About the Author
@TNSGingerAle     -     Email     -     Articles Houston is the host and creator of Tap N Sac Podcast. He enjoys any format with a healthy community. He usually taps Mountains to have fun and taps Islands to win.

Pauper Cube: Drafting Tips, Tricks, and Archetypes

Pauper? What does poverty have to do with Magic?

If you’re new to Magic, you might not know what Pauper is. Those who know of Pauper are asking, “Why are you writing about Pauper? Isn’t that format dead?” Well, Wizards of the Coast (WOTC) no long supports MTGO Daily Events for Pauper (editor’s note: This was recently changed) but I still support the format and will continue to use Pauper as a teaching tool for new players. Also, Cube is not dead. It’s actually thriving, so why not show some Pauper love?

So, back to those who haven’t heard of Pauper Cube. First off, a Cube, in MTG terms, is a draft format created by players like you. You basically have the power to become your own designer and developer for your own Magic set.  Adjust the theme or power level of your cube as you see fit and, after some testing, all you’ll need to get your MTG fix is a group of people.  For my parameters, I chose to only use cards that have been printed at the common rarity at least once.

  • Example #1: [card]Oblivion Ring[/card] was first printed in Lorwyn as a common.  All printings of Oblivion Ring after Lorwyn were printed at uncommon, but since it had at least one common printing, it is legal in Pauper.
  • Example #2: [card]Abzan Charm[/card] is an uncommon from Khans of Tarkir and has no other prior printing. Therefore, it is not legal in Pauper.

Before we jump into the archetypes of my Pauper Cube, you might want the cube list as a reference.

Ginger Ale’s Pauper Cube


These six drafting strategies are not the only archetypes worth drafting. I’ve drafted my share of  frankenstein decks and had success. These are just some straightforward archetypes that have enough cube support to survive when other players are in your colors. After you get used to the cube or your fellow drafters, I would actually encourage you to attempt something new or out of your element.

G/U Rampsprout swarm

Priority #1: Ramp Spells ([card]Sakura-Tribe Elder[/card] & [card]Cultivate[/card])

Turns two to four are your ramp turns.  Draft enough ramp so you can ramp two out on those three turns.  Most of the fatties are five- and six-drops, so the sooner you get there, the better.

Priority #2: Bounce ([card]Mist Raven[/card] & [card]Man-O’-War[/card])

I prefer bounce over counter spells. Quite a few creatures in the cube bounce something when they come in. This allows you to advance your board presence for pressure and encourages your opponents to use removal spells before your fatties join the battle. Counters just don’t do enough for this strategy.

Priority #3: Fatties ([card]Nessian Asp[/card], [card]Horncaller’s Chant[/card], [card]Sprout Swarm[/card])

Trample should be your favorite fatty ability.  Any creature with high toughness can’t kill your fatties in combat due to low power and most of the high-power creatures have one or two toughness. Trample is your friend and don’t you forget it.  Also, most of the six- and seven-drop fatties will table. Value the four- and five-drop fatties higher, unless a bigger one has trample.

This is by far my favorite archetype.  Even when I start a draft with intent to draft something else, someone passes me a [card]Mulldrifter[/card] or [card]Sprout Swarm[/card] and I just can’t resist.

kor skyfisherU/W Fliers

Priority #1 Fliers ([card]Kor Skyfisher[/card] & [card]Stormbound Geist[/card])

Ca-Caw! Fly your way to victory.  Fliers that also tap blockers are worth keeping an eye out for.  Not too many exist, though.  You need an offense, so pick up strong fliers first.

Priority #2 “Arrest” Effects ( [card]Pacifism[/card], [card]Faith’s Fetters[/card], [card]Bonds of Faith[/card])

Though blue gives you access to bounce spells, many times the arrest effects are more of a permanent answer.  An example when [card]Arrest[/card] effects are bad tend to show in the B/W builds since a large chunk of black removal in the cube makes them sacrifice a creature. Which one will they choose? Probably the one imitating the knot on a log. My point is, blue has to use a bounce spell, green and white may have sideboard cards to help with removing them, and both red and black have no efficient answers. [card]Sunlance[/card] should be the only removal you take over enchantment removal. Don’t pick up so many you outnumber your creatures but take them over bounce or counters.

Priority #3 – Counter/Cantrip ([card]Counterspell[/card] & [card]Memory Lapse[/card], [card]Ponder[/card] & [card]Preordain[/card])

Many times the counter spells will be in your sideboard for control matchups or decks with buyback spells.  It’s great to have a few, but don’t take them over other playables. If you need to fill some holes, don’t see a creature worth taking, or don’t need a sixth Arrest effect, don’t hesitate picking up a few cantrips to keep the deck nice-n-smooth.

B/W Shadow Aggrodauthi horro

Priority #1 – Shadow Creatures ([card]Dauthi Horror[/card] & [card]Soltari Visionary[/card])

Makes sense, right?  But what if I don’t see any shadow creatures (Only six in the cube) after I commit?  Pick the most aggressive creature on color ([card]Carnophage[/card] and [card]Porcelain Legionnaire[/card] are good examples). Many times when drafting this archetype you’ll either get all the shadow creatures or none of them. Thankfully, many cheap B/W creature have a similar type of evasiveness ([card]Tormented Soul[/card], [card]Blind Zealot[/card], and [card]Benalish Cavalry[/card]),  hence the archetype name.

Priority #2 – Pump/Equipment ([card]Sinister Strength[/card] & [card]Bonesplitter[/card])

Instead of relying on card draw or resilient creatures to push through the damage, consider permanently pumping up the creatures you already have.  Drawing cards wastes precious time and resilient creatures often cost more than you are willing to pay besides [card]Loyal Cathar[/card] or [card]Doomed Traveler[/card] (thanks Innistrad block!).  Also, a turn-one one-drop into turn-two [card]Sinister Strength[/card] is many times way better than playing another creature.  Turn three is a good place to lay down two more creatures. This demands a removal spell and gives your second and third creatures a chance to get in for one or more turns.  If they don’t have removal on turn two, your percentage to win rapidly increases.

Priority #3 – Removal ([card]Disfigure[/card] & [card]Sunlance[/card])

For this strategy, you require far fewer removal spells than any other archetype. These are only to move the small creatures out of the way for the few creatures that don’t have evasion or to take out a problematic lifelinker. Stick to one-mana removal spells if possible. Every turn should involve a new creature or pumping an existing one.  After that, your extra mana can unlock a removal spell for the turn.

mulldrifter promoU/B Control

Before addressing the priority order, keep in mind priorities one through three have spell versions and creature versions.  I’ll add an example of each version on those but the creature versions are almost always favored over the spell versions.

Priority #1 – Disruption ([card]Hymn to Tourach[/card], [card]Capsize[/card], [card]Liliana’s Specter[/card], [card]Aethersnipe[/card])

Putting pressure on your opponent’s hand size is a great way to attack in pauper. Aggro can’t recover and can only cast a portion of its spells. Ramp decks have to choose between ramp and a fatty when the deck requires both to work smoothly.

Priority #2 – Removal/Counters ([card]Evincar’s Justice[/card], [card]Crypt Rats[/card], [card]Shaper Parasite[/card])

After disruption, take care of leftover spells with counters for noncreature spells and removal for creatures.  Draft more removal that other strategies, but I wouldn’t recommend going over three removal spells in the main deck. Creature counters are usually better than noncreature counters in the main deck. Noncreature counters should be sideboarded in for buyback spells.

Priority #3 – Draw/Cantrips ([card]Treasure Cruise[/card], [card]Mulldrifter[/card], [card]Phyrexian Rager[/card])

Cantrips smooth out your draws and help you make your land drops. Draw cards to stay ahead of your opponent’s cards. This lets you use the weakest removal spell to kill that problematic creature, or you can save the broader removal for bigger threats. Apply the same philosophy with your counter spells.

Priority #4 – Win Con ([card]Gray Merchant of Asphodel[/card], [card]Shimmering Glasskite[/card], or splash for [card]Guardian of the Guildpact[/card])

You should only need a couple of these.  The amount of creature version cards you picked up in the draft will determine the amount of reliance you place on your win cons. The more damage you can safely get in before it’s time to release your finisher will determine the amount of pressure each of your win cons will have.

G/W Aggrothundering tanadon

Priority #1 – Combat-Ready Creatures ([card]Loyal Cathar[/card], [card]Kor Skyfisher[/card], [card]Thundering Tanadon[/card])

Look for resilience, evasiveness, or both. This archetype relies on your creatures holding their own in the red zone. This strategy has a wide variety of builds but should always be open during the cube draft.

Priority #2 – Upgrade Spells ([card]Travel Preparations[/card], [card]Leafcrown Dryad[/card], [card]Shield of the Oversoul[/card])

These spells enable your weakest creatures to join the battle or keep your larger creatures from getting double blocked. I probably wouldn’t play more than four of these effects, unless they are also creatures like [card]Leafcrown Dryad[/card]. The more creatures you have, the more options you have for your upgrade spells.

Priority #3 – Support Creatures ([card]Gideon’s Lawkeeper[/card] & [card]Kabuto Moth[/card])

These types of creatures make combat a pain for your opponent. Lawkeeper helps support your attacking creatures and Kabuto Moths supports your creatures after blocks are declared or removal spells are on the stack. Support creatures help skilled players craft the winning battlefield and can play both offense and defense. A couple of these creatures can take your GW Aggro deck from good to great.


staggershockBurn & Friends

Priority #1 – The Burn ([card]Staggershock[/card], [card]Brimestone Volley[/card], [card]Fireball[/card])

This drafting strategy is different than all the others.  Red needs a friend. So while you take the burn spells, keep your eyes peeled for an open second color.

Priority #2 – Choosing a Second Color

R/U Bounce Burn plays a tempo game with ways to rebuy your burn spells for extra value.

R/W Weenie Burn / Shadow Burn plays the same as the B/W Shadow Aggro deck, except most of the black removal is … well … removed, and replaced with burn spells that can scorch creatures or sunburn your opponent’s face.

R/B Dark Burn is the style i have had the most success with.  The black enables disruption, drain effects, and card draw at the price of life points. This strategy can pressure the hand, battlefield, and face all at the same time. Black can also assist with better overall aggressive creatures versus the red alternatives. With this disruption, you could buy an extra three or four turns to draw that top-deck burn spell you’re waiting on.

Priority #3 – Balance

Balancing like the B/W Shadow deck with a slightly higher priority on taking burn spells over spot removal should set you up in a place where the red-based decks thrive in. Keep in mind your creatures are potential repetitive damage while your burn spells are only one-time use.

Wrap Up

Pauper will always have a special in my heart. It’s a budget friendly format that heavily punishes your misplays. Many times I’ve even said, “Wow, this format feels like Legacy.”  It demands optimal plays and always surprises players after I convince them to give it a shot. When I say, “It’s a common-only format,” players never think long enough to remember the high number of powerful yet value-filled staples.  All in all, the best advice I can give you is: don’t knock it ’til you try it.

If you enjoyed this Pauper content and want more, leave a comment below or hit me up on Twitter and tell me what you want to read about next.

As always, thanks for reading!


Financial Five: Fate Reforged

With each new set it seems like retailers are getting better at pre-pricing cards to fit card hype and demand. I look past the chase rares/mythics and find the diamonds in the rough. Below are five cards I think are worth investing in.

[card]Alesha, Who Smiles at Death[/card]($2)alesha

The list of “bring-backable” creatures seems be longer than a Transformer movie.  Bringing back a [card]Seeker of the Way[/card] or a [card]Frenzied Goblin[/card] doesn’t seem like bad value.  Aggressive decks want to play her to recur the fallen creatures from previous combat steps. She’s great in the aggressive mirror where her first-striking three-power body stops almost any aggressive creature in its tracks. For only 2R, she can be splashed into any self-mill brew to try out her reanimation abilities (I’m looking at you [card]Hornet Queen[/card]!).

What holds her back is the lack of impact on the board when she’s cast. You have to wait a turn, spend non-red mana, and declare her attacking to gain card advantage. Does that make her a sideboard option for aggro versus aggro mirrors? I’m not sure, but the first strike really wins me over. She’s legendary, so she may not always be a four-of, but could still make for a fun EDH deck. Timmys love her, Spikes see potential, and Johnnys want her to achieve a battlefield of brokenness .  I don’t see her going lower than $2, but I can’t see her exceeding $5.

flamewake[card]Flamewake Phoenix[/card] ($3)

I recently compared [card]Flamewake Phoenix[/card] to [card]Chandra’s Phoenix[/card] (here), but since they won’t be in the same Standard format (so far), we’ll just have to focus in on Flamewake for the time-being.  R/G Monsters has been in and out of top eights for almost a year now, taking many different forms and sometimes splashing to become Temur or Naya.

What seems to stay consistent is its ability to activate ferocious.  In combination with [card]Ashcloud Phoenix[/card], I think these hot-headed squawkers wouldn’t mind crossing feather for some aerial assaults in Standard.   I hope they don’t forget to wave down at an allied [card]Polukranos, World Eater[/card] as they fly by. Add [card]Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker[/card] or [card]Stormbreath Dragon[/card] for a crimson air show.  I see price potential at $5 or $6 in future Standard, since you’ll always play four and it fits in [card]Titan’s Strength[/card] aggro decks and even more synergy with aggressive midrange “monster” strategies.


[card]Yasova Dragonclaw[/card] ($1.5)yasova

This was one of the first cards spoiled from Fate Reforged.  I wasn’t much of a fan when I saw the two toughness, but I might be looking at the wrong number. As He-Man would say, “I HAVE THE POWER!”… to activate ferocious.  I remember saying on the show, “If ferocious is relevant, Yasova is relevant.” She works extremely well with [cardFlamewake Phoenix[/card].

Turn 3: Cast Flamewake, opponent destroys Flamewake

Turn4: Cast Yasova, cast Flamewake during combat, opp. destroys Flamewake

Turn 5:  Threaten a creature (Yasova’s ability), cast Flamewake

Rinse, repeat, and cast other spells when needed.

Of course your opponent will likely kill the Yasova as soon as possible, but this works with any four-powered creature and is still better than casting a [card]Boon Satyr[/card]. It’s as close to extort as R/G will ever get. Instead of draining for one, you’ll just attack with a two-powered creature. She is easy to kill because she takes over the game if you don’t kill her. That worth more than a $1.50, right?! I’ll pick these up all day long and might even score her as a throw-in.

silumgarthedriftingdeath[card]Silumgar, the Drifting Death[/card] ($2)

If you took the best qualities of [card]Wall of Denial[/card] and [card]Doomwake Giant[/card], you’d end up with this monstrosity. This 3/7 is always defensive until you don’t need it to be. Its only weakness is needing to attack to get the -1/-1 ability, although I doubt this weakness would encourage the addition of other Dragons in your deck.

U/B Control is its obvious home, but I could see a Sultai Midrange using it to win board stales without having to worry about hornet tokens.  Not sure if it is worth playing four copies, but $2 for a format staple should already be on your list of pick-ups. It’s another rare that can only go up from here.  By the way, $22 foils should convince you card slingers are already playing him.

The legendary cycle of dragons seemed to be common at the prereleases I attended, so I’m sure this will be easy to find for the next couple weeks.

[card]Crux of Fate[/card] ($5)crux of fate

When’s the last time we had a playable black sweeper? [card]Black Sun’s Zenith[/card]? [card]Mutilate[/card] doesn’t count.

When I picked this card for the article, it was sitting at $3, but is already up to $5 after prerelease weekend. So it’s turned into a long-term pick-up instead of a “buy all you can while you can” pick-up.

As far as playability, the obvious deck is U/B Control, since we’re all aware of its existence and strategies. But what about the B/G decks that don’t want to splash for white?  I’m a fan of the one-horned villain myself ([card]Siege Rhino[/card]), but you know how Wizards of the Coast is. They want the Standard environment to constantly change (I’m looking at you Siege Rhino & [card]Courser of Kruphix[/card]). The fact is, B/G Midrange wouldn’t mind sweeping for value to set up a delve or [card]Whip of Erebos[/card] activation.

I expect this card to settle at $5, but it could see some spikes throughout its time in Standard.  You can’t go wrong with picking up a few extra to take advantage of a potential increase in demand. Though, since this is from a small set and we only require one Fate Reforged pack for the next two draft environments, the supply could be lower than expected.


What uncommons could break $1? I’d put my faith in [card]Valorous Stance[/card].  It’s defensive, offensive. currently in a highly played color, easy to cast (1W instead of WW), and plays at instant speed.  If you’re not convinced, pick up a couple sets of [card]Reality Shift[/card]s and see if they’ll find a deck.

As always, thanks for reading




Financial Five: Khans of Tarkir

When it comes to Standard finance, the prices can only spread so thin before you start scratching you head about powerful rares at $3 or $4 prices.  These head-scratching moments are caused by the reprint of the Onslaught fetches. Most of the time, the one or two planswalkers of the set and one hyped rare hold most of a given set’s financial weight. With Khans, the five fetches, two planswalkers, and the most powerful [card]Clone[/card] effect to date ([card]Clever Impersonator[/card]) are pulling a lot of the financial weight away from other powerful rares. It sounds bad, but it’s not. When fetches start settling around $10, [card]Sorin, Solemn Visitor[/card] drops to under $15, [card]Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker[/card] fluctuates to around $20, and [card]Clever Impersonator[/card] (non-foils) tank to around $6, the non-hyped rares sitting at $2-5 will have a chance to see an increase according to how Standard settles.  Just like Theros, the increase in these sub-$5 rares will increase parallel to the amount of Khans product that’s opened.

[card]Utter End[/card] <$4

utter endWhen I think about this card’s potential fluctuations, [card]Hero’s Downfall[/card] comes to mind—with a slightly lower spike. Instead of going from $6 to $20 in a breakout weekend, I predict a $4 to $10 spike in the near future. Both removal spells were in big sets that saw a massive amount of packs opened.  What holds this price from spiking any higher is the mana cost. Four mana including two colors just equals a lower number of copies in slightly fewer decks.  I only see Standard potential for this card, but a silver bullet (one copy in a deck list) wouldn’t surprise me in the Modern format if a midrange non-green deck emerges. [card]Maelstrom Pulse[/card] is currently filling this role for decks with green.

I think this card will see a price jump then settle out at close to $5.  Pick them up for a quick flip with fear of its price decreasing.

[card]End Hostilities[/card] $2

end hostIt’s a sweeper, people! I know we are spoiled with [card]Supreme Verdict[/card], but we now have a sweeper with a one-color mana cost instead of two.  It takes care of bestow creatures and equipment along with the creatures you already wanted to deal with. Its mana cost places extra pressure to arrive at five as soon as possible, but with [card]Last Breath[/card] in the same colors, [card]Goblin Rabblemaster[/card] is not as much of a problem as you might think. This fresh Standard format looks molding toward midrange decks leaning on high-toughness creatures ([card]Sylvan Caryatid[/card], [card]Courser of Kruphix[/card], [card]Nyx-Fleece Ram[/card]) to stabilize instead of clearing the board.

This may not have a strong place now, but it’s the sweeper every Standard format needs.  All the playable and powerful planeswalker makes any X/X/W Walkers decks a possibility going forward. Standard-only sweepers tend to never go over $10, if a quick spike occurs, but seems to always settle at $4 or $5.  This is another safe pickup you’ll be glad to have made as the format changes from week to week.


[card]Siege Rhino[/card] <$4

siege fhinoMy favorite card of the whole set! With three colors in the mana cost, this will restrict the financial upside of this horny beast, but picking up any extra copies under $4 will make trading at your LGS a lot easier. The demand for this guy remains high and could be a quick way to assist you in picking up you last few Khanslaught fetch lands.

I predict a price change history similar to [card]Loxodon Smiter[/card] from Return to Ravnica. Powerful but not able to grab financial traction. (Shoutout to Luke and Greg for this constructive card discussion.)

[card]Mantis Rider[/card] $2

mantis riderAnother narrow three-color rare!? What’s wrong with me?! Bear with me, friends. This card doesn’t currently have a deck [Ed. note—this was submitted just before the weekend’s tournaments], but I could see [card]Mantis Rider[/card] pairing with [card]Goblin Rabblemaster[/card], assisted by a couple cheaper evasive creatures, bounce, and efficient burn. Yes, this is a slightly greedy prediction, but spells like [card]Magma Jet[/card], [card]Searing Blood[/card], [card]Crippling Chill[/card], [card]Force Away[/card], [card]Disdainful Stroke[/card], [card]Ride Down[/card], [card]Winterflame[/card], [card]Jeskai Charm[/card], and [card]Arc Lightning[/card] all seem to work well with 16 to 20 efficient creatures.This type of deck could be a good way to combat the predicted Rabble-Aggro and Courser-Midrange meta.


[card]Empty the Pits[/card] $4

empty the pitsIt’s four black and probably only a two-of in the self-mill Standard decks it will synergize with, but what makes this better than all the others on the list is the rarity: it’s a mythic! The amount of packs opened will, of course, not affect a mythic as much as the other four rares in this article. It has casual appeal and EDH appeal which should at least keep it at the current price. I’ve actually already had to change the price from $3 to $4 in this article since the prerelease just concluded this past weekend.  Knowing we have high amounts of Khan of Tarkir booster box preorders, [card]Empty the Pits[/card] should be easy to find over the next couple weeks.  Although you may have to sit on this speculation longer than the previous four cards, I think it’s a worthy investment going forward. If a pair show up in a tier-one Standard deck, this card should a fetch a minimum of $8.  Lastly, foils are $12 and another worthy pickup if you can trade into them.


Bonus #1: Trade for foil [card]See the Unwritten[/card] ($9).  It’s an EDH staple for any deck playing green.

Bonus #2: Dump your $25 [card]Sorin, Solemn Visitor[/card]s. It’s no Elspeth but the $10 jump over prerelease weekend benefits traders that are cracking packs on release weekend.

Overall, this is a great set with a combination of fun play and financial opportunities. I don’t usually recommend cracking packs, but since GP Nashville is coming up, my team decided to invest in sealed product for practicing.  Usually, I would opt out and just crack my teammates’ product, but the set has a lot of value in it and can easily make its money back.  So, if you only buy sealed product once or twice a year, I think this set is worth a purchase.


As always thanks for reading



Gen Con Drafting

Gen Con, where every game that doesn’t require electricity is located. I can now agree with the motto: Gen Con is “the best four days in gaming.”  With all the choices available, it was hard to choose which games were worth giving a shot. Since I’m terrible at decisions, I just played Magic: The Gathering all weekend.

I’m kidding, I’m kidding. Well, sorta. I bought a couple new Krosmasters arena figures and some starter decks for another TCG attempting to revive its fanbase, The Spoils. I’ll talk more about the new games, experiences, and non-related MTG gaming on my site.

foundry street

Surprisingly enough, I played my first M15 Limited event at Gen Con. Since I worked all prerelease weekend and I was trying to save money to attend Gen Con, I never had a chance to eliminate the bad taste of M14 out of my mouth.

I entered a 6-4-1-1 draft, (8-4 queues didn’t exist at Gen Con), and cracked my first pack. Every card seemed lackluster, with [card]Aggressive Mining[/card] for the rare and a set of last-pick uncommons. [card]Frost Lynx[/card] was the only blue playable, so I decided to take it over a [card]Foundry Street Denizen[/card] (yes, the pack was that bad). The next pack was just as rough, with another set of last-pick uncommons and the rare missing. There were no blue playables, so I grabbed an underwhelming [card]Borderland Marauder[/card], hoping to table the [card]Goblin Roughrider[/card] if the Foundry Street Denizen tabled from pack one.  With a fifth-pick [card]Inferno Fist[/card] and sixth-pick [card]Generator Servant[/card], I felt comfortable with staying in red. Both [card]Foundry Street Denizen[/card] and Goblin Roughrider tabled followed by a second-to-last pick [card]Peel from Reality[/card], just in cast blue was open in pack two.

I opened [card]Ajani Steadfast[/card] in pack two, taking it over a [card]Lightning Strike[/card] (which is of course the correct pick). I only had two blue playables, so white was a possible splash, but regardless, the Strike is still the correct pick to stay on color.  In the third pack, I opened [card]Soul of Shandalar[/card], and again took the money over a correct-pick [card]Lightning Strike[/card]. My curve didn’t exceed three CMC yet, so I knew I wasn’t playing it if didn’t have to. Criticize me all you want, but I wanted my draft paid for. Man’s gotta eat, am I right!?!

My Final Build

[deck title=The Real Peel (U/R)]
*3 Foundry Street Denizen
*1 Forge Devil
*1 Borderland Marauder
*1 Generator Servant
*1 Altac Bloodseeker
*1 Quickling
*1 Bronze Stable
*1 Welkin Tern
*1 Goblin Rabblemaster
*3 Goblin Roughriders
*1 Frost Lynx
*1 Aeronaut Tinkerer
*2 Amphin Pathmage
*1 Brood Keeper
*1 Hammerhand
*2 Peel from Reality
*2 Inferno Fist
*1 Lava Axe
*1 Darksteel Citadel
*9 Mountain
*6 Island
*1 Ajani Steadfast
*1 Soul of Shandalar

Though I haven’t played enough M15 to know, I would guess this is not a popular archetype. I would assume whoever is playing white tokens would have laughed at this deck, but I say if enough pressure is applied, they either have to block to preserve their life total or keep their convoke high in hopes that I don’t have a [card]Cone of Flame[/card] when they tap down lands and creatures for a [card]Triplicate Spirits[/card]. These are all corner cases though.

I would probably go on record labeling this a tier-two M15 archetype, but boy was it fun! [card]Peel from Reality[/card] made for some amazing plays and synergistic blowouts. It combos with [card]Forge Devil[/card] to kill 2/2s, [card]Frost Lynx[/card] for extra [card]Frost Titan[/card] triggers, and also provides extra triggers for [card]Foundry Street Denizen[/card]. Both Peel and [card]Quickling[/card] were used offensively with Denizen triggers, removing large threats with little cost to my cheap creatures, and targeting the token from Goblin Rabblemaster before blocks. It was used defensively to save Rabblemaster or Brood Keeper.

I didn’t drop a game and split with a friend in the finals since the payout difference was only one pack. Plus, we wanted to get in another draft.

If I could change anything (besides the two [card]Lightning Strike[/card]s I passed up on), I would exchange [card]Altac Bloodseeker[/card] for another [card]Borderland Marauder[/card] and exchange the [card]Lava Axe[/card] for a [card]Cone of Flame[/card]. If you find yourself drafting this archetype, those would be picks upgrade to keep in mind.

Draft #2

Since the first draft went so well, I think I was on a red kick. Here’s how my second M15 draft ended up.

[deck title=R/g Forrest Fire]
*1 Foundry Street Denizen
*1 Forge Devil
*2 Borderland Marauder
*1 Generator Servant
*1 Goblin Roughrider
*1 Rummaging Goblin
*1 Belligerent Sliver
*1 Netcaster Spider
*2 Brood Keeper
*1 Kird Chieftain
*1 Undergrowth Scavenger
*1 Siege Wurm
*1 Titanic Growth
*2 Lightning Strike
*2 Inferno Fist
*1 Cone of Flame
*1 Nissa’s Expedition
*1 Liliana Vess
*6 Forrest
*8 Mountain
*2 Swamp
*1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
*1 Naturalize
*1 Rummaging Goblin

With a first-pick [card]Liliana Vess[/card] (cha-ching), I drafted toward RB, but the black never came.  The abundance of removal made a late-pick [card]Undergrowth Scavenger[/card] easy. Assuming red is usually weak to fliers, I thought [card]Netcaster Spider[/card] was a great end-of-pack present to enable more burn to my opponents’ noggins.

The big question was whether should I play Liliana Vess or not. Most of the time I would say no, unless you have an abundance of bombs you would like to tutor up. My creatures didn’t really work well with each other. [card]Foundry Street Denizen[/card] and [card]Forge Devil[/card] usually don’t play well with a [card]Siege Wurm[/card]. What did work well with my creatures were my spells. It sounds like a general statement, but let me explain:

Heavy removal draw = tutor [card]Undergrowth Scavenger[/card]
Heavy creature draw = tutor [card]Lightning Strike[/card], [card]Cone of Flame[/card], or [card]Inferno Fist[/card]
[card]Brood Keeper[/card] draw = tutor [card]Inferno Fist[/card]
[card]Belligerent Sliver[/card] doing work = tutor [card]Inferno Fist[/card] to shorten the clock
Board stall = tutor [card]Titanic Growth[/card]

urborgDoes that make Liliana worth splashing? I think so. It’s not every day you draft a tool-box deck.  I went with the YOLO reasoning and splashed two swamps and the [card]Urborg, Tomb of Yawgomoth[/card]. I either had to play two Swamps and an Urborg or zero swamps and the Urborg, but going the first route also allowed me to [card]Nissa’s Expedition[/card] for both swamps. This strategy was better than the extra [card]Rummaging Goblin[/card] or the [card]Naturalize[/card] in the side.

I played UW fliers in round one. A game-one mulligan to five and never drawing the second land led to a loss. In game two, I mulliganed to six with a good mix of card types but no removal.  My opponent mulliganed to six and kept a one-lander on the draw—then ripped land, land, land, land to curve out a one, two, three, and four-drop flying creatures on time. Variance just wasn’t on my side this draft, but I thought the deck was worth sharing. I played some games later with some friends and fans to see how it held up to other draft decks and it performed well, as I expected.

Gen Con is Fun

Though my trip was on a tight financial budget, I thank all my friends and family who helped make this event a possibility.  As I say all the time on Tap N Sac, MTG is only as good as the friends you roll with. That said, shoutout to Ricky for winning the 12.5-hour Grand Melee tournament to take home a foil sheet of uncut Modern Masters, and to Ed for hooking me up with a sweet place to stay.

As always, thanks for reading.

The Financial Five: M15

pain lands m15Pain Lands $3-5

Let’s get the obvious picks out of the way. I know they’re reprints and I know they’re not the fetches you’ve been dreaming of, but they’re dual lands. You know what happens to dual lands that stay in Standard after rotation? They go up! What does almost every competitive deck need to play a grip filled with spells?  Duals! It’s simple.  Pick up your playsets for any amount under $5 and you can thank me later.

phyrex revo[card]Phyrexian Revoker[/card] $1

What do aggro decks have a hard time dealing with? If you said sweepers—well, you’re correct, but that’s not what I was looking for. Planeswalkers are tough for aggro decks, as they often stall your chances to swing at your opponent’s life total. [card]Jace, Architect of Thought[/card], is an example of a ‘walker you need to take care of as soon as possible (unless their life total says otherwise).  [card]Domri Rade[/card]or [card]Kiora, the Crashing Wave[/card] are examples of walkers that may not directly impact your sea of creatures but will quickly cause you problems were they to live through the next few turns. [card]Phyrexian Revoker[/card] solves this problem while offering a respectable body to boot. It also locks down the cycle of godly weapons from Theros, which could come in handy.  Revoker lets you put those [card]Pithing Needle[/card]s back in the bulk rare box and start attacking for two. It’s colorless, so it can jump into any and all aggro decks that need this form of disruption. I say it will bounce between $3 to $6 during its time in Standard.

Soul Titans: [card]Soul of Innistrad[/card], [card]Soul of Shandalar[/card], and [card]Soul of Theros[/card] 

It’s still hard to gauge the power of some of these “Soul Titans.” The potential for instant-speed effects from the graveyard in a format not equipped with an arsenal of graveyard hate seems high, but the only one of these three that fit into a self-mill deck is [card]Soul of Innistrad[/card]. [card]Soul of Shandalar[/card] and [card]Soul of Theros[/card] are more powerful but don’t seem to line up with strategies their colors want to execute right now.  That said, underestimating the power of [card]Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx[/card], seems primitive. [card]Whip of Erebos[/card] is another potential soul mate for this cycle’s playability post-rotation.  If you can pick these mythics up at $5 or less, I would. I only see graveyard or reanimation potential in Standard. At worst, you can trade them to your EDH friends that can’t stop drooling over a cycle of straightforward potential. “I know Soul of Theros looks EXACTLY like a [card]Sun Titan[/card], Jimmy, but I promise—they’re quite different.”

jace lgBonus Pick – Pimpslap Jace aka ([card]Jace, the Living Guildpact[/card]) $10-12

A planewalker on The Financial Five right before the set release! I promise I’m sober and this speculation is intentional. He looks mediocre now, but I already like some of the synergies he has with Theros. His +1 with scry is a great way to increase the power of each draw.  If the graveyard plays a part in future Standard, Jace will unlock an easy and repeatable way to place creatures in it. I think the mana in Standard will be good enough for a BUG list featuring [card]Courser of Kruphix[/card], [card]Jace, the Living Guildpact[/card], and [card]Whip of Erebos[/card]. He also plays well with the dictate cycle: at end of turn, cast [card]Dictate of Kruphix[/card], draw two on your turn, and use Jace to bounce your Dictate back to your hand if you see fit. erd back of hand

And right now, I’m just pointing out potential. I predict many competitive players looking to unload this guy quick because he doesn’t do anything in the format right now.  Keep in mind that if he’s going to show up on a deck list, a “4x” will be sitting next to his name.  This is definitely the largest risk of the five picks I’ve selected today, but it still has the largest growth potential of all the previous four picks combined.  I know Jace has a $10 price tag clipped to his ear, but I think players will be dumping him at their first opportunity.

I am excited to see how M15 impacts Standard. Quite a few powerful cards are looking for a home to shuffle in.  A good format shake up is great to keep players trading for their decks of the week.  I hope you’re ready.

As always, thanks for reading.

Playing Magic for Free #2: From Trading to Trader

Read Part 1 of this series – here!

Completing the Transformation

land taxI was talking to a friend, Kevin Grigsby, who has bought and sold cards off and on since well before my start in the game. We discussed a story dating back to the unbanning of [card]Land Tax[/card]. It was the first time I was on top of the unbanning news, so I arrived at my local shop bright and early the next morning.  [card]Land Tax[/card]es were still in the case for around $6 a piece. With eight copies in the case, I told the manager, who I was friendly with, to hook me up with all of them. We’ll call the manager Jim. As he checked the price on the computer, I puffed my chest out and enlightened him on the unbanning that happened the night before. I didn’t know anything about the Legacy format, but I was proud of myself for going out of my way to pick up a recently unbanned card before the price spiked. Jim handed me my cards and I left for work.

After work, I came by the shop to trade and play in that evening’s draft.  Jim walks up to me while I’m standing with four of my friends next to about ten other Magic players waiting for the tournament to start.

Jim: “Hey, man, those [card]Land Tax[/card]es you bought this morning were supposed to be $40 a piece. You owe the store a lot money!”

Confused Me: “I didn’t think they had went up yet.  Did you not check them on the computer beforehand?”

Jim: “Of course, but I just looked it up wrong. Plus I thought we had more, ’cause I need four for my new deck”

Suspicious Me: “If you messed up, why should the customer have to pay for it 10 hours later when you catch it? I didn’t look them up before I came in.  I just knew what they were in the case last time I was here and told myself if they were the same price it would be a decent pickup.”

Jim: “Well, you ripped off the store.  How ’bout I just give you your money back and we can call it even?

Me: “No, thanks”

satisfactionJim: “Will you at least trade them to me so I can play my deck? You don’t even play legacy.”

Me: “Sure, man. I’ll gladly trade some to ya.  $30 a pop or $100 for the playset.”

Jim: “Come on, man! You bought those for $6 a piece! We’re friends, right? Why won’t you do $6 or $7 each on them?”

Me: “Because then I got up at the crack of dawn and drove here just to pay tax on cards I could trade off 10 hours later for less then what I bought them for.”

Jim: “F#*&ing thief.” *stomps away*

Yes, I was sort of being a prick about it all, but I thought if anyone would understand business, it would be the manager of a retail store.  I left for college a few weeks later and that manager told every local MTG player the story about the ginger that stole from the store. I will cut out all the drama talk, but what really hurt was my trading connections.  Since I wasn’t in town to defend myself, only a few of my friends knew my side of the story.  I came back to town receiving a large amount of weird looks and everyone seemed scared to trade with me.  To be honest, I’m a 6’2’’ muscly ginger with hair to my shoulders and a five-inch beard, so I can understand a mild amount of intimidation.  By then, I could tell the difference though.

So, when Grigsby and I talked about this story, he said, “I know you may think what you did is justified, but you went about it all wrong.”


He continued, “By now, you obviously understand the importance of networking and how to avoid burning bridges, but here’s what you should have done.  Before you call the manager over to buy the [card]Land Tax[/card]es, look up the current price.  Say its $30 and they are in the case for $6.  Call the manager over and tell him that you are looking to buy some [card]Land Tax[/card]es but you know the price has went up to $30.  Then ask if they would sell them to you for $15.  This enables the store to make double than the price in the case and also enables you to double your money by trading them away for the full $30.  Most managers will appreciate the honesty and hook you up with a deal.  It’s not always guaranteed, but its keeps you from potentially setting a bridge ablaze and ruining your reputation in a 50-mile radius.”

“Wow,” I said, “That sounds so easy but makes a lot of sense. I never thought of it that way.”

Identifying Steps

I tell this story not to say, “Look what I can do.” This glimpse into the past shows the correct steps while also revealing the incorrect steps I thought at the time were correct.  Knowing what I know now, I decided to share the top three of both correct and incorrect steps I made along my journey.

stairway to heavenCorrect Steps

Knowing Prices – It’s a lost art, even for myself. Smartphones stole a lot of advantage but knowing prices can still save you a lot of time and money.

Networking – Talk with everyone you can. Trade numbers and tell them to hit you up if they are looking for a card.  If they have a trade binder, ask to look through. Listen to their stories about that one time that dollar rare saved them from certain death while you archive any notable cards among their trades.  Let’s be honest though, we all love telling those stories.

Value Trade – Trading for cards you don’t need but still hold value (AKA format staples). It makes your binder look sexier and minimizes the chance of your trades decreasing over time, especially in Standard. Value trades are a great way to build relationships.  The fact that you traded for something you didn’t need to help them inch one step closer to their goal means a lot to people.

*Keep in mind trading for value from local players and trading for vendor value can have vast differences.  This highlights a term called “spread.” Another topic for another time.

lego steppingBonus Tip: If you’ve been networking, value trades become easier because you know what the other person plays.

Incorrect Steps

Forced Trading – Just because you open up someone’s binder doesn’t mean a trade must happen before you can close it.  I struggled with this when I started trading.  It sounds silly, but I felt like it would irritate them if I didn’t make some sort of trade.

Unkind Exits – If you see nothing, then politely say something like, “I didn’t really see anything I was interested in. I appreciate you letting me look. Great talking with you.” Don’t say, “I didn’t see anything I like/want/needed.” It implies they have nothing of value while also implying you only trade for stuff you need and not for value.  It took me a long time to learn this one.  It seems small and irreverent, but eventually became something I noticed after a year of trading.

Creating Cognitive Dissonance

Don’t lie about prices.  It’s shameful for me to admit, but I ripped numerous people off in my early years.  Sad thing is, if someone trusts you to value a card and you place it at $10 instead of $20, they will most likely still leave the shop happy.  But all it takes is one friend or a few clicks online to find out they were jipped.  Should they know the prices of their cards while trading? Of course! Do they deserve to get jipped? Probably.  It depends on how much money was lost in the transaction. But some traders will think, “It’s my fault for not knowing the prices. I’ll be more careful next time.”  Most traders will think, “That a$$h*!# ripped me off! Never trading with him again!”  Now, not only will they most likely avoid trading with you, but will also inform other players around the store about your dishonesty.  It sounds like an exaggeration, but it really can happen that fast.

trade secretsWrap-Up

Identifying the correct steps toward developing consistent trade flow is important, but pinpointing the “speed bumps” that burn bridges or create dissonance make a larger impact in the long haul. You don’t have the luxury of a store, warehouse storage, or staff.  Your reputation and inventory is dependent on the opinions of players and traders in your area. Correct your imperfections and build a list of guidelines.

Next week, I’ll share the guidelines I use to keep myself on track.  In trading, just like Magic, there can always be bad luck, forgetfulness, and an exception to the rules, but creating a plan of action to follow can help keep trade goals achievable. Hopefully my lines of play toward trading can help you start playing Magic for free.

As always, thanks for reading.

Ginger Journey #3 – Grand Prix Atlanta

The professor walks in on the first day of classes with a gleaming smile that could make your stomach turn to knots. There’s no way someone can be that happy. It’s the first day of MTG Appreciation 2100 [Ed. note: this explains why he’s so happy]. As an introduction, Professor Brightflame feels we should take turns informing the class of our name and one fact about the kind of MTG player we are. The kid next to me pushes his glasses up his nose, takes a couple deep breaths, and stands up. After satisfying the itch in his well-knotted neckbeard he blurts, “My name’s Jani White and I love to gain life. Nothing better than a triple digit life total.” Brightflame gives a slight nod in my direction to inform me I was next to speak. “Sup, nerds! I’m the coolest ginger you know, Ginger Ale, and I hate Limited.”

gp atl matNo, but really: I hate Limited grands prix. If by chance I could get shipped a decent Sealed pool in my direction, my first three or four rounds would be in my favor. I consider myself a slightly above-average player and feel I could outplay the first few opponents of an event, even if they have more card power than me (better rares or just more synergestic color combinations). By round five or so, I assume I’ll be battling that double mythic player and all the players in the right color combinations to slice through the competition with ease. How could I enjoy a format leaning so much on the power of a random pool plus the diabolical variance waiting in the wings to color screw you at the most inconvenient of times? Why put myself through the mental hype of taking down a grand prix? So when I signed up for Grand Prix Atlanta, I didn’t.

For fifty bucks I pick up a sexy [card]Batterskull[/card] promo, $15 side-event voucher, and six packs (my Sealed pool). Deal! Regardless of if I win, I was going to have a good time with friends, escape financial troubles for a weekend, and enjoy an environment dedicated to the game I love. No matter what, I would have a good time with a mediocre Sealed deck and play my hardest until my third loss is recorded. I wanted to learn something about the format every round, meet some new people, and test my ability to read players, decipher possible cards, and go for the win without scum bagging or sharking.

Constructing a Monster

Everything was going to plan until I was passed this Sealed pool.

[deck title= B/W Midrange]
*1 Hopeful Eidolon
*1 Asphodel Wanderer
*1 Nyxborn Shieldmate
*1 Bloodcrazed Hoplite
*2 Nyxborn Eidolon
*1 Returned Centaur
*2 Eagle of the Watch
*1 Strike Harpy
*1 Griffin Dreamfinder
*1 Keepsake Gorgon
*1 Erebos’s Emissary
*1 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
*1 Master of the Feast
*1 Agent of the Fates
*1 Heliod, God of the Sun
*1 Font of Return
*1 Cruel Feeding
*1 Asphyxiate
*1 Banishing Light
*1 Sip of Hemlock
*1 Pharika’s Cure
*1 Unknown Shores
*7 Plains
*9 Swamp

One Round at a Time

I’ll be the first to admit I was blessed with nothing short of what the denizens of Theros would label as “godly.” I had zero byes so I started round one hoping my mana base would be kind to me. Wanting double black or double white on turn three can make some opening hands harder to hold on to. My first round opponent was the type of MTG player I call, “The Readers.” If you can’t guess by the title, he had to read almost every card I played. Do I have a problem with reading every card? No, but your decisions should be slightly quicker to make up for that time loss. I kindly asked him in the middle of game two if he could speed up some of his plays since we had nineteen minutes on the round clock. He was ahead at that time but all I needed to swing things back in my favor was one of my four bombs hiding somewhere at the bottom of my library. The round resulted in a draw with my [card]Brimaz, King of Oreskos[/card] eventually leading the charge in game three only needing a few more turns to seal the deal.
agent of the fatesThe next five rounds resulted in some tough games but eventually resulted in the wins I was striving for. Round six was against Swedish pro Rasmus Björklund. To sum the match up in one word, I’d choose “demolished.” If you could hand pick a G/W Heroic deck and play it against Rasmus’s concoction, it wouldn’t stand a chance. In game three I played a turn three Brimaz and felt behind.

I 2-0’d both rounds seven and eight to sit down for the ninth and final round. My first win-and-in! I blasted through game one with a turn-three Brimaz and a turn-five [card]Master of the Feasts[/card]. My opponent ended the game lacking the double white needed to cast his splashed [card]Elspeth, Sun’s Champion[/card]. Game two almost convinced me I could be dreaming.

Turn 1: Swamp, Pass
Turn 2: Plains, Pass
Turn 3: Swamp, cast [card]Agent of the Fates[/card] (kills it with [card]Pharika’s Cure[/card])
Turn 4: Swamp, cast [card]Master of the Feasts[/card] (kills it with [card]Lash of the Whip[/card])
Turn 5: Plains, cast Brimaz and [card]Font of the Return[/card] ([card]Banishing Light[/card] on the Font)
Turn 6: Swamp, swing with Brimaz (kills it with [card]Asphyxiate[/card] on his turn)
Turn 7: Swamp, cast [card]Banishing Light[/card] targeting his [card]Banishing Light[/card] and pop the Font at the end of his turn to return Brimaz, [card]Agent of the Fates[/card], and [card]Master of the Feasts[/card] to my Hand.
Turn 8: Play Brimaz and [card]Master of the Feasts[/card]
Turn 9: Swamp, Play [card]Agent of the Fates[/card] and bestow [card]Nyxborn Eidolon[/card], making him sacrifice his only creature. Swing with Brimaz and Master
Turn 10: Rip [card]Heliod, God of the Sun[/card] to play and give the whole team vigilance.

I did it! I made day two of my second career grand prix!

Half Way There

master of the feastsMy work wasn’t over yet. After a much-needed meal, we made it back to the hotel rooms. My friends and teammates Cameron, Flynn, and Tim sat down with a stack of unopened Journey into Nyx prize packs to discuss pack-one-pick-one’s (we couldn’t buy Theros or Born of the Gods packs due to the vendor restrictions at Limited GP’s).

The overwhelming support from a friend wanting me to succeed would have brought me to tears if I wasn’t a man. *sniff* It’s a part of the community I have always heard about but never experienced. After meeting with your friends between rounds for win/loss updates, you always wish them good luck when the next round pairings are posted. What you probably haven’t experienced is when that support multiplies when someone from the group makes day two. Everyone was going to bat for me and wanted to do everything in their power to make sure I succeeded. No one was mad I made day two and they didn’t. No one wanted to party Saturday night to disregard my early morning schedule. Though many of them wanted to get up early and play Sunday tournaments anyway, I still felt like they would rather sacrifice their plans of extra fun to help increase my chances in a strong day two performance. The fact that a competitive one-on-one game breeds teamwork at par with cooperative games makes me so proud to be a part of this community.

So what about day two?

doomwakeDay 2, Draft 1

I sat down for my first timed draft somewhere around 9 a.m. without the level of nervousness I mentally prepared for the night before.

Journey into Nyx: Pick one was horrendous, forcing me to take the only playable in the pack, [card]Pharika’s Chosen[/card].  Pick three was [card]Doomwake Giant[/card] and a sign black had to be wide open.  Twelve of my pack=one picks were black playables, including [card]Grim Guardian[/card] so I expected the trend to continue.

Born of the Gods: That trend I was counting on fell off like the 2005 popped collar. There was only one playable black card in this pack. I found a few average white and blue playables, but not cards you ever want to take in the first half of a pack.

Theros: I knew I needed a bomb to pull me over to white or blue. This was a more realistic wish than a pile of black playables coming my direction.  A fourth- or fifth-pick [card]Spear of Heliod[/card] really helped my second color decision but I was still praying for one Gary ([card]Grey Merchant of Asphodel[/card]) to upgrade this pile from miserable to doable.

The draft ended with zero copies of Gary and an all-around stack of mediocrity. If I outplayed my opponents, a 2-1 record for draft one would be possible—and give me more joy that it ever should. Unfortunately, I lost every game three with each opponent under five life and a threat on the table. All I really wanted at the end of the first draft was a flash drive containing all my matches. It’s easy to say, “If I only had a better deck,” but my lack of experience may have blinded me to some possible lines of play or interactions.  You’re going to draft an average deck more often than a bomb-filled masterpiece or a heaping pile of poop.

Day 2, Draft 2

I tried to keep my head up, but my second draft deck would land on the heaping pile of poop side of the scale.  A pile of R/G monsters with three pieces of removal wasn’t where I wanted to be. I knew 3-0’ing this draft was the only way I could place in Top 100.  My first opponent had a nasty sequence of the following:

Turn 3: [card]Grim Guardian[/card]

Turn 4:[card]Grim Guardian[/card]

Turn 5: [card]Whip of Erebos[/card]

Turn 6: [card]Spear of Heliod[/card]

goblin bullyThe man was a monster.  I actually dealt with the [card]Whip of Erebos[/card] my next turn but fell quickly to the power of [card]Spear of Heliod[/card].  I couldn’t play the waiting game due to the impact of any future enchantments he could draw.  Also, my pair of [card]Lightning Strike[/card]s couldn’t do a lot to the large-butted [card]Grim Guardian[/card]s.

I was out of contention to prize but I found no reason to quit.  My thought was that this could be my only day-two experience in my MTG career, so I figured I might as well go down with the ship.  I won the next match against a G/B flyers deck.  My final match was against the other red/green drafter.  Every creature I played in games one and two outmatched his until he dropped [card]Forgestoker Dragon[/card]. That single-handedly won him both matches.  A large amount of playful banter was exchanged throughout the match resulting in a good end the day.

I joined my friends at their side events. Tim Rivera was undefeated in the Super Sunday Series going into the sixth or seventh round while my buddy Ed Rickman suggested to his finals opponent of a side event draft (that just scouted Ed’s semifinals match) he would split the packs if he gets the Grand Prix Atlanta playmat.

“Did you see my deck?! I mean, we can play if you want but…”

                -Ed Rickman

We now call this tactic flexing your deck.

Wrap Up

With the grand prix winding down, we all piled in for a quick trip back to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, filled with stories of crazy board states, winning top decks, and the lack of green in our wallets.  I wouldn’t trade these experiences for anything, except for maybe paying off my student loans.

As always, thanks for reading.


Playing Magic for Free #1: Catching the Cardboard Bug

When a newborn Magic players opens her eyes for the first time, it’s difficult to not be overwhelmed with the price others will pay for multicolored cardboard.  If you read the title to this three-part mini-series, it’s obvious I’m not here to justify card prices or imply the financial requirement to play this game. I’m actually here to share how you can play whatever deck you want and grow your collection with minimal financial investment.

From 2011 (two weeks prior to the release of New Phyrexia) to present, I have only purchased Magic cards or related product (sleeves, binders, playmats) from selling cards, flipping collections, tournaments winnings,  and store credit . I call it “Magic money.” It can be used for anything. Regular money, on the other hand, is not available for buying Magic cards or related products. This game can be pretty addictive, so this self-imposed restriction is the reason why my collection isn’t extraordinary and why a roof is over my head and a car is in my driveway.  I share this story with the intent to help those who want to play the formats and the decks they want.

To understand where I am coming from, I’d like to start at the beginning.


jace lorwyn

My first Planeswalker

My journey begins in 2008.  Some friends I made in a website design class during high school introduced me to Magic.  Once or twice a week, we would pile in a car and drive to a small hole-in-the-wall card shop on the other side of Maryville, Tennessee, called The Bullpen (which is sadly no longer in business).  I used the loose change from my car to buy one Lorywn or Morningtide booster pack.  One day, the shop owner informed us we could buy a whole box of booster packs for somewhere around $80 and would be ideal if we really wanted a better chance to open a new type of card called a planeswalker.  I saved up my loose change for a whole month and bought a box of Shadowmoor.

To be honest, we had no earthly idea on how to play the game.  One guy in our group, who we called Bull, had “played” the longest and had a massive collection from stealing booster packs from Wal-Mart. We also had no reason to buy sleeves or deck boxes. How could these magical cards even have a financial value?  I mean, why use money on that stuff when you can just buy more cards? Am I right?!  After high school, I grew apart from that group of friends. My cards retired to shoe boxes and Pokemon-themed top-loader binders.


moriningtide symbol

The first time I saw this symbol, I thought it was a meteor and the next set was going to be about aliens invading “Magic land”

During the Summer of 2011, my employer cut my weekly work hours in half.  To make ends meet, I dug out my Magic cards hoping a diamond in the rough would emerge.  I walked into Packard’s Movies and Games (also out of business for shady business practices), trusting the Magic “expert” would give me a fair offer for my collection.  While he thumbed through my boxes and binders, I glanced over and saw a few guys I went to high school with (not from the group I previously mentioned), Danny and Mitch.  They greeted me with confusion, saying, “I didn’t know you played Magic.” I filled them in on my brief adventures during my senior year and caught them up on my financial situation.  By that time, the store owner had totaled up my collection to $80 store credit or $40 cash.  Appalled by the gap, I said $40 cash seemed like a low blow.  Knowing $40 wouldn’t make a big difference in my troubles, I talked him up to $100 store credit and thought I could bring my mother by to pick out a movie she wanted at a later date.

On my way out, Danny ask if I wanted to sit down and watch them play.  With a few hours to burn before work, I obliged and quickly found out I had been playing the game all wrong!  I won’t embarrass myself with the ludacris rules we followed in my high school days, but I began understanding the game basics, just as Wizards of the Coast intended.  We traded numbers and the next week I preordered a box of New Phyrexia and participated in my first prerelease. This was back when everyone received six random booster backs and not some silly prerelease box of, “Here’s a half-built deck in your favorite color.”  I was completely decimated through the first couple rounds, but before the third round started, a few of the local players helped me get together a better deck and bombarded me why they changed what they changed. Before I left, a local player gave me the New Phyrexia poster the store used to advertise the new set.  I actually still have it.

new phy

A local player won this poster by quickly knowing the creator of Magic: The Gathering. He sat next to me at my first prerelease and told me I would enjoy this more than he would.

I connected with a group of locals in the coming weeks and started playing with them after the shop closed.  I mostly listened and only asked questions when I was completely lost and couldn’t follow via context clues.  They all loved trading so I became fascinated in turning the cards I didn’t use into cards I could.

Learning to Trade


Karn was the planeswalker that jump started trading career.

With not a penny extra to my name, I realized the only way to continuously participate in a rotating format was to learn the art of trading.  I began studying card prices and asking the veteran players why a card I thought to be weak was pulling in big money.  They informed me of the competitive tournament circuit and I began correlating the cards being played with the prices they sold for.  I memorized the current Standard prices and checked the price changes every Sunday when websites updated their prices in alignment with the top decks of the previous weekend.


Currently my favorite planswalker of all time. Koth and Tezzeret joined forces to create my first “brew” that eventually helped me win a tournament.

I loaded up a Monster binder, I traded a [card]Karn Liberated[/card], and looked at every binder that came through the door.  I would place all my cards at Star City Games price and ask fellow traders what they wanted for theirs.  Basically, a gateway question to, “What do you value that at?”  In my head, if you didn’t know the value of your cards and gave me a lower value, then it was your own fault.  I know the value of all my cards, so why shouldn’t you?  I was trading [card]Koth of the Hammer[/card]s for [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card]s and consistently turned my rares and mythics from the latest set into format staples. I kept up with what people wanted and had it ready in the back of my binder for the next time they came in the store. I gave out my cell number so people could contact me if they needed a card.  For my effort and (eventually) speed, they rewarded me with a good deal in a trade or the full retail price in cash.

Next, I bought another binder.  I placed cards worth $10 or more and high-demand staples in one binder and the rest in the “shit” binder.  I observed that if players found a $20 card and a $5 card in the same binder, the $20 card was priority number one, therefore leaving me with low-priced cards in my binder and slim varieties in format staples. Not every binder I looked through had something I wanted.  If I just find something low value, then it’s a lot harder to trade when my trade partner is drooling over a card he couldn’t trade his whole binder for.

I know it sounds like I’m a prick, but these were my honest thoughts about how I was supposed to succeed in trading.  Though I have grown out of the cut-throat mindset, it was only till SCG Nashville 2014 that I felt my journey was complete on being the trader I desired all along.

Next week, I’ll start with that story, which I also told on Episode #89 of Brainstorm Brewery, along with both my correct and incorrect steps toward playing Magic for free.

As always, thanks for reading.

Financial Five: Sweepers


Sweeper effects have been a long-lasting staple in Magic.  These effects make aggro players cry and control players gleam.  They can make or break a game and trigger the same “ooooh’s” and “ahhhhh’s” Wizards of the Coast (WotC) tried to accomplish with the Miracle mechanic from Avacyn Restored. These game-changers will continue to be reshaped and reprinted as long as the game needs them. So which are currently worth investing in?

anger of the g

[card]Anger of the Gods[/card] $2

It’s still in Standard, seeing fringe sideboard play according to the toughness of the top aggro deck. This card really makes the list due to its playability in Modern. With [card]Pyroclasm[/card] sweeping the best two-toughness creatures, [card]Anger of the Gods[/card] fills that same role with eliminating three-toughness creatures. Despite the unbanning of [card]Wild Nacatl[/card], Zoo hasn’t been landing in many top eights, but the existence of the cat’s power cannot be ignored.  The Modern meta has more than enough viable decks to continuously see a rotating meta and I think Anger will see back and forth play when its services are needed.  Though it’s still in print and a part of the newest block, $2 is a steal for a three-toughness sweeper that exiles and wears the rare Theros symbol well.


terminus[card]Terminus[/card] $3

Yes, this sweeper makes [card]Sensei’s Divining Top[/card] that much more powerful, but Legacy is not what creates its demand. Casual crowds still love the miracle mechanic.  EDH is still receiving support from WotC, yet Terminus has not been reprinted in a precon yet.  If you play EDH, you know the best way to dispose of a commander is pushing it to the bottom of its owner’s library. [card]Hinder[/card] and [card]Spell Crumple[/card] are blue’s auto-include Commander counters, while white has [card]Condemn[/card] and [card]Terminus[/card]. It takes care of indestructible, shroud, hexproof, regeneration, persist, and undying creatures. It’s a rare, no longer in print, and is demanded by casual players. The price could easily climb while everyone else is speculating in the other direction. Hell, if you have the opportunity, pick up the $10 foils.  Any Commander foil staple is never a bad pick up.


supreme verdict

[card]Supreme Verdict[/card] $5 (Promo $9)

Oh look! An uncounterable sweeper seeing play in all Constructed formats (Standard, Modern, Legacy, Commander). It’s no longer in print and only has room to grow. The closest comparison would be the power of split second in Legacy. Though split second is superior to uncounterable, I can’t imagine a future split second sweeper costing less than five mana.   U/W/R in Modern has been a consistent player since the start of the format. Verdict’s only competition is [card]Hallowed Burial[/card] for particularly creature/graveyard heavy formats.


toxic deluge[card]Toxic Deluge[/card] $11

I’m going to blow your mind! So there is this card called [card]Death’s Shadow[/card]… I’m kidding, I’m kidding. As we all know, [card]Toxic Deluge[/card] is catching the attention of Legacy players who want to hedge against [card]True-Name Nemesis[/card] while also possessing the power to kill a large [card]Tarmogoyf[/card] when times become desperate. Why I like this card so much can be bottled into one word: versatility. [card]Black Sun’s Zenith[/card] wants more mana, [card]Disfigure[/card] and [card]Grasp of Darkness[/card] have to target and create zero card advantage. Legacy has a large focus on using fewer cards and other resources to eliminate more than one threat.  I mean, we want to do that in every format, but Legacy punishes/rewards players to an extra degree and can many times make or break a given match. This format has no room for narrow cards (except toward Dredge, because no one has ever enjoyed watching a Solitaire play-through). Again: limited print run, one per deck, uses life as a resource, and can sweep as high or low as you desire (life total depending).

no problem chuck– Untargetable, no problem.

– High toughness, no problem.

– Thirty two 1/1’s from [card]Empty the Warrens[/card] or fourteen 1/2’s from [card]Avenger of Zendikar[/card], no problem.

– Combo… problem.



[card]All Is Dust[/card] $18 (Promo $14)

“What is wrong with you, Ginger Ale!? You’re going to encourage me to invest in an $18 card only seeing minor play in Modern Tron decks and that glasses-pusher kid’s all-artifact Commander deck? Are you insane!?”

Just hear me out, alright? The obvious arguments for this card are Commander, casual demand, and mythic. Though I do think this plays a factor, I want to go for next level. I am not a fan of speculating on cards or ideas without facts, but I’m about to break my golden rule.


– Two printings and still holds a stable price.

– Two different pieces of art.

– Recent promo shouldn’t prompt a reprint in Annihilation.

– Revisiting the eldrazi plane seem far enough in the distance to not worry about an upcoming price tank. If anything, revisiting could increase the demand for the “original” eldrazi cards.

– A one-sided sweeper always has potential.


all is dust


– With a premium From the Vault coming in August named Annihilation, it’s hard not to assume a mythic from a expansion with the mechanic “Annihilator” will be the shining star of our next cluster of over-foiled pimpage.

-With so much love for the Eldrazi expansion, WotC is bound to cash in on the set at every possible opportunity. It’s just smart business.


Take it all with a grain of salt, but for me, I like picking this powerful sweeper up before its price escalates out of reach.


Wrap Up

Sweepers are often great pickups and continue to play a large role in this game. Don’t miss out on the chance to get in, because the best way to miss out on a good pickup is by believing your speculated reprint is truth. The saying “high risk, high reward” comes to mind, but the reality tends to be a thousand-count card box full of unmovable speculations. Though a lot of factors come into play to determine how playable a card is, trying to stay one or two steps ahead of the metagame will benefit you more often than next-leveling the next level of the next-leveled level.

As always, thanks for reading,


The Financial Five: Born of the Gods

It’s the first set of 2014! The second installment of Theros block, Born of the Gods, is here, ready to improve your favorite Standard brew.  More importantly for MTG financiers, a whole batch of potential investments are waiting for speculation. Here are my five picks for a beneficial Born of the Gods speculation session (say that five times fast).

[card] Spirit of the Labyrinth [/card] ($6)

spirit of the L

Looks like Wizards of the Coast (WotC) just made [card]Brainstorm[/card] an even harder card to play. Articles, books, and long-winded conversations have discussed how [card]Brainstorm[/card] “should” be played. Now we can just stop playing it all together! I’m joking, of course. Let’s be honest, we know this is to limit the power of [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card] in Standard (with maybe a slight kick below the belt to blue Legacy mages). I don’t see its value as much as other Standard staples. Standard control decks have more than enough answers to creatures without bonuses (e.g, [card]Voice of Resurgence[/card]) or protection (e.g., [card]Blood Baron of Vizkopa[/card]).

However, this is a $6 rare that limits powerful blue-based staples in all three constructed formats (Standard, Modern, Legacy). You having an [card]Aether Vial[/card] on two just might be the first time you pray your opponent is holding a [card]Brainstorm [/card].  For so long, the decision was when to [card]Brainstorm[/card], not can I [card]Brainstorm[/card]?

This are staple cards that [card]Spirit of the Labyrinth[/card] affects in some manner:

Standard: [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card], [card]Azorius Charm[/card], [card]Underworld Connections[/card], [card]Erebos, God of the Dead[/card]
Modern: [card]Serum Visions[/card], [card]Izzet Charm[/card], [card]Faithless Looting[/card], [card]Vendilion Clique[/card], [card]Electrolyze[/card] , [card]Sword of Fire and Ice[/card] , [card]Chromatic Star[/card] ,[card]Chromatic Sphere[/card], [card]Relic of Progenitus[/card]
Legacy: [card]Brainstorm[/card], [card]Ponder[/card], [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card], [card]Careful Study[/card], [card]Vendilion Clique[/card], [card]Sylvan Library[/card]

With an effect on this many staples, I find a $6 price tag more than reasonable.

[card]Whelming Wave[/card] ($1)whelming wave

No, I don’t have a kraken or leviathan deck to exploit the last half of this card. What I do have is a global bounce spell that provides tempo and safe haven for the non-creature permanants that take up a large amount of your control deck. I don’t see a home for it right now, but do expect a shift from WotC in future Standard. I know you all want to say that [card]Jace, Architect of Thought[/card], was a powerful card all along and you saw his high amount of play coming, but I don’t believe most of you. When WotC makes a pool of cards for standard, I’d like to think they intend to make half that pool strong at release and the other half strong after the next rotation. It makes sense to maximize profits and keep us buying, trading, and selling cards. [card]Whelming Wave[/card], to me, is a potential future Standard staple. At a bulk price, you might as well believe me!

[card]Oracle of Bones[/card] ($1)oracle of bones

Honestly, not a huge fan of the “punisher” cards that WotC transformed into the mechanic, tribute. This smores-making minotaur will likely make you call a judge for slow play when your opponent that can’t seem to decide how he would like to die. Are you holding two burn spells or are the two cards left in your hand a couple sandbagged lands?

This card is no [card]Hellrider[/card], but it does fit in a variety of red-based strategies, both viable and absent, in current Standard. This card could win you more games than it should due to your opponents’ terrible decision making, and I foresee this oracle finding a home in a red deck near you. When [card]Flesh // Blood[/card] players find out this guy casts both sides of a fuse card, I see a demand of far more than a bulk rare price. It may not cast spells with overload, but I wouldn’t count out an increase in demand, even if the source is primarily from casual players.


[card]Flame-Wreathed Phoenix[/card] ($6)flame-wreathed

I give to you: [card]Stormbreath Dragon[/card]’s best bodyguard! This is a four-drop flier that can fight through a [card]Nightveil Specter[/card] no matter what your opponent chooses. Opponent doesn’t pay tribute? Sacrifice a creature to tap [card]Desecration Demon[/card] and get in. Opponent pays tribute? Your phoenix will most likely eat a removal spell and clear the way for your dragon next turn. [card]Ash Zealot[/card], [card]Boros Reckoner[/card], [card]Flame-Wreathed Phoenix[/card], and [card]Stormbreath Dragon[/card] could be a commonly occurring curve out in upcoming Standard. Even when [card]Brimaz, King of Oreskos[/card], was spoiled, I still thought Phoenix would be a prime candidate for chase mythic of the set. If it sees play in a deck, I see nothing short of a playset. That said, the potential in a large price spike is something I am willing to invest in.




Uncommons (<$1)

bile blightsearing blooddrown in sorrowunravel the aetherfanatic of Xkioras follower

These cards are proof that this set is a miniature tool box for Standard players looking for a format shake up without having to invest in a whole new deck or multiple high-dollar chase rares. I recommend going ahead and picking up a playset, as well as any extras you can pick up for free or as throw-ins. I can’t even recall the amount of [card]Burning-Tree Emissary[/card]s I have turned into [card]Boros Reckoner[/card]s or shock lands.

Final Thoughts

Though the power of this set as a whole may feel underwhelming, I do trust that WotC has a plan to bring some of these cards from rags to riches during upcoming sets. The cards in Born of the Gods give every format just enough to entice boxes, packs, and singles to sell. The puzzle we must solve is determining what cards will be destined for greatness.

If you plan to travel to Nashville the weekend of February 8 for the SCG Open, don’t hesitate to send me a Tweet or leave a comment to set up a hearty handshake and a free Tap N Sac lifepad to keep track of your card slinging adventures.

As always, thanks for reading.

The Financial Five: Multicolored Devotion

I know what you might be thinking. Why talk about multicolored creatures in regard to devotion? High devotion needs to be built up in the first three of four turns, right? You’re not wrong.  All that extra mana can enable a hand-barf, but why not play a powerful creatures earlier than intended?  Even better, what if you could build devotion for two different colors? You can! Some multicolored cards don’t have an aggressive mana cost.  Instead, providing powerful spells to sink you extra mana into can help take advantage of those devotion-boosting permanents you’ve already resolved.obzedat

[card]Obzedat, Ghost Council[/card] ($8)

“Ghost Dad” has been bouncing between from $5-15 since Gatecrash prices settled.  Though he may not see heavy play at the moment, a switch with [card]Blood Baron of Vizkopa[/card] after a meta change can be a quick fix to keep your deck up to speed with the ever-changing Standard format. He works better with [card]Gray Merchant of Asphodel[/card], avoids sorcery-speed removal, and can add two devotion to white or black.   He quickly applies consistent life total swings and will always enjoy riding the [card]Whip of Erebos[/card] (Ghost Ride da Whip!).  Though $8 may seem high, I think you will be glad to have some copies when he falls into favor again.



polis[card]Polis Crusher[/card] ($.25)

Let’s call this guy my sleeper in the hole.  He may not be good in any playable deck at the moment, but when Wizards of the Coast (WotC) prints a card with protection from the featured card type of the block, the cranial alarm bells should ring. How would you like to block any god (except [card]Thassa, God of the Sea[/card]) throughout the entire block?  [card]Polis Crusher[/card] can block and run past all bestow creatures, and unlike [card]Polukranos, World Eater[/card], cannot be hit by [card]Chained to the Rocks[/card].  I know four mana for a 4/4 is not all that impressive these days, but when a creature has protection from ‘X’ it should be kept in mind.  Pick this guy up as a throw-in at the end of any trade.

varolz[card]Varolz, the Scar-Stripped[/card] ($1.50)

With the printing of the B/G scry land coming to a LGS near you, I think the likelihood of Varolz finding a home is only a matter of time. Bestow creatures provide pump, a creature,  a self sacrifice to Varolz, and a scavenge into a creature of choice. Mana dorks have more purpose and extra value from the graveyard, as does [card]Desecration Demon[/card] after it catches an early removal spell to the face.  In a reanimation shell, engage ‘build your own fatty’ mode until you draw your reanimation spell.  Even a BUG list with [card]Thassa, god of the Sea[/card] can make Varolz or [card]Reaper of the Wild[/card] an unblockable fatty, but with a form of self-protection latched on to each of their tool belts.  This is another speculation that can consistently become a throw-in at the end of an almost equal trade.

Bonus Thought

We all know [card]Boros Reckoner[/card] and [card]Nightveil Specter[/card] will see consistent play through their Standard life.  Both creatures add to your devotion count in a big way. “But Ginger Ale, [card]Prime Speaker Zegana[/card] can only come down on turn five (using [card]Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx[/card] with two mana at four devotion plus two mana of the other color)!” True, but what if I told you I think [card]Prophetic Prism[/card] can enable devotion ramp decks at little to no cost?  Don’t believe me? Let’s change your mind.

prime speaker zegana[card]Prime Speaker Zegana [/card] ($2.50)

This seems like a sweet pickup at the current price tag, especially being from an under-opened expansion (Gatecrash). Zegana combos with a four-power creature to make her a draw-five 5/5 for only six mana.  I mentioned [card]Arbor Colossus[/card] in the last Financial Five as being a worthy speculation target. With [card]Elvish Mystic[/card], [card]Gyre Sage[/card], and [card]Burning-Tree Emissary[/card] (BTE) building early devotion, we already know getting to six mana isn’t hard. But how do we get blue mana? BTE can lead right into a free [card]Prophetic Prism[/card] to set up converting green mana to blue for an easy turn-four Prime Speaker. G/R Nykthos Ramp decks run out of cards if they don’t land [card]Garruk, Caller of Beasts[/card] early enough.  Ramping to Garruk requires a heavy number of creatures to maximize his +1. Prime Speaker lets you keep hitting your land drops as well as your desired tempo or removal spell. Is one strategy better than the other? No, but it is a new way to abuse Nykthos.  Though I could talk about how great his card is for days, know that $2.50 is as low as it will ever be.  A worthy pick up to have in your collection moving forward.


I know I’m suppose to suggest cards that help devotion strategies, but when a strategy become established, a strategy to counteract it must be found.  As speculators, we must stay ahead of the metagame to maximize price increases. This last pick is already a solid card but also has potential to fight popular devotion strategies.

duskmantle seer[card]Duskmantle Seer[/card] ($1.50)

Playing against devotion strategies implies high-costing spells that this wizard could turn into heavy-damage burn spells.  [card]Dimir Charm[/card] can even mess up a recent scry or force them to take a chunk of damage next draw step. Cheap removal in all shapes and sizes, e.g. [card]Cyclonic Rift[/card], [card]Doom Blade[/card], [card]Ultimate Price[/card], [card]Dimir Charm[/card], and [card]Rapid Hybridization[/card], can help minimize the amount of damage you take. Splash white for [card]Azorius Charm[/card] to force their prized high-drop back to the top of their deck or splash green for [card]Abrupt Decay[/card] to take care of small permanents.  Cast a  [card]Thrill-Kill Assassin[/card] to trade or eat an early removal spell to help clear the way for Seer.  A price tag of $1.50 is a crime and I am ready to solve it when the time comes.


Final Thoughts

I feel that these picks have high profit potential and are just waiting for a minuscule meta change or one new card to take them to the level WotC intended them to be.  All of these cards have solid synergies (Obzedat + Whip, Varolz + Bestow, Duskmantle + Dimir/Azorius Charm).  Keep your eyes peeled for the new card that could turn your bulky rares/mythics into Standard staples.  Ask [card]Desecration Demon[/card], [card]Pack Rat[/card], [card]Nightveil Specter[/card], and [card]Blood Baron of Vizkopa[/card]. They’ll vouch for me.


As always, thanks for reading.

Houston ‘Ginger Ale’ Whitehead
Follow: @TNSGingerAle
Listen: Tap N Sac Podcast (RSS Feed)


Houston Whitehead – The Financial Five: Mono-Colored Devotion

When you were younger, did you and your friends ever race up the stairwell at school? “Race you to the top, Jimmy!”  Well, I was the freakishly tall kid that could climb two stairs per step and could beat even the fastest one-step-at-a-time friends. That freakishly tall kid is devotion.  This new Theros mechanic has created not only a new way to play but a new way to build decks.  Now you can accelerate your mana while also playing creatures that matter.  All your opponent can do is throw marbles (i.e. removal spells) up the stairs and hope you fall on your face, or at least force you to take one step at a time like everyone else.  My point is that devotion is here to stay.  Sometimes you ramp up a nut draw (three stairs at a time) and sometimes your opponent can keep your devotion under three to force fair play (one stair at a time).


Devotion has also transformed the CMC (converted mana cost) category in card evaluation.  We all wanted to play [card]Phyrexian Obliterator[/card], but many times the mana cost just couldn’t justify hedging the mana base that far for a single card. Now the mana cost is less of a restriction and more of a perk, giving life to four, five, and six drops that come down one or two turns early without the hassle of mana rocks (Cluestones, [card]Chromatic Lantern[/card]) or mana dorks ([card]Elvish Mystic[/card], [card]Sylvan Caryatid[/card]).

We have all seen the price spike of cards like [card]Boros Reckoner[/card], [card]Nightveil Specter[/card], [card]Pack Rat[/card], [card]Lifebane Zombie[/card], and [card]Tidebinder Mage[/card], partially due to their utility of keeping devotion high. I’ve picked five cards from most of the color wheel that could see a similar jump with the release of Born of the Gods and forward.

[card]Hammer of Purphoros[/card] ($1)

hammer of pIt still blows my mind that this card is sitting at a dollar.  Everyone seems to currently be hyped up on the Mono-Black Devotion train. This just makes me picture [card]Purphoros, God of the Forge[/card] sitting in the corner hitting nails into a wooden 2 x 4. Turn 2 [card]Ash Zealot[/card], T3 [card]Burning-Tree Emissary[/card] + [card]Hammer of Purphoros[/card] + [card]Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx[/card] = Early smoke/food/restroom break.  Giving haste to all your top decks and making extra lands into 3/3’s lets red decks do what they usually can’t: win through a flood.  I call my mono-red devotion deck “Moses said so,” because not even a sea can stand in the way of these devoted red creatures. I know it’s a rare from one of the largest selling sets in Magic: The Gathering history, but trust me when I say, cards get hard to come by when the next set comes out.

[card]Heliod, God of the Sun[/card] ($5)

heliodThis card need a solid two-drop (CMC WW, of course) for consistent success in competitive play. Ramping out tokens with the extra mana may not increase devotion, but playing just enough creatures to keep devotion at five or six can apply pressure while also preparing for a post-board sweeper hand vomit.   The card has a $5 price tag, the cheapest of the first five gods. Picking up three for yourself and three to trade off later could set you up for some quick profits.  As a mythic and a poster child of the Theros set, all it takes is a two or three copies in a top-eight list to set up a profitable dump.

[card]Arbor Colossus[/card] ($1)

arbor colossusGGG and 2 colorless has never been so easy to cast as in this two-color-or-less format.  A 6/6 creature with reach that can swat down anything in the skies of Standard AND shoots down a flier next turn! What’s not to love? This, my friends, is not a dollar rare.  Nothing about this card should place it in the box of bulk rares you put in a shoe box under your bed.  If curving out into odd CMCs (3, 5, 7) is a goal for green decks in future Standard, this guy will be first in line.  Pick up as many of this monster as you can, as long as you don’t make [card]Polukranos, World Eater[/card] (aka Pocahontas, World Eater) jealous.  That guy knows how to fight….

[card]Boon Satyr[/card] ($3)

boon satyrI like to think of this guy as a five-turn clock with an upside.  This card is a beast and when I started picking copies up it was sitting at a dollar.  It is now up to $3 but still has potential to rise.  Knowing this is an enchantment-based block, any efficient bestow creatures or powerful enchantment amplifiers can crank his potential up another notch.  [card]Ethereal Armor[/card] is already a built-in combo!  He trades with almost every creature on the ground and makes every control player cry when he survives a [card]Supreme Verdict[/card] (when bestowed of course).  I can see, at minimum, a price double to $6 in the near future.

[card]Nighthowler[/card] ($.50)

nighthowler promoWith the G/B scry land coming to a pack near you, I see [card]Nighthowler[/card] being a part of a tier-one self-mill strategy.  I know cards like this have been printed in the past, but the bestow ability could give this card the playability it needs to break into Standard.  [card]Commune with the Gods[/card] and [card]Grisly Salvage[/card] both help you grow his power and toughness, and one at instant speed.  Even scrying off the new G/B scry dual land or a [card]Reaper of the Wilds[/card] trigger could increase the consistency of your “build your own fattie.” Honestly, you could probably trade the lint in your belly button for this guy right now.  All it takes is a playable two- or three-drop trampler to give [card]Nighthowler[/card] a chance to show howl hard he can punch.

Final Thoughts

Sadly, many of the black and blue devotion playables have saturated Top 8’s enough recently to create a higher demand and price.  Keep an eye on these staples when these strategies fall out of favor and drop to a reasonable level.  With so many more cards yet to spoil in future expansions, there’s a good chance those strategies will eventually be reincarnated to fight the future metas.

Houston ‘Ginger Ale’ Whitehead
Follow: @TNSGingerAle
Listen: Tap N Sac Podcast (RSS Feed)