Casual Eye for the Conflux Guy
By Adam Styborski on February 19th, 2009 · Filed in Casual · Comments not available just now
Casual Eye for the Conflux Guy
Admit it: you opened me and wanted Wrath.Many players love cracking boosters. While mathematically it is often much more financially sound to instead buy play sets of cards on an as-needed basis, there just something about opening a booster and flipping to the rare (and hopefully foil as well!) slot(s) at the end of the pack. Often, you come away with "another jank rare" or "Oh! Foil Mudhole! How awesome!" However it's those "I just opened Rafiq!" and "Sweet! I needed another copy of Wrath!" moments that bring us back (and keep us addicted).
Conflux is a mixed bag in terms of card quality. There are some certain tournament staples and the obligatory GRL (Good Rare Land), but a lot of the set seems geared right towards
the "Casual-Multiplayer-Budget-Minded Player" me and the group of casual gamers I play with most Thursdays. I'm certainly not a pro and I don't have the "new secret tech" to bring to your local FNM from the set, but if you want to see what many of you should be trying to pick and why: I'm your guy.
It's booster crackin' time and I have the
lazy casual eye.
REL 0 Deck Check
Before I highlight some cards individually, let's jump right into some decks that serve as a great segue into the new cards. There's a lot going on in Conflux other than Bolas and shards merging.
A good goblin not from Onslaught.
Efficient creatures, like Matca Rioter and Aven Trailblazer let you leverage your multi-basic land goodness in the early game. Other powerful domain commons, Might of Alara and Exploding Borders, are upgrades from existing commons (Giant Growth, Rampant Growth, and Tribal Flames) that allow you to leverage more efficiency and keep applying pressure. Manaforce Mace, Spore Burst, and Wandering Goblins can all serve as finishing cards; the Goblins can get very big very quick. If you're looking to upgrade or try some tougher to cast domain stuff, try splashing in better lands and a few copies of some better cards: Fusion Elemental is great beats, Maelstrom Archangel is a finisher that can go the distance while keeping impressive pressure on the board, and the reflective pair of Paragon of the Amesha and Dragonsoul Knight serves as both early aggro and late-game winners.
Armillary Sphere is more powerful than it might seem at first glance. Mana fixing this powerful and colorless gives you the phenomenal opportunity to set multiple colors in a hurry. Hand-in-hand in the abundant mana fixing is Rupture Spire, effectively a City of Brass that trades life payments for a tempo loss. If you find your mana is a bit funny, the Spire is a great card to swap in to force the colors to work. However, with this deck, you have explosive starts from "bad" hands; consider an opening hand that has the following: Plains, Mountain, Armillary Sphere, Wild Nacatl, Exploding Borders, Spore Burst, and Manaforce Mace. You pitch this, right? Wrong Turn 1: Plains. Turn 2: Mountain; Armillary Sphere. Turn 3: Pop Armillary Sphere for a Forest and Swamp to your hand; Forest; Wild Nacatl (which is a 3/3). Turn 4: Swamp; Exploding Borders for an Island and 5 damage; swing with a 3/3 Wild Nacatl.
Not too bad for casual jank when I was completely ignoring what the draws were each turn. However if multiplayer is your flavor, take a look at the Grixis-themed deck below:
If you haven't tried it yet, unearth in multiplayer is like a weaker version of persist: you get back something your opponent killed or thought was annoying. However, unlike persist, you get the full power of the creature but only for one turn. Like the old Suicide Black decks of yesteryear, running lots of creatures that revive themselves and using them to pound out some disruptive beats is pretty classy. Brackwater Elemental is like Fog Elemental without flying, Hellspark Elemental is very similar to his cousin Spark Elemental, and Shambling Remains is a pretty efficient creature for only . That fact that these all come back to play for more fun (and at a discount for Shambling Remains) without using any additional cards lets you trade one turn then pound back the next. When you run some tricks like the very cheap Unsummon and underplayed Call to Heel you can reset your beats (to your hand with combat damage on the stack rather than letting them die to be unearthed) for more fun; Call to Heel is amazing for this and fits well as a blue combat trick.
Need moar playerz!
Adding to the multiplayer flavor are Rotting Rats and Infectious Horror. Both are very reminiscent of their cousin Urborg Syphon-Mage in that they are cheap black threats to general game stability. Infectious Horror can hammer life totals without even needing to hit home. And while the horror doesn't have unearth, the rats do: empty hands are something that both black and red love to see in a game (see the hellbent mechanic from the Dissension set). Once everyone is in topdeck mode your unearthing creatures will truly shine.
The ultimate finisher in this deck though is clearly the Blood Tyrant. Take a quick look at Malfegor; did you notice something? Malfegor has you trade away your entire hand for a few creatures. This isn't to say Malfegor isn't decent (or even good) for multiplayer, but Blood Tyrant lets you keep your hand, gets bigger than Malfegor at the beginning of the next turn, and has trample to boot. Even better: if one of your fellow planeswalkers leaves the game for any reason (Rules Definition: they lose, quit, or become disqualified) your Tyrant gets much bigger and, the last time I checked, a big, flying, trampling creature tends to win games.
If you wanted to drop money into this deck, Banefire is exactly where you want to go: uncounterable 5 damage (or more) is a very safe, fun way to tap out. If you can drop Blood Tyrant you have the needed to power out Banefire. The only thing that can truly stop a Banefie is some sort of Time Stop shenanigans. If that happens you were probably going to lose anyway.
Bant had a pretty appealing weenie mechanic (exalted) but was very thin overall. Now, with Conflux, you can build the semi-competitive "Bant Weenie" deck you really wanted three months ago:
Aside from the obvious exalted starters of Akrasan Squire and Court Archers, a big addition from Conflux is Aven Squire. Bant needed cheap evasion and now, with the Aven Squire, it has it. However, you'll probably still want the Bant Battlemage there to give flying out as needed. The other issue Bant faces was that defensively exalted doesn't mean much. Gleam of Resistance is a great filler for this hole: you can pull an "alpha strike" to bait your opponent into swinging back with everything. As an added bonus, Gleam of Resistance also fixes your mana if needed. Not bad for a white common.
This makes Bant Weenie work properly.
Adding further to the Bant pile is the already well-known Path to Exile. I probably don't have much interesting to say about this well-talked-about card other than you must learn to play like you don't have it in your hand. Don't give off the "I have removal and I'm gonna toast your dude." vibe; stick to your game plan and use it to create a "path" to victory. (My pun should help you remember this later.)
Money for this deck is easy: Noble Hierarch. The Hierarch gives your deck something it desperately wants: acceleration and more exalted. If you want to get frisky, try the Noble Hierarch with a side order of Rhox War Monk: it's so hot it's like pouring gasoline onto a house fire.
The Cream of the Crop.
These three decks highlight some of the casual considerations and "jank decks" you can toss together and test. However, some cards are just standout stars on their own. Everybody will clamor for a few and you should really watch out for these:
Supremely confident in his awesome power, he just knocks the socks off of your opponents... and your wallet. In a multiplayer games you may find a neat combo to bring him out quicker than turn 8 (assuming you don't miss any land drops) but he won't last until your next turn without some serious shenanigans (and/or game altering enchantments). This guy is a blast to use, even more fun to open for yourself, and you'll find no shortage of "Hey, do you want to trade Bolas?" Keep a part of Magic history unless you can score some serious awesome for him.
Not the go-to blue finisher anymore.
This guys pwns hard and harder. Repeatable almost Vindicate is as great as it sounds and a 4/4 flying for five in mono-blue certainly isn't shabby all by itself. While the tournament capabilities of this guy are debatable you'll find him fitting nicely into any multiplayer deck: as long as you're not blowing up the stuff of the player who's holding removal you'll be fine.
A Fellwar Stone for ; a poor man's Reflecting Pool; a great land for multiplayer. Any way you want to look at this GRL (Good Rare Land) you should be aiming to collect a few. This may jump in price if multicolor decks (especially 5CC and domain-theme decks) surge to the top of Standard. Grab these under the radar now: Reflecting Pool was once a five-dollar rare as well.
It makes itself bigger by filtering your Forests and Plains into the best lands in your deck. Certainly a treat in multiplayer, this guy really shines when you can activate him multiple times in a casual game. Your huge finisher just fixed your mana and your deck to draw nothing but juice for the rest of the game. For bonus points, use commons like the Panorama cycle to give this guy a boost before you even bring him out. (Of course, there are "better" options but really, do you need them with this guy?)
I'm still cool, right?
Cenn's Enlistment is a card that, unlike Wrath of God, doesn't really buy you enough time to start over again. For just Martial Coup gives you two tokens: Cenn's Enlistment is better with retrace on it. The only obvious choice to ramp it up to at least and get a full board tempo swing is very appealing. I don't believe the deck that can run this is in Standard but, as a Wrath-type variant, this will catch the eye of many. Downplay this card in your trades (compare it to Cenn's Enlistment and Wrath of God; in that vacuum the Coup isn't as sexy) and you may be able to pick up great gem for slower formats: multiplayer screams to see this card powered up with the Urza-tron, Cloudposts, and Temple of the False Gods.
If you ever wanted to sneak a Draco or Darksteel Colossus into play with Tinker this is your gal. Of course, there are many other cards that work well and the fact that you can return itself to pay for its cost means devastating potential (i.e. a one-card-combo). Something as surprising as a turn five Inkwell Leviathan is sure to win you some games. Of course, a simple card advantage engine that can be powered by fellow Conflux alumnus Kaleidostone is more innocent (read: "fair") and survivable than some face beats. Just make sure the cards you plan to draw will win you the game.
A potential sleeper powerhouse in cheap, repeatable discard, you'll never struggle to find a target that needs to lose a card in multiplayer. With a cheap, if deep, casting cost of you should have little trouble slipping this in through a wall of counterspells. This card will break down a control deck surely and slowly as you strip cards from their hand. Grab extra copies and keep your fingers crossed if you have to wait: this card screams for the potential to be abused.
As if green needs more powerhouse creatures, this guy is versatile and effective (even if the art is ugly). With the ability to withstand most removal, pump power or toughness (and remember, you need to pump toughness if it a -X/-X effect would kill it), and to get trample all without extra help, you'll be hard pressed to find a better creature for general purposes. This guy may not read "win the game" but it smacks of "find an answer to me soon" and that is often enough in of itself to win.
Obsoleted before Standard rotation?
Instant speed X=2 Earthquake and Hurricane rolled up to just sounds pretty decent; it's certainly close to the now venerable Firespout. But Volcanic Fallout has one big difference: it cannot be countered. If Banefire was the coffin for Faeries and other control decks, Volcanic Fallout is the nail that seals it shut. Oh, and I guess 2 damage to every player for three mana gets better in multiplayer, it wipes the board of most annoying tokens out there (see Worm Harvest, Martial Coup, etc.), and nobody is going to stop it from happening (again, aside from Time Stop absurdity). Get your play set: this bad boy is only an uncommon.
These Didn't Make It Out of the Loser Bracket.
Some cards are pretty exciting at a glance but fail to live up to the hype. While the new mythic rarity can allow some truly awesome cards to slip through, you can bet that there will be chaff even among these esteemed cards.
You might be surprised to see him here, in the loser zone. Don't kid yourself: you secretly suspected it yourself. for a 10/10 is pretty sexy, no argument there, but without any evasion (or even trample), you probably won't hit home with him often. Further confounding the issue is that even if you ping little blockers out of the way you are going to be simultaneously reducing your ability to finish your opponent quickly. Doesn't sound so awesome now, does it? Of course, many players will look at him and throw removal, if they have it, on sight: use irrational fear to your advantage and bait out removal to allow something more effective to sit pretty on the board. Trade this guy for some good stuff in multiples: Path to Exile makes all the work to get or more look silly.
Without the ability to pull reanimator shenanigans, even the most audacious and aggressive mana acceleration decks falling short, and a brutal casting cost even with abundant mana fixing, Progenitus will probably spend many games stranded in your hand. Should you be so lucky as to be able to actually raw dog or cheat this guy into play from your hand, expect any and all counter spells to be pointed right at him while he's on the stack. Yes, hitting the board with Progenitus is amazing and should win you the game, but in multiplayer where you will likely have the best chance to pull it off you'll run into plenty of Wrath of God effects to blast him back into your library. The "Soul of the World" feels very much like a heavy, dead weight; trade him for store credit or other awesome stuff.
Bolas frowns upon my shenanigans.
The Conflux set namesake quotes Bolas himself: sounds pretty awesome, right? If you can spend you can probably do more in the meantime. For a dedicated domain- or even tri-colored deck this will certainly refill your hand with the best of what's in your deck, but if you aren't winning by the time you can cast this you're probably not going to be saved by what you dig up. Bolas' exact plans are still unknown but we can be sure of one thing: the opposing planeswalkers must have been really slow to let him drag this out.
Pretty slick for a mana-intensive creature deck, you'll run into one small glitch: you can't pay for creature's activated abilities. While evoke, kicker, and alternative costs are included (Heeeelloooooo Bringer of the Black Dawn!), you can't protect them with enchantments or abilities, combat spells and pump effects, or even equipment. You can skip getting this card and you will likely never even miss it.
See Apocalypse Hydra; while the potential for a huge critter for just is certainly appealing, this will draw removal and get chump blocked to no end. For , Kird Ape and Mogg Fanatic will often perform just as well or better: they aren't relying on too much else to be awesome and they can do their thing on the first and second turns of the game which, as history has shown, are generally two of the more important turns.
Unlike the proactive Ethersworn Adjudicator, Giltspire Avenger is reactive. Repeatable Reciprocate would be pretty neat but instead you get the regeneration ignoring Mortify without enchantment destruction. Add in that you generally have to wait a full turn to use him and that he's a fragile creature you can see why he is already in the $1 crap rare bin. While exalted could be pointed to as a saving grace, I'd rather drop a Rhox War Monk and start swinging for life gain than wait to blow up a creature after damage has been resolved.
Repeatable card draw is certainly the cat's meow, but at the stunning "discounted" price of from , you still pay a total of four mana (and tap) to draw a card, and it actually gets worse since instead of you pay . If you're running Jayemdae Tome in a mono-blue deck, the Scepter of Insight will serve you slightly better, otherwise this can be skipped entirely and traded away.
Diamonds in the Rough.
With the most recent, and extreme, example being Tarmogoyf, some cards look okay but you let them slide into your trade binder and innocuously go away. Other cards sit in a pile, hidden and forgotten, with their potential completely untapped. Check these out for some surprise additions to your favorite decks and other cards that seem to hint at greater potential.
Red/black hate is always strong with white, but straight up "remove from the game" is approaching Swords to Plowshares territory. While Path to Exile take the prize this round, the not-so-distant runner up will take out annoying enchantments and black Esper artifacts as well. Grab a play set to put in your sideboards and multiplayer decks: you'll be quite surprised with the range of targets you will run into.
This guy can hit home, even through lethal damage, and then return himself to your hand. Not to mention that you can grab any other goodie you might have sitting there; this Wurm will do well for you. Since this isn't constructed quality (or perhaps it is; time will tell) and it's the foil rare in an Intro Deck, you should have no problems getting the copies you need for your decks. Have fun!
Makes your opponents cry, too.
While a 6/6 for only five is pretty hot, you need to be running fearsome color fixing to pull him off early. While he is a big threat to not be killed, any player with cheap removal can abuse the Child before you're ready. That said, the Child works well with any sacrifice outlet to allow you the pleasure of immediate, unavoidable (outside of Wipe Away or Trickbind type shenanigans) board clearing. You'll win friends and enemies in a hurry: multiplayer politics were never so good for you.
Pure mana acceleration for the shard that most wants it. If you want to run Naya beats, this is your elvish druid for sure. Being able to cast Naya Charm with only available on the board will certainly lead opponents into mistakes; create these situations and capitalize on them.
There is so much that can be done with this it's not funny: for every color you get a great, in-color option. Even better, you can combine this with powerful untapping artifacts (Voltaic Key combos with a lot of other things, though) to get obscene. Remember: this isn't legendary so you should have no issue running more than a one copy in your multiplayer deck.
There's my general casual and multiplayer review. I hope you were able to take something new away today. However, if you've read my other articles, you'll know that I'm also a budget player at heart. Below is a bonus section of the budget (and Pauper/Peasant legal) common cards you should be trying to pick up.
Bonus: Budget-Minded Highlights
I generally like to work a deck up under a budget: I can't afford extra sets and singleton copies of the best cards so I must improvise a lot of what I want to do. These cards are all common and will all provide a lot of use for you instead of rarer or more expensive alternatives.
Yes, it's that good. Seriously.
I didn't say it above because I wanted a treat for you budget players: Rupture Spire is almost as good as a Vivid land or potentially even better; if your deck can afford a tempo loss, this is a true "poor man's Reflecting Pool. Powerful, effective color fixing will make your deck function regardless of the colors of cards you've drawn. For virtually any deck where you want to run a lot of colors, Rupture Spire will do a great job of impersonating rarer cards and can be used in wealthier decks to fuel filter lands. Grab extra play sets (hit up the drafting and sealed junkies: they'll have tons for sure) and consolidate your random, insufficient color fixing lands out of your decks: this common is worth its weight in gold.
For just you can bounce an opponent's creature back to their hand in response to a combat trick or pump spell. For just you can buy another turn from something truly mean or expensive. You can even save your own creature (see the multiplayer Grixis deck at the top of the article if you skipped it). Very flexible, this little gem proved its worth many times over in my Sealed and Pauper/Peasant decks, and it will do it for yours, too.
For just you can kill just about anything. With so many creatures dying in multiplayer, and black having many of the best sacrifice outlets, you'll find this should just as well read ": Destroy target creature." Great stuff.
As instant-speed almost Rampant Growth is pretty awesome and, when you factor in the late-game life gain this can bring, you should happily grab extras of this powerful green utility common. If you need Rampant Growth just to fix domain or a splash color, Sylvan Bounty should replace it outright in your deck.
Note: Pursuant to the above, the remainder of the basic landcycling cycle (Absorb Vis, Fiery Fall, Gleam of Resistance, and Traumatic Visions) are decent. Any of them will fit into their respective colored decks well and fix for any splash cards you may be running. While these other cards in the cycle are more situational they serve a better purpose than the single-type land cycling from the Onslaught era of Magic.
2/2 "bears" with protection from a color are good. Seriously. Protection is very powerful and these guys will fit well into any appropriate two-colored deck. Valeron Outrider and Vedalken Outrider gets bonus points for being either pro-black or pro-blue: they may even see constructed play at some point.
Hinted at above, this card is Rampant Growth+Tribal Flames=good times for you; not just in domain-themed decks, but any deck would love to get extra mana out there while at least Shocking an opponent. This card gets absurdly good as you ramp up towards full-blown domain; Tribal Flames is hot in Extended right now and Exploding Borders may get hot in Standard. Enjoy the great burn!
You need to actually run a multicolored deck with some of these in it: with just available on the board you can ramp up to four pretty directly, thinning you deck and fixing at least two colors all at once. Turn 2 Sphere, turn 3 pop then play a land, turn 4 land again seems decent (see the "Domain, Vengeant" deck above). With three-color (and more) decks becoming normal (and perhaps even expected), colorless mana fixing that thins your deck will get even better. Like Rupture Spire, this is a great common to stock up on so you can put it into many of your decks.
Opinions Are Like...
I'm sure some of you disagree with me significantly; others not as much. In either case (or even the magical, non-real third case where you wholly agree with me!), post your thoughts through the comments in the discussion forum. Just remember: this is for casual and multiplayer (and budget) discussion only. When you start to bring in tournament play, Constructed tournament decks, and other information to the table, you will be taking away from my goal: convincing you that Conflux is a boon to the non-tournament crowd and we're all having a blast experiencing it.
By Adam Styborski on February 19th, 2009 · Filed in Casual · Comments not available just now
About Adam Styborski
Adam Styborski has played Magic on and off from around Ice Age onward. With his B.A. in Mathematics, he promply got a job in the insurance industry and moved far from the tiny towns he grew up in to the urban metropolis of Washington, D.C. Constantly trying new things, he loves to win with the unexpected and has found a home in the very diverse Magic community in D.C.