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Standard Constructed Format

I got one Dryad from the Selesnya Conclave and wanted to find a deck that would let it fit in:

At first I thought it was awesome! I really loved Savannah Lions and a 1cc 2/1 creature with no drawback is really aggressive. I though about playing it this in a deck full of Quirion Dryad, Loxodon Smiter, Centaur Healer and Thragtusk until I stopped and thought that this card is really a hoser for anything that wants to use the graveyard as a resource. Yes, that includes Snapcaster Mage. But thinking more about it, Snapcaster Mage is really awesome because of all the cheap spells way back when Phyrexian Mana is available. Now that it’s not, then Snappy wouldn’t be that awesome anymore. Of courseI can be proven wrong. But until my theory is proven otherwise, I think having a 2/1 hoser that just dies to Tragic Slip is really mediocre.

Furthermore, everyone predicted that any variant of a Zombie deck would be the tier 1 deck this coming standard and this card will not be helping us battle that deck at all. It only hoses instants and sorcery and Zombies’ strength is the ability to recur creature spells. I think printing it with a text that says “If a card would be put into the graveyard from anywhere, exile it instead” would be way too much awesome. However, printing it that way it would somehow take it to the broken side.

This card is surely one of the best cards in the old Ravnica block. A 4CC 4/4 body that gives you 4 lives and regenerates your creatures surely is a creature card you can’t ignore. I also used it as a tie breaker for the Zoo mirror during the standard season when the old Ravnica is still legal. If you are fighting with a Zoo deck way back then, you will certainly almost all of the time voluntarily lose 4 lives because of the Shock lands and in mirror matches, where a match could only last 10-15 minutes, keeping your life at 20 would definitely give you a big advantage. Unfortunately, Loxodon Heirach is not reprinted when we returned to the plane of Ravnica this year but there were some cards that to some extent came close enough.

Centaur Healer


A 3CC, 3/3 body that gains you 3 life. It’s proportional to the Heirach although placing it at common might’ve lessen the body and the life gain a bit. But still is a good card overall. I’ve had one or two of this in one of the decks I had last pre-release and I’m quite impressed. This card helped me maintain my life far from the burn range of Izzet and Rakdos. An excellent blocker at 3/3 and an even more impressive attacker. In the standard format, I would guess this would be an excellent addition to a GW deck battling against Zombie decks. The only creature big enough in “Brains” deck is Geralf’s Messenger (and Falkenrath Aristocrat) and the Centaur can deal with them in battle. You can even partner this with Restoration Angel, just for the abusive gain life shenanigans. Overall, I think this might not single handedly replace Loxodon Heirarch, but it is a card that can live to his legacy.

Loxodon Smiter

It doesn’t gain you life, it doesn’t regenerate your creature, but a 3cc 4/4 that can’t be countered is a card you can’t really get over with. Plus, it is resilient to discard effects your opponent might have. I am not sure how that ability is green or white though. The only card that reminded me of the same ability is Dodecapod which is a 4cc 3/3 creature that becomes a 5/5 when discarded. And Dodecapod is not green or white, it’s a colorless artifact! Anyways, I am not sure how that ability got in here but I think it’s because green and white are both black’s mortal enemies and discard is undoubtedly black in nature. To be honest, this card doesn’t really impress me aside from the fact that it is a 3cc 4/4 creature.  Yes, it looks like Loxodon Heirach literally because they are both Elephants but aside from the power and toughness, it doesn’t really inherit anything from the Heirarch which is a little bit sad to think. Plus it can be easily killed by Abrupt Decay. On the up side, this card could be nerve-wracking to control decks, especially the blue variant decks. So yeah, let’s just wait and see how it will play in the new Standard metagame.

Conclusion

I think Wizards did not intend for a reprint of Loxodon Heirach neither did they intended to replace it with another card. I think they are trying to shy away from reprinting anything aside from the Shock Lands. But until we get to the third set, we can’t really tell what they are up to. Wizards has been pulling various stunts lately, the latest of which is the Return to Ravnica prerelease and they pulled it successfully I think. It’s the first time I’ve played in two prerelease flights since I started playing Magic. And the players in our local stores are enjoying it as well. And I also saw some new players in the store too. And I’ve been playing against them in the prerelease not bashing them but in fact teaching them how to play Magic. It was really nice. Anyways, I hope something comes along the lines of Loxodon Heirarch in “Sinker”, otherwise, I am still ok getting all the new cards in the set. And I am starting to like Selesnya as a guild.

The original Ravnica block is my favorite block of all ever since I started to play Magic. It is the block that I have been playing tons of tournaments with. I feel that I am at my strongest when that block came in. I was playing different decks every FNM just because of the versatility of the set of cards at my disposal. And whatever deck I play during the FNM, I can pretty much win 4-0 or 3-1 at worst. I even went into one tournament where I placed 4th amongst all 120-200ish players using a Boros deck. Zoo has been my best deck during that era as well. I like the fact that matches using the Zoo deck would only take me 15-20 minutes to finish and I still have time to look around and watch other players play on other tables. That gave me ideas of how the decks players brought to the tournament worked and would use that advantage when I face other players.

When I heard that Return to Ravnica is actually being printed out, my brains almost exploded. I looked at hundreds of Ravnica cards and speculated what was going to be reprinted. I did not expect a lot of cards being reprinted like Watchwolf, Loxodon Heirarch, Giant Solifuge, Putrefy or Mortify Although, there’s 50% of me saying I hope it will get reprinted in the next set. But what I did expect is that they will reprint the duals. I was expecting it too much that I haven’t even bothered to look at any alternative cards that might replace them if they are not reprinted. And yes, Wizards has decided to reprint them. I am not sure how’d I react if they didn’t but I am just glad they did.

I am way too much excited that the card store nearest me announced they are ready to accept preregistration, I immediately preregistered myself and my friend in two events – Midnight and Noon events. I decided to go for Izzet and Golgari respectively but in the end I decided to play Golgari and Selesnya.

Populate

I am a little bit apprehensive at first of the theme called Populate. I think it will not be as good as Convoke. But I was proven wrong when I chose and played the Selesnya guild. Here’s what my deck looked like in the pre-release:

Selesnya Prerelease deck
Main Deck (40 cards) Sideboard 
1 Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord
1 Wayfaring Temple
1 Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice
1 Towering Indrik
1 Centaur Healer
1 Azorius Arrester
1 Gatecreeper Vine
2 Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage
1 Centaur’s Herald
1 Dyrad Militant
1 Druid’s Deliverance
1 Common Bond
1 Arrest
1 Aerial Predation
1 Soul Tithe
1 Rootborn Defenses
2 Eyes in the Skies
2 Trostani’s Judgment
2 Giant Growth
1 Grove of the Guardian ( Selesnya prerelease card)
2 Selesnya Guildgate
1 Overgrown Tomb
2 Swamp
5 Forest
6 Plains
1 Dramatic Rescue
1 Lyev Skynight
1 Hussar Patrol
1 Paralyzing Grasp
1 Drainpipe Vermin
3 Crosstown Courier
1 Dynacharge
1 Cobblebrute
1 Tenement Crasher
2 Grim Roustabout
2 Tower Drake
1 Sunspire Griffin
1 Tavern Swindler
2 Rakdos Charm
1 Essence Backslash
1 Survey the Wreckage
1 Deviant Glee
1 Rakdos Shred-Freak
2 Dead Reveler
1 Civic Saber
1 Street Sweeper
2 Chemister’s Trick
1 Runewing
1 Izzet Charm
1 Street Spasm
1 Mana Bloom
1 Centaur’s Herald
1 Knightly Valor
1 Sphere of Safety
1 Avenging Arrow
2 Ethereal Armor
1 Savage Surge
2 Search Warrant
1 Tablet of the Guilds
1 Golgari Longlegs
1 Axebane Stag
1 Explosive Impact
1 Rubbleback Rhino
1 Isperia’s Skywatch
1 Ogre Jailbreaker
1 Auger Spree
2 Electrickery
1 Fencing Ace
1 Axebane Stag
1 Rakdos Ringleader
1 Launch Party
1 Dynacharge
1 Perilous Shadow
1 Hypersonic Dragon

I splashed black just because of Jarad. It was so hard to resist the ability of sac’ing a creature and the player loses life for the sac’ed creature’s power. At one game I had to kill my opponent by just sac’ing and 8/8 Elemental to Jarad. It was so much fun. The look on my opponent’s face was so hilarious! He was at 16 lives left and at end of his turn, I triggered Grove of the Guardian tapping a  bird token and Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage hence producing an 8/8 Elemental creature with vigilance which I used to attack on his turn. Down to 8, I sac’ed the token to Jarad. It was so much fun!

Jarad 

And the Selesnya Lord  Trostani rocks! It had a nice 2/5 body that blocks almost all the Izzet creatures. They could be a little tricky though so I keep those Giant Growths as long as I can. The gain life mechanic just blows me away. There was a time that I almost went up to 25 lives after I’ve been bashed down to 5 lives. That was sick!

Gain 1 or 3 o 8? You’re choice as long as you are gaining life. I think I’m liking the Selesnya guild a lot. Did I win in the prerelease? Yes! Although I just won 1 pack. You see in our store, you only get a pack when you win a match. My matches ended in this manner: Draw, Draw, Lose, Win. For the Draw parts, my opponents and I exceeded the time limit so we have to make a dice roll because none of us will ever get a pack if we didn’t. And being that I suck in dice rolls, I basically gave away those matches. It’s ok I think. I had opened an Overgrown tomb, Trostani and Jarad in my box, so I am happy anyways. I think my preregistration fee is just converted to cash. Plus I get a really cool dice:

Overall, I think the Selesnya Guild is probably the most bone breaking deck in Return to Ravnica Prerelease. You can never go wrong with any creatures. And you’ll always end up having tons of creatures even if your deck doesn’t have a lot of them. I ran 11 creatures only and never have I missed a creature in any of my turns tanks to Populate. The guild is really straight forward. Populate and you gain the advantage.

Change is constant

I was wondering this morning what can I do with my Delver deck when Return to Ravnica rotates in and Scars and M12 rotates out. The deck will lose most of its cards and cards that really matters like Mana Leak, Gut Shot, etc.. Almost, if not more than, 50%  of the cards will be gone. And there haven’t been a real substitute for those cards as well. I mean, you can’t really expect Ponder to be replaced by Index, wouldn’t you? And Mana Leak  can’t be replaced by one card. Of course there are two that might replace Mana Leak: Essence Scatter and Negate, and they are hard counters to add to that. But Mana Leak’s uncertainty can really screw up everything your opponent had planned even in the late game and it doesn’t care about the card type just to counter the spell.

   

The only direct replacement I am seeing as of now is Unsummon for Vapor Snag. It has the same functionality, Vapor Snag having more obviously, but it get things done. The reason why Vapor Snag is chosen over Unsummon is because of the “It’s controller loses 1 life” effect which is critical because the Delver deck needs to push damage and it needs to push it quick. And, Yes, Vapor Snag contributes to that cause. Losing that would be big, but is it that big that Delver can’t compensate for it? Personally I think the tempo the card provides is still the major advantage to the card. So replacing Vapor Snag with Unsummon is still ok.

Move on and never look back

I heard a man say once, “Move on and never look back”, which is true most of the time. But you can’t really think that you won’t look back at your deck specially if you’ve invested enough money to build it. So what you can really do is to look at what cards you will lose and what cards will be left for you to continue on. For me, I think there are really good cards left for Delver. Here are to name a few:

Creatures:

  1. Delver of Secrets
  2. Snapcaster Mage
  3. Geist of Saint Traft
  4. Restoration Angel
  5. Augur of Bolas
  6. Invisible Stalker
  7. Talrand, Sky Summoner

Spells:

  1. Negate
  2. Thought Scour
  3. Think Twice
  4. Feeling of Dread
  5. Sleep
  6. Runechanter’s Pike

That is a lot of cards left for us to play with and it’s easy to go and build a new deck that focuses on the Runechanter’s Pike direction. And that would be easy. I’ve been tinkering about this in Decked Builder for a while now since the spoilers for Return to Ravnica has arrived and I am thinking or running a deck like this:

UWR Delver Tempo
Main Deck (60 cards) Sideboard (none yet)
Delver of Secrets
Augur of Bolas
Snapcaster Mage
Geist of Saint Traft
Talrand, Sky Summoner

Runechanter’s Pike

4 Izzet Charm
Thought Scour
4 Unsummon
Feeling of Dread
Think Twice
4 Faithless Looting

4 Glacial Fortress
4 Hallowed Fountain
2 Island
2 Mountain
1 Plains
4 Steam Vents
4 Sulfur Falls

None as of the moment

Gold fishing seems to give me a decent 2-3 lands on the opening hand and 2-3 1cc spells. The mana has significantly improved with the reprints of the Shock Lands. The deck’s basic play is to scour through your deck via Faithless Looting, Thought Scour, Think Twice and Izzet Charm and feed Runechanter’s Pike. Unsummon, Feeling of Dread and Izzet Charm provides the tempo the deck needs to push through. With 20 spells in the deck, Delver is easy to flip. Talrand is the alternate win condition of the deck. I am thinking of substituting the Augur with Index but that is a decision I have to make during play testing. I just hope Return to Ravnica gives us more cheap draw spells or cantrips.

Innistrad is just around the corner and today is the last FNM where Zendikar  is getting played. People are slowly moving into Innistrad and have speculated on what is the best deck. I got my hands on a few cards basically because I joined the prerelease tournament. I must say I am not that good in draft and it showed. I never won a match. But I got really good cards. I got one planeswalker which is Garruk Relentless. I wished for Lilliana but, hey Garruk is good. The thing I noticed is that in Innistrad draft, if you can play blue, play blue. Blue has a lot of trickery in draft/sealed and believe me, if you’re playing against blue, you’ll get annoyed. As for the double-faced cards (DFC), I don’t really fancy them. I tried using the checklist that was provided in each booster (or in most of the boosters as not all boosters have them) but I find them troublesome. In the end, I placed the DFCs on sleeves and just went with the flipping. It’s troublesome so I really don’t mind not playing with them if I can.

Today, my team played our first draft of a Innistrad ready deck. Going with what most people is talking, I tried Solar Flare. The reason is that because I have most of the cards and I only have to look for a few Innistrad cards to add on. That is really a relief because it will save me money. Anyway, here is the decklist I played today and later if you’ll read on, I will explain my thoughts on the cards. Pardon me for having a sloppy decklist as this is just what I will call put-all-cards-you-have-gained-during-prerelease-and-what-friends-gave-you Solar Flare deck. Ha! Ha! That was quite a name for a deck. And yeah, I already told you it was sloppy, as in literally sloppy.

Put-All-Cards-You-Have-Gained-During-Prerelease-And-What-Friends-Gave-You Solar Flare Deck
Main Deck (60 cards) Sideboard (none yet)
2 Dismember
4 Mana Leak
2 Day of Judgment
2 Oblivion Ring
1 Timely Reinforcements
2 Ponder
3 Forbidden Alchemy
3 Unburial Rites

2 Phyrexian Metamorph
2 Phantasmal Image
1 Sun Titan
1 Rune-scarred Demon
1 Grave Titan
1 Frost Titan
1 Consecrated Sphinx
4 Solemn Simulacrum
3 Snapcaster Mage

3 Plains
4 Islands
4 Darkslick Shores
4 Drowned Catacombs
4 Glacial Fortress
4 Seachrome Coasts
2 Inkmoth Nexus

None as of the moment

Now I did told you that the deck was sloppy so by now, you know I am just testing the waters with this build. I was just texted by my teammate to come up with an Innistrad ready deck so I just pulled out all cards I can carry and put up a deck. I played 3 times against UW Puresteel Paladin with Invisible Stalker and won twice having one loss due to mana screw. I also played 2 times against UB Tezzeret deck and won twice. That is a pretty impressive statistic for a sloppily constructed deck. So I am happy and will continue building this deck.

Snapcaster Mage
I only can say: “I wish I had 4 of these”.  Having these in the decks double all your spells. Plus Tiago (For you who don’t know, Snapcaster Mage is a 2007 MTG Invitational card from Tiago Chan),  has flash and can provide you an easy combat trick with another spell in hand. Do I need tell more?

Solemn Simulacrum, Phantasmal Image and Phyrexian Metamorph
Solem Simulacrum fixes your mana, copied by Phantasmal Image and Phyrexian Metamorph makes your deck very consistent. Of course you can copy anything but ramp + draw is pretty good.

Titans, Sphinx and Demons
The reason I chose these cards is because they are resilient against Dismember. Anything resilient against Dismember is good. Plus they are cards with lots of advantages. So who am I to deny them of play?

Ponder and Forbidden Alchemy
Dig 3, Dig 4. That’s a lot of digging and I like it very much. Forbidden Alchemy I think is so far the best digger I have encountered. Yes the flashback is a little bit high, but at least you get to dig in the later games. The drawback to putting cards to your graveyard is minimal in this deck as all the things you throw to your graveyard can be recursed back. So this card is just pure advantage.

The cards above works in synergy with one another and it’s a good thing in a deck. Cards in sync means that there is a greater consistency in winning game matches. Surely I will change this deck overtime but it’s good to see how nice it works even if it is sloppily constructed. I am so sleepy now so I will have to talk about this deck in the future posts. So stay tuned. Happy weekend guys!

Now the full Innistrad spoiler has been revealed and my excitement to the new format is growing more and more in anticipation of the cards I will be getting during the prerelease events. Here are a couple of cards I am pretty much excited about:

         

I mean these are definitely spike cards. Some of this may not make sense but if you’ve played during the time of Ravnica, and your playing a UWB deck, you’d probably know what I am thinking when I say I’m excited about these cards. Now with the cards above in mind, I would also like to play with the following M12 cards (most of them I already have):

               

And I am also considering the following cards from Scars of Mirrodin block (which I mostly have them also):

          

Now, that is a long list of cards I would like to use. Sorry for letting you scroll all the way down without any explanation to the cards above. I would explain it in a new post but for this post, I am just picking up the pool of cards I would probably use. Like what I’ve said, if you have been playing since the Ravnica block, you’d probably have a hint that I am trying to put up a Solar Flare or Solar Pox deck. Most probably I’d go with the Solar flare build as we don’t have the usual Flagstones of Trokair + Smallpox combination to begin with so Smallpox isn’t that effective.  So that being said, let’s start brewing!

I have not blogged for some time now. I have been very busy with work that playing magic seems near to impossible so for today I am not blogging about FNM tournaments as I have not joined one in a while… probably two to three weeks. And also, we haven’t play tested a lot lately. I’ve played an experimental post-rotation deck UWB which focuses on creature control and disruption three weeks ago in an FNM tourney and went 2-2 again. I lost to an Infect deck and a Monored Goblin deck. The deck seems ok but without the M11 and Zendikar components, it lacks something. Maybe I have to wait for Innistrad to come. We may never know what it will bring us. So far, 99 of 264 cards have been spoiled and some there are some cards that caught my attention – primarily blue cards. Anyways I went back and revisited my post-banning CAW Blade deck and thought about what it might looked like post-Zendikar/M11 rotation. There are a couple of cards it will lose and a couple that might replace it but here are my thoughts about those cards:

 

           

Squadron Hawk to be replaced by Invisible Stalker. 

First, CAW-Blade can’t be called CAW blade if it doesn’t have the hawks. I don’t think the Invisible  Stalker “caws” for that matter. The good thing about Squadron hawks is that when you cast it, it calls the other hawks. And based from my playtesting and tournament plays, I survive early beatings because I can let the hawks fight one to one against my opponents’ early beats confident, I have another one to play later. Plus, it “thins the deck”. Moreover, it is “flying”  – so in reality, it rarely gets block when it attacks with the swords making sure damage comes through. That’s a hell of an advantage. Losing it post rotation deals pain in the deck. Although, Invisible stalker may provide some advantage over the hawks. They walk, but they are unblockable and they have “hexproof”! Meaning, you can attach your swords, attack and get the damage through nice and easy without your opponents playing any shenanigans over them like Into the Roil. This almost guarantee you get the damage delivered. But the thing is, the hawks can trade with other guys and you still have the guarantee you have another hawk in your hand. The invisible  stalker doesn’t do that. When you trade a fight and lose, you lose them. So I am partial with this replacement.

 

            

Celestial Colonnade replaced by Inkmoth Nexus entirely

Well, Celestial Colonnade and Inkmoth Nexus can both be Tectonic Edged or Ghost Quartered. They both turn to flying creatures but Colonnade is a 4/4 that doesn’t tap and Inkmoth is a 1/1 infect that taps. When you attack with Colonnade, you still have 1 mana to spare on counterspell whereas Nexus doesn’t give you that. The only advantage I can see with Nexus is that it kills your opponent quicker and it activates really cheap. Other than that, there really isn’t anything I can tell. Hopefully in the next few days, Innistrad would give us a man-land (or I may be dreaming)

 

   

Preordain and Ponder

Preordain – I don’t know really what can this be replaced with. I mean, yes we have Ponder, but what I don’t like about it is the shuffle effect if you don’t like what you saw. Preordain gives us the benefit of choosing between the cards before we go random. Ponder,doesn’t. What will replace this? I don’t know yet.

   

Tectonic Edge replaced by Ghost Quarter

To be honest, the reprinting of Ghost Quarter excited me. Now, the wait for the 4-land requirement is no more! I can destroy my opponent’s land immediately. Yes, the search a basic land card seems like a draw back, but having destroyed an opponent’s dual land and having him search for the basic land of his choice tells you what colors he rely heavy on. Information is power. Plus on the up side, if you need another color you can trade of your land with another land that provides you with the color you need. In most cases this may be a bad idea but if you really need that colored mana, why not?

 

      
Jace Beleren to be replaced by Azure Mage

Hmm… not really sure about this.Yes, Azure mage lets you draw repeatedly but a planeswalker is still a planeswalker. No matter how easy Jace dies, he let’s you draw cards and sometimes provide you a fog effect against attacks. Azure mage doesn’t do that and it dies easily to any removal spell like Incinerate or Dismember. Anyway, I have to playtest with this first. And yes, don’t talk to me about using the new Jace…. 1UU is very far from 3UU.

So to conclude, I honestly don’t think CAW-Blade will survive. But it will transform into a new deck. Remember, we still have the swords, Gideon Jura, Timely Reinforcements, Dismember, Day of Judgment, Oblivion Ring and other cards that are not rotating. We just have to think hard on how this deck will tranform. Until all of Innistrad is revealed, we can never tell how far this deck will transform. For now, I am just content that blue has a new ally in the form of:

 

We will talk about this when I get my hands on it. So stay tuned.