins. Wizards actually offered some good tips on their announcement page. I do like the Wurmcoil Engine idea, as it works with Steel Hellkite also being in the deck, giving you two targets for Treasure Mage. Caged Sun works well if you stay mono-blue, as well. Their suggestion of a single copy of Frost Titan wasn’t too shabby, either.

It wasn’t the worst deck for its MSRP of $25 USD, but you could guarantee be able to purchase it for between $15-20. Nowadays, however, they sell closer to $20. But as there are only a couple cards in this deck that retail for more than $1 a piece (Precursor Golem, Lord of the Unreal, and Glacial Fortress) and one $5-7 card, Phantasmal Image, you’re better off just buying the separate cards yourself.

At the time, if you we re looking for a cheap deck that only needs minor tweaks to win, and you were playing on a budget, this is the deck for you! Nowadays, I’d avoid this deck altogether and just buy Phantasmal Images and Lord of the Unreals as singles.

But, oh there was potential here. If only Wizards had made this good out of the box…

– Elspeth for the WIn

Recently, we reviewed the Magic 2015 Clash Pack, which was made up of two decks, “Fate” a blue/green tempo deck, and “Fury” a red/green aggro deck. Today, we’ll take a look at improving upon the “Fate” deck.

Before I begin, let me note that with any pre-constructed deck improvement article, I will not be including cards from the block that is about to rotate out in October. This means that there will be no cards from the Return to Ravnica block. This means that cards such as Master Biomancer, which would work quite well in this sort of deck, are out, as are shock lands such as Breeding Pool. It doesn’t mean that you can’t use them, but for purposes of this exercise, they will not be seen as potential options. Everything in this deck will be from Theros on, which is part of the challenge – to build a Standard-legal deck that will be good for the longest amount of time while still being competitive.

Here’s the list we begin with:

“FATE” (Blue/Green)

Creatures (22)
1 Prognostic Sphinx
1 Prophet of Kruphix
1 Hypnotic Siren
2 Leafcrown Dryad
2 Omenspeaker
3 Vaporkin
3 Kiora’s Follower
2 Frost Lynx
2 Nimbus Naiad
2 Thassa’s Emissary
3 Horizon Chimera

Spells (13)

2 Negate
2 Pin to the Earth
1 Voyage’s End
2 Divination
2 Griptide
1 AEtherspouts
2 Jace’s Ingenuity
1 Curse of the Swine

Lands (25)
1 Temple of Mystery
7 Forest
17 Island

As constructed, “Fate” is not a bad blue/green tempo deck with plenty of evasion, at least for an introductory product.  Prognostic Sphinx, Prophet of Kruphix, and Temple of Mystery are all Constructed playable cards. So what stays and what goes?

First let’s go over the creatures. The Sphinx and Prophet will certainly stay.

  • Hypnotic Siren is interesting. But it’s a very situational card, and its ability to steal a creature is only going to be relevant in the late game. As it stands, one copy isn’t going to do much. It can probably go, as it’s the only one-drop creature in the deck.
  • Leafcrown Dryad is a 2/2 with Reach that can be bestowed to give a creature 2/2 and reach. It’s not a bad card, and those can stay for now. Omenspeaker is a two-drop 1/3 that gives you Scry 2. This ability to set up your draws is pretty nifty. They can stay for now, as well.
  • Vaporkin is a 2/1 flyer that can only block other flyers. The obvious choice to replace these would be Cloudfin Raptor, but as those are not in Theros block, for this exercise I will not include them. But there are better flyers than these available.
  • The 3 Kiora’s Follower can stay as they will help this deck be able to “ramp” into its better creatures more quickly.
  • Frost Lynx is really nice in Limited, but there are just stronger creatures that can go into this slot. Nimbus Naiad is a flyer with Bestow that I’m fond of, but we may find something stronger.
  • Thassa’s Emissary is nice in that it can draw you cards and give the enchanted creature the ability to draw you cards whenever it deals combat damage. But I’m not totally convinced it’s so strong in Constructed.
  • Horizon Chimera is a card that I’m quite a fan of. The three copies can stay.

The first thing I would do is replace the Hypnotic Siren and the 3 copies of Vaporkin with 4 copies of Flitterstep Eidolon.

flitterstep-eidolon

Flitterstep Eidolon is a 1/1 un-blockable for 1U that can also be Bestowed onto another creature for 5U. That sounds like a lot, but in this deck, with the Prophet of Kruphix to untap all your lands and giving your creatures Flash, that is very possible to happen a lot earlier in the game than you’d think. Because Flitterstep Eidolon is a Creature as you cast it, the Prophet gives it Flash before it actually becomes an Aura through its Bestow ability (For rulings reference.) Making something un-blockable is a lot better than simply giving it flying, and you have big enough creatures in this deck that you would want to become un-blockable.

The two Frost Lynx and Thassa’s Emissary will go for a full playset of Boon Satyr.

boon-satyr

Boon Satyr fits right into the theme of the deck, plus it already has Flash on its own. A 4/2 for 1GG is already pretty good. Because Boon Satyr is a green card, and we’re cutting blue cards, we’ll have to tweak the mana base a bit later, but that shouldn’t be too much of a problem, considering we’ll be adding 7 dual lands to the mix. The Satyr adds some nice combat tricks and is perfect to stick on a Flitterstep Eidolon.

The Nimbus Naiads are nice flyers, but they’re a bit vanilla, so we can cut them for 2 more Omenspeakers. Much as I like them, the Leafcrown Dryads will also go for a second Prophet of Kruphix and a second Prognostic Sphinx.

Prophet_of_Kruphix

Prophet of Kruphix may be the best card in the deck. It’s only a 2/3 for 3GU, but it allows you to untap and creatuers and lands you control during each other player’s untap step. Not only that, it allows you to cast your creatures as though they had flash. As mentioned earlier, this includes your Bestow creatures. This is why we need a second copy, in case our first copy is destroyed.

prognostic-sphinx

Prognostic Sphinx isn’t bad, either. Being a 3/5 flyer that can give itself hexproof by discarding a card is not bad. Plus, whenever he declares an attack, you get to scry 3. Being able to see the next three cards, and put those you don’t want to the bottom is extremely helpful. Plus with a Boon Satyr and a Flitterstep Eidolon on him, he can do some serious damage (becoming a 8/8 creature that can’t be blocked!)

The three Horizon Chimeras will remain, as they have Flash, Flying, and Trample, which works very well alongside the other creatures we have added.

Already, the creature line-up is far better. So now onto the non-creature spells.

dissolve-theros

Negate is fine for dealing with non-creature spells, but Dissolve is a lot better for just one more blue mana. It counters any spell, plus it allows you to Scry for 1. Pin to the Earth is good in Limited, but we can find something stronger. It may be better to replace those two copies with two more copies of Voyage’s End, which un-summons a creature and lets you scry for 1. It helps you  to save your own creatures from removal at instant speed, as well, and fits very well into the tempo theme that we’re going for.

Divination and Jace’s Ingenuity are nice card draw, but the latter costs five mana, and even at instant speed, that’s a lot for Constructed. Griptide is nice, but at 4 mana it’s an expensive un-summon. Aetherspouts is a much better card than Griptide, and it’s only one more mana to potentially deal with far more creatures. Curse of the Swine is nice removal, but it’s really only good in this build as a sideboard card.

One of the Griptide will go for another copy of Aetherspouts. The two Divination can go, being at sorcery speed, but we’ll keep the two Jace’s Ingenuity in, as being at Instant speed makes them work well with the Prophet of Kruphix. The Curse of the Swine will be replaced by another copy of Dissolve. We’ll also cut one of the Islands, as you really only need 24 land for this deck, adding in another Voyage’s End to keep up the tempo game.

The other Griptide and the Divinations will be replaced by a certain four-drop Planeswalker by the name of Kiora.

kiora-crashing-wave

You may ask, why three copies? That’s because Kiora. the Crashing Wave only has two loyalty to start. Much of the time you’ll be using her -1 ability to draw a card and play an additional land that turn. Her +1 could be relevant, of course. That emblem could definitely be relevant, as well, and with three copies of Kiora, you get a much higher chance of one of them potentially gaining you that emblem. A four-drop will be fairly easy to cast in this deck.

yavimaya-coast-magic-2015

As for the mana base, we will be obviously keeping the one Temple of Mystery. We’ll be cutting 7 islands, going down to 9 total, and adding in three more copies of Temple of Mystery, plus four copies of Yavimaya Coast, the green/blue “pain” land from Magic 2015.

As now constructed here is the list

Creatures (22)

Prognostic Sphinx
Prophet of Kruphix
Omenspeaker
Kiora’s Follower
4 Flitterstep Eidolon
4 Boon Satyr
3 Horizon Chimera

Non-Creature Spells (14)

Dissolve
Voyage’s End
Jace’s Ingenuity
AEtherspouts
3 Kiora. the Crashing Wave

Lands (24)

Temple of Mystery
Yavimaya Coast
7 Forest
9 Island

This new build still has a tempo feel to it, countering your opponent’s more important spells with Dissolve, and setting back their tempo with Voyage’s End, while in both cases also setting up your next draw. You also have instant speed card draw for those turns when you aren’t casting any creatures, but being able to play that while threatening something as threatening as a Boon Satyr or AEtherspouts helps play some mind games with your opponent.

The deck now has pure power, building around its two marquis cards in the Sphinx and the Prophet. The deck is built around pumping them up and hopefully making them un-blockable. The Horizon Chimeras with their flying and trample make them powerful evasive creatures. The Omenspeakers help you set up your draws while holding the ground, and the Kiora’s Followers tap to untap your lands to be able to do more with your mana.

Plus, you have three copies of Kiora to draw you cards and help you to play extra land, while keeping opponent’s big creatures at bay. Threatening one of her emblems is also fun.

Overall, these upgrades are not incredibly pricey, outside of the Kioras. But as this deck will be good until October 2015, with potential upgrades coming in Khans of Tarkir, it’s definitely worth a run. Do keep in mind that this list is built for Standard. If you’re a Modern player, or a Casual player, then there are plenty of other ways you could go with this list. But with the cards available from the Theros block and Magic 2015, this seems like the best deck to run.

There are obviously other ways to improve upon this deck, but this seemed the most obvious route to me. How would you alter the “Fate” deck from the M15 Clash Pack?

– Elspeth for the Win

//ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ss&ref=ss_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=wintargam-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=B00KXY3NS4&asins=B00KXY3NS4&linkId=5PRKKWOQCP43ASMD&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true

The Magic 2015 Core Set Clash Pack is available on Amazon.com.

vampire-onslaught-magic-2012-deck

The Vampire Onslaught Event Deck from the Magic 2012 Core Set may be one of the best event decks Wizards has ever released! Its Magic 2012 Core Set counter-part, Illusionary Might, was not a bad buy for newer players, as it formed the basis of a fun Illusion-based deck that with some tweaks was a playable FNM deck. But Vampire Onslaught was, and still is, easily the best money deck of the two. In fact, it may be the best money deck ever put together as a pre-constructed release by Wizards of the Coast.

Why is this? It has a Verdant Catacombs/strong> in it. As of June 2014, it’s still a $45 card.

Let’s take a look at the list, which is actually pretty solid even beyond the fetch-land.

Lands (24)
23 Swamp
1 Verdant Catacombs

If you could get this deck back in the day at its MSRP, you already had made an incredible investment. Alas, I sold my four Verdant Catacombs back when they were worth about $15-20 (so I technically still profited from the deck.) That was back in 2011. There was no Modern yet. Oops.

But wait, there’s a lot more in here that is pure value.

Creatures (29)
2 Bloodghast

Bloodghast is a very, very good card that was long a Vampire deck staple. A card that can come back from the graveyard any time you play a land is pretty ridiculous. In Modern Dredge, he’s a fantastic card. Back then he was about $7 a copy, and still sells for roughly that same price today. Two copies of this in a single deck is fantastic.

4 Bloodthrone Vampire

Not a bad common, but it was in Magic 2011, and not in the 2012 Core Set. It combos very well with other cards in the deck, as it gains +2/+2 each time you sacrifice a creature. It’s not bad when you see how many cards work off of sacrificing creatures in the deck. (Interestingly enough, for those that actually looked to play this deck, Bloodthrone Vampire was in fact reprinted in Magic 2013.)

4 Gatekeeper of Malakir – One of the best uncommons out of Zendikar, second only to Vampire Nighthawk, he’s a 2/2 for 2 black, but it’s his kicker effect of one extra black that he’s played for. It makes your opponent sacrifice a creature. On turn three, when this guy was ordinarily played, that is a major setback, especially against a quick swarming deck like Vampires. Basically, you only ever play him as a three-drop. Then he becomes expendable for your Bloodthrone or Viscera Seers, which we’ll get to.

As of August 2011, a playset of these could cost as much as $10 USD on the secondary market. Unfortunately, they are no longer nearly near that value, partly due to a reprint in the Sorin Vs Tibalt Duel Deck, but also because he doesn’t see much Modern play. Still a good card.

1 Kalastria Highborn – The Highborn has long been one of my personal favorite Vampire cards, and she’s quite deadly. Whenever one of your creatures goes to the graveyard, you may deal 2 damage to target player or creature and gain 2 life. It’s that deal 2 damage to a creature that is most deadly. With how many expendable creatures you have in this sort of deck, the Highborn can get ridiculous. Securing a second copy of her for this deck was a pretty darn good idea at the time. She used to sell on the secondary market for about $5 USD, although now in 2014, she’s about a $2-3 card – sStill well above a bulk rare.

4 Pawn of Ulamog – Not a card you see very often, but this uncommon from Rise of the Eldrazi certainly isn’t bad. Any time a non-token creature of yours goes to the graveyard, you may get a 0/1 Eldrazi Spawn token, which can be sacrificed to give you 1 colorless mana. Probably not the best card choice for competitive Vampire decks, but with this particular build, there are advantages to having these tokens.

1 Vampire Hexmage – It seems a bit silly to only run one Hexmage. She’s pretty darn good, as she can one-shot kill planeswalkers and remove all the counters from any card. Plus, she’s a 2/1 with first strike, and that’s always good, especially for 2 mana. There are 3 side-boarded, but 2 main-board is a better move.

4 Vampire Lacerator – A solid little one-drop that used to see tons of Standard play. He’s a 2/2 for one mana, but if your opponent has more than 10 life, you have to pay 2 life during each of your upkeeps. The sad part about this is that it’s not an upkeep cost, you can’t choose not to pay it. This isn’t really that bad, though. Most of the time, you’ll be ahead in life anyway. Vampire decks could gain life back in a hurry and deal a lot of damage before many other decks can get set up, so running 4 is perfectly fine.

2 Vampire Nighthawk – There’s probably no excuse not to run full play-set of Nighthawks in a Vampire deck. 3 mana (1BB) for a 2/3 Flyer with lifelink and deathtouch makes for a very strong creature. The Nighthawk helps you both gain back lost life,hold the air, and hold off opponent’s larger creatures. It’s just an all-around spectacular card playable in any format.

3 Vampire Outcasts – The only of TWO Magic 2012 Core Set cards in the entire deck and the only card in the maindeck that will be legal in Standard come October (barring any reprints in Innistrad, and it isn’t out of the question we could see a few of these other cards reprinted). Vampire Outcasts is for four mana, two of which are black, a 2/2 with Lifelink and Bloodthirst 2. Now, a 4/4 with Lifelink is certainly not too bad. The truth is that you could easily swap these out for 2 Nighthawk and 1 Hexmage and have a far better deck, not to mention a lighter mana curve. Just not really too good a card outside of Limited, and not worth being in this deck.

4 Viscera Seer – A 1-drop 1/1 with the ability: Sacrifice a creature. Scry 1. Now, scrying 1 doesn’t sound that great. It seems far too high a cost to just see what your next card is and possibly put it to the bottom of the deck. But with Kalastria Highborn and Pawn of Ulamog in the deck, sacrificing a post-kicked Gatekeeper or a Vampire Lacerator that’s already swung for damage or outlived its usefulness certainly isn’t too bad. Most good Vampire decks only run a copy or two, which is probably good enough. (Also an excellent card for those Modern Pod decks!)

Non-Creature Spells (7)
2 Blade of the Bloodchief – Not a bad rare from Zendikar. Very playable in a Vampire deck. It’s a good equipment, but equipment in Vampires probably isn’t the greatest play. Still, gaining a +1/+1 counter every time a creature hits the graveyard (this includes even token creatures), and gaining a +2/+2 counter if it’s a Vampire, is certainly a lot of fun. It’s perhaps the crux of this deck’s strategy, hit for a ton early on…

4 Dismember – One of the best removal spells, ever. While they no longer sell for about $5 USD a copy, a play-set of Dismember is still quite valuable.

1 Mimic Vat – This card is a bit of a head-scratcher. It’s not that it’s bad. It’s a fun rare in Scars of Mirrodin block Limited, no doubt about that. Whenever a creature would go to the graveyard, you exile it instead and imprint it to Mimic Vat. You can do this any time you want, but each time you do, the card that was imprinted before goes to its owners graveyard. You can then pay 3 and tap Mimic Vat to create a token copy of that creature, that gains haste and is exiled at the end step. Honestly, why would you use mana in this way for Vampires? It just seems to be a waste. It’s not a bad card, but it shouldn’t be in a Vampire deck. Sure, it can copy a really good creature of your opponents, but it’s still quite an investment of mana. Granted you could use the spawn tokens from the Pawn of Ulamog and combo with your Viscera Seers and Kalastria Highborn for some cheap damage, lifegain, and deck manipulation, but this isn’t really the best tactic. It’s a silly card that really doesn’t belong in this deck.

Sideboard (15)
4 Distress – The SECOND of two Magic 2012 Core Set cards in the deck. Double black sounds like a bit much for a discard card, but it can discard any of your opponent’s non-land cards. There are situations you may want to board these in, perhaps against combo decks, but ordinarily you won’t. Still, not a bad card, but I still prefer the original Kamigawa/Tenth Edition artwork. The new one’s too creepy for me. Still, with no Duress or Inquisition of Kozilek in sight past October, it’s not a terrible option.

2 Go for the Throat – Very solid removal card against any deck that doesn’t run artifacts. It’s not out of the question to main board at least one of these over the Mimic Vat, and another over a Seer. It helps you kill a lot of whatever Dismember can’t.

4 Skinrender – Far from being a bad card, it’s some decent removal with its ability to put 3 -1/-1 counters on target creature. It is mandatory, however. Still, 4 mana is certainly worth it, and he’s a 3/3 creature. But he is a Zombie, and not a Vampire. He’s not a bad card. Certainly hold onto your playset, but he’s far better in a Zombie deck (Call of the Grave, anyone?)

3 Vampire Hexmage – At least one of these belong in the main board. Two should be in the side to make cards like Shrine of Burning Rage and Koth of the Hammer/Chandra the Firebrand sad.

2 Vampire Nighthawk – These should be in the mainboard. ‘Nuff said.

In the “How to Play the Deck” pamphlet that Wizards always include in these sorts of product, it was suggested to add Bloodlord of Vaasgoth to the deck. As a one of, that card was never too bad, but it rarely saw play. The trick with Vampires has always been to keep a low mana curve and swarm the board. Malakir Bloodwitch is another suggestion, and she was never a bad option for the sideboard as far as her protection from White is concerned. (She could stop Gideon Jura, for example, who was a massively played card in those days.)

Overall, this was a fantastic value for the money. As far as “Bang for Your Buck” was concerned, you would have probably get about $60 market value per deck, at a typical cost of $25-$35 a deck, even back in 2011. It was a no-brainer buy. They’re obviously very rare now. If you happen to find any hanging around for less than $50, they’re easily worth the buy. But you’d be lucky to find them for under $100.

This has been another Throwback Thursday Deck Review. If there’s any pre-constructed deck or even a Top deck from the past you’d us like to review, let us know!

– Elspeth for the Win

//ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ss&ref=ss_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=wintargam-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=B005GYTJDO&asins=B005GYTJDO&linkId=KT7QE7ES46VM56PB&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true//ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ss&ref=ss_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=wintargam-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=B002R3M8LC&asins=B002R3M8LC&linkId=USPLF7KPP5DXA2Q2&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true

gatecrash-thrive-and-thrash-event-deck

“Thrive and Thrash” was one of two Event Decks that Wizards of the Coasts released for Gatecrash, the second set in the Return to Ravnica block. Its counterpart, the red/white “Rally and Rout” was far more popular, as it had a bit more “value” in it. Boros was a far more popular guild, and the Simic (green/blue) event deck was pretty much destined not to sell as well. Wizards reprinted Thragtusk, making it the third time that the once Standard staple had been included in an Event Deck.

Overall, however, this deck was not quite as easily playable out of the box as “Rally and Rout.” As with many blue/green decks, the strategy to playing the deck well was far more complex than the straightforward aggressive red/white strategy. definitely the trickier of the two to play.

Let’s take a look at the list:

MANA BASE

2 Evolving Wilds
10 Forest
6 Island
1 Mountain
4 Simic Guildgate

At the time, the inclusion of the blue/green Innistrad “buddy” land Hinterland Harbor, would have been a nice sight. A Breeding Pool would’ve been even better, and would have sold plenty of copies of this deck on its own. There is, however, a purpose to that singleton Mountain.

CREATURES

2 Acidic Slime
4 Arbor Elf
3 Borderland Ranger
1 Deadeye Navigator
1 Dungeon Geists
2 Fog Bank
1 Gruul Ragebeast
2 Mist Raven
1 Sphinx of Uthuun
3 Strangleroot Geist
1 Thragtusk
1 Wolfir Silverheart
1 Yeva, Nature’s Herald

At the time, Wolfir Silverheart was a pretty valuable rare, as was of course Thragtusk. The rest of the rares were interesting, but fringe playable cards at that point in Standard. However, there were methods to the madness in these card selections. Gruul Ragebeast does have the ability to finish a game off, with his automatic fight trigger that works with a good number of creatures in the deck. Dungeon Geists was a useful creature, as well, keeping problem creatures tapped down for good as long as the Spirit stuck around. Yeva, Nature’s Herald gives all of your green creatures Flash and has flash on her own; there are enough green creatures in the deck to warrant her inclusion.

For those that played during that Standard format when Thragtusk was around, you would remember the power that he had. He gained you 5 life upon entering the battlefield, and whenever he’s removed from the field, you get a 3/3 beast token. The pure value for 5 mana, requiring only a single Green mana, meant that he rounded out the mana curve of many decks in the format, helping you stabilize a tough situation and get a 3/3 creature if Thragtusk is somehow removed. This was the money card in the deck, by far.

Three Strangleroot Geists made perfect sense as a green creature staple. Arbor Elves and Borderland Rangers helped mana fix in different ways. Mist Raven could be a handy little control card, while Fog Bank is a highly useful Defender that is difficult to get through.

The inclusion of Deadeye Navigator was interesting. He had nice interactions with Thragtusk, Dungeon Geists, and perhaps Mist Raven and Borderland Ranger. Lastly, you had Sphinx of Uthuun. Often called “The Sphinx of Unfun,” he basically acts as a Fact or Fiction on an enter the battlefield ability: “reveal the top five cards of your library. An opponent separates those cards into two piles. Put one pile into your hand and the other into your graveyard.” It was a fringe-playable Standard card at the time, but used effectively could help you out.

NON-CREATURE SPELLS

1 Bramblecrush
4 Farseek
2 Ground Assault
3 Urban Evolution
4 Verdant Haven

As you can see, there was plenty of mana acceleration available for the high mana cost creatures.  Bramblecrush could destroy any problem permanent: planeswalker, enchantment, or even a land. Farseek could grab Islands or the singleton Mountain. Ground Assault was a little removal card that requires Red mana, and was the purpose of that one Mountain. Urban Evolution looks pricey. but it was worth the cost in a deck like this: draw three cards and gain the ability to play an additional land card during that turn.

Verdant Haven was a nice little enchantment that gains you 2 life and made the land that it enchants give you an extra mana of any color when you tap it. It would then be possible to cast an Acidic Slime on perhaps even turn 4. This mana acceleration made the deck somewhat work.

Those two copies of Ground Assault, though, honestly, barely seemed worth having the single copy of the Mountain. Having Ground Assault be a dead draw or having that Mountain be the wrong color you need at the wrong time perhaps isn’t the biggest issue in this deck. It’s more of a head-scratching brewing decision. That’s what the deck felt like, a fairly solid, if not tricky to pilot, passive-aggressive control deck brew. It didn’t feel like something you’d want to take to an event without extreme tweaking.

SIDEBOARD

4 Dissipate
4 Flames of the Firebrand
2 Naturalize
2 Negate
3 Rancor

The sideboard had quite the control package: Dissipate, Naturalize, and Negate. Three copies of Rancor and a play-set of Flames of the Firebrand allowed for a more aggressive strategy. Flames of the Firebrand really can only deal with early threats, however, but Wizards has long been in love with including that card in Event Deck sideboards.

Overall, for it’s original MRSP of $25, it was worth picking up considering the value of the deck’s individual parts at that time. This was clearly quite a brew, with Wizards trying to introduce something different. But it felt like the deck tried to do too much. Some of the card slots seemed a bit misused. Simic Charm over Mist Raven seemed a better option. Experiment One was a great one-drop that you could flash in with Yeva, but the deck really focused on the late-game so its exclusion made sense. The deck was built to ramp up to land big creatures early before an opponent could set up. But losing Arbor Elves and Fog Banks early on, and not being able to land the mana acceleration could cost the deck serious tempo. The more aggressive decks would rip this list to shreds.

At the time, I felt that this deck was trying to focus on board presence and control at the same time, and while it seems to work in theory, in practice it seemed clunky. There were cards that could make a solid fountain for a “RUG” (red/blue/green) list at the time. In any case, out of the box, it wasn’t viable in the then-current Standard meta-game, and didn’t quite give you the “bang for your buck” you would look for in an Event deck product.

Stay tuned for more Throwback Thursday Product and Card Reviews!

~ Elspeth for the Win

(UPDATE June 2014 – The Modern Event Deck has had such underwhelming sales that copies are currently selling well below retail price: $50-60 USD, especially on Amazon and TCG Player.)

Finally the day has come when the decklist for the Modern Event Deck has been revealed. It was revealed early this morning on Wizards.com. The deck is indeed Black/White tokens and it has some nice little surprises in it.

Here’s the list

LANDS (24)

4 Caves of Koilos
2 City of Brass
4 Isolated Chapel
5 Plains
4 Swamp
1 Vault of the Archangel
4 Windbrisk Heights

CREATURES (5)

2 Soul Warden
3 Tidehollow Sculler

NON-CREATURE SPELLS (31)

3 Honor of the Pure
2 Inquisition of Kozilek
4 Intangible Virtue
4 Lingering Souls
3 Path to Exile
4 Raise the Alarm
2 Shrine of Loyal Legions
4 Spectral Procession
1 Sword of Feast and Famine
3 Zealous Persecution
1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant

SIDEBOARD

2 Burrenton Forge-Tender
2 Dismember
3 Duress
2 Ghost Quarter
3 Kataki, War’s Wage
3 Relic of Progenitus

First of all, let us consider what the spoiler from a couple of months ago told us. We were expecting Elspeth, Knight-Errant, Intangible Virtue, and Honor of the Pure. What is missing is Hero of Bladehold. This is okay, because of what it was replaced with:

sword-of-feast-and-famine

Considering that this deck has an original MSRP of about $75, it’s great to see a card of this high value in a deck. It obviously fits the deck quite well. It also somewhat makes up for the lack of fetch-lands in the deck.

Speaking of fetch-lands, let’s look over the no-fetch mana base.

caves-of-koilos

A full play-set of the white-black “pain” land will help you fix for your colored mana, plus two City of Brass. A full play-set of Isolated Chapel, the white/black “buddy” land will help you also fix without the need for pinging yourself for life, as long as you control a Plains or Swamp. There are 5 plains and 4 swamps to complement them. In addition, there is a Vault of the Archangel, with which you can tap for 2WB to give your creatures deathtouch and lifelink until end of turn. There is also a full play-set of Windbrisk Heights, a rather useful card with Hideaway. Whatever card gets put under it can be cast for a single white mana and a tap, providing that you have attacked with at least three creatures in a given turn.

Overall, it’s not a bad mana base, although I would replace the two City of Brass and at least one plains and one swamp for a full play-set of Godless Shrine. It is, at least, a functional mana base.

soul-warden

Being in a deck with only five creatures, it would make sense that Soul Warden would comprise a couple of those spots. With all of the tokens that this deck generates, Soul Warden will help you keep your life total high. Note that she also gives you life for opponents’ creatures entering the battlefield, as well. There’s a reason that Soul Sisters can be difficult to beat. Many burn decks and aggro decks hate this card, although Skullcrack and Flames of the Blood Hand do exist, as well as the Leyline of Punishment, to counteract these effects. OF course, with only two Soul Warden in the deck, in those match-ups, the Wardens can easily slip out for something in the sideboard.

tidehollow-sculler

An old white/black favorite, sure to see even more play in the near-future in Modern with the existence of Athreos, God of Passage, Tidehollow Sculler deprives your opponent of a non-land card until the Sculler leaves the battlefield. It’s a very solid two-drop that compliments the other hand distruption in this deck quite nicely.

Let’s move on to the meat of the deck, the non-creature spells!

The three copies of Honor of the Pure, which pumps all of your white creatures by +1/+1 are an obvious inclusion, as are the full play-set of Intangible Virtue, which gives all tokens +1/+1. Being able to stack multiple copies of this card on the board is key to this deck’s success.

inqusition-of-kozilek

As many speculated, there are also two copies of Inquisition of Kozilek in the deck. It’s yet another way to disrupt your opponents’ hands of their early plays, giving you time to build up your forces on the board while they recover. There are also 3 copies of Zealous Persecution, an instant which gives your creatures +1/+1 and your opponents’ creatures -1/-1 until end of turn, making combats a bit tricky for your opponent.

As for tokens, there is a full suite available. A full-playset of Lingering Souls, with its Flashback ability, is an absolute must. It’s joined by a full-playset of Raise the Alarm, which creates two 1/1 white soldiers for only 1W. There’s also a full play-set of Spectral Procession, which makes 3 flying tokens.

shrine-of-loyal-legions

There’s also a couple of copies of a fun card from New Phyrexia, Shrine of Loyal Legions. The cool part about this card is that so much of the deck is comprised of white spells. Each time you cast a white spell (which includes the dual-colored spells) it gains a charge counter. You can pay 3 and sacrifice the Shrine and put a 1/1 colorless Myr artifact creature token onto the field for each charge counter that had been on the Shrine. This can potentially be a lot of token generation.

The deck also contains 3 Path to Exile, which is a very pricey removal card nowadays.

Now onto one of the main win conditions of the deck, my favorite card in all of Magic: the Gathering:

elspeth-knight-errant

Elspeth, Knight-Errant should need no introductions. Both of her +1 abilities are fantastic, and her ultimate ability, her -8, gives you an emblem that basically wins you the game. Making more tokens, then making them fly over opponent’s creatures is always fun. And making everything indestructible is pretty good, too. You also will have enough blockers to protect her, meaning that her potential of going ultimate is actually pretty high if they don’t deal with her outside of combat.

Overall, the main deck looks quite playable. Let’s look over the sideboard:

burrenton-forge-tender

Here’s a card you don’t typically see, two copies of Burrenton Forge-Tender. Obviously, this card exists to help in match-ups against mono-red decks. I’m pretty sure by design that these are meant to replace the two copies of main-board Soul Warden in those match-ups. The cool thing about Forge-Tender is that it can prevent damage from any red source, including board-wipes like Anger of the Gods (the bane of this deck’s existence) and Blasphemous Act. Speaking of Blasphemous Act, in those Boros builds that include Boros Reckoner, that damage isn’t dealt to the Reckoners, either, saving you at least 13 points of damage from that card’s ability. Solid little sideboard option here.

Most of the remaining side-board cards are self-explanatory. Dismember deals with big threats, Duress gives you more hand-destruction, Ghost Quarter gives you some land destruction ability against greedy mana-bases and Relic of Progenitus helps stop graveyard shenanigans.

kataki-wars-wage

The last card in the sideboard is a very useful card called Kataki, War’s Wage. Three copies exist in this sideboard. Essentially what it does is make all artifacts have an upkeep cost of 1 mana. This obviously can be quite problematic for Affinity and Tron decks in the format. It also has a negative interaction with the Shrine of Loyal Legions, but those can come out when this card is boarded in. It’s nice to have three copies included.

Overall, this deck looks fairly solid. Black/white tokens are a deck that doesn’t necessarily need the fetch-lands to function. Of course, four Marsh Flats and the four Godless Shrine would be nice, but the pain-lands do suffice in this case. Besides, the pain from the fetch-lands and the shock-lands coming in untapped is very similar, and you’re gaining life back from Soul Warden in many cases anyhow.

I think as a gateway deck into the format, there’s nothing wrong with Wizard’s first attempt. Is it worth the $75 MSRP? I would say most likely. Since card price numbers can fluctuate over time, I won’t break it down here, but the cards do currently add up to well over $75 if you consider median prices for these cards (double that, in fact!) I certainly am happy to see the Sword in here, although Hero of Bladehold may have made more sense. It’s clear that Wizards wants to give it the “Bang for its Buck” without having speculators buying them all up, thus making them inaccessible to players trying to enter the format. For what it’s meant to be, it’s pretty good, and it’s put copies of some harder-to-get cards out there more readily available without flooding the market too much.

I can see this not selling quite as well as some might have first suspected, but I think it’s a worthy start to what will hopefully be a long line of event decks for the Modern Format.

~ Elspeth for the Win

//ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ss&ref=ss_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=wintargam-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=B00IR2W4WA&asins=B00IR2W4WA&linkId=QNNQZOJQFWL442D7&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true

%d bloggers like this: