MTGYOU- Origins Art Draft

origins draftHey gang!  I’m back and I’ve got something special for you today. One of the things that I do in amongst all my other MTG musings and mutterings is periodically taking the time to stop, open up a pack, and really sit down and examine the art on the cards.  I know that I often just skim on by the art and often miss things, so to take a moment and really appreciate the art on the cards can be really refreshing and fun.  Then, after checking out all the art I then go through and pick which one I would select first if I was going to draft based on the art on the cards.  The nicest part about all of this is that likely everyone has their own opinion and taste when it comes to the art on the cards meaning that there is lots of really good discussion.  So, sit back, relax, and let’s enjoy an Art Draft!

Dark Dabbling
Infectious Bloodlust
Akroan Jailer
Thornbow Archer
Pharika’s Disciple
Disperse
Ringwarden Owl
Bellows Lizard
Topan Freeblade
Returned Centaur
Skysnare Spider
Runed Servitor
Bounding Krasis
Demonic Pact

Dark Dabbling lives up to the name, but generally feels a little lacklustre.  The art is exactly what you would expect from a Black card, and most certainly comes from Liliana’s early work with Necromancy, but the art seems to be lacking a little.  Yes, Liliana is very prominent and the potion of Green stuff looks to be pretty sickly, but it is the surroundings that let me down.  It just seems so bland a non-descript.  Often times the best pieces of art have some sort of interesting detail in the background and this is just one more spooky old castle.  Now, I do like the hand that is neatly tucked off to the left of the book, and if you look real close the book is detailing how to use some sort of joint to help make the green concoction, so those are kind of neat, but I was really hoping for more. The real saving grace with this one is how Liliana is looking over her shoulder at us.  She is clearly wondering who exactly is intruding on her and she hardly looks impressed.  So, while the art in the background is a bit tame, I do like the details put into Liliana and the details in the foreground.  This wouldn’t be my first choice most times, but it is very respectable.

Infectious Bloodlust looks like a Red card.  The critters on the card are all red and everything screams that this is a Red card except the name doesn’t really seem to jive with the Art.  This card looks neither Infectious nor does it look Bloodlust-y.  What I get from this little upside down gremlin is that he and his buddies are up to some sort of mischief rather than being truly bloodthirsty. I feel like the art would have been better on an Act of Treason type card rather than this.  As an aside, am I the only guy who thinks that this little upside down guy might be the same dude from Rakdos Cackler?  They look awfully similar.  Despite the similarity, I still think the card art and the name don’t really match and as a result I would have this quite low on my pick order.

Akroan Jailer is pretty ho-hum too.  I mean, he’s just a dude standing there with his torch essentially tapping down your opponent’s thing. He’s pretty bland at first look, but if you look closely, the detail on his armour around his waist is pretty intricate.  However, because the background around him is so dark our eyes are pulled to the rather beefy dude holding the torch and not his armour unless you are intent on looking pretty closely. Here’s  my real question:  Can you explain to me how this guy is just a 1/1? I mean, this rather imposing dude has the same stats as a Elvish Mystic or an Elvish Visionary, and neither of those guys are imposing, muscular dudes.  No, I’m just confused how this hefty tank of a guy is a mere 1/1 while those scrawny Elves are just the same.  It just doesn’t make sense.  Anyway, he’s a guy…with a torch.

Thornbow Archer is a pretty classic looking Elf.  A tall, graceful, tree top living Elf should look something like this and the bow fits just right as well. This is a pretty simple and pretty classic among Fantasy tropes but it is the subtle colouring that I like best.  The Green hues on the tree and on his clothing tell you quite firmly that these elves are B/G.  So, while this is not exciting, the classic look and feel of the art appeals to me.

Pharika’s Disciple is an up close look at a centaur.  Yup. There she(?) is.  Why exactly does she have deathtouch?  Oh, right, if you worship Pharika you get the poison cane.  But otherwise she looks nothing like most deathtouch creatures in the not so distant past.  So, while the the centaur look is a strong one, this is among my least favorite cards in the set…At least from the art standpoint.

Disperse has got some fresh new art and it looks cool. The art that was on this card from M14 may have been the accepted version of the card, but this new art is super sweet. The guy is literally dissolving into mist and going to disperse, thus the name. This new art is among my favorite in the set and would be moving to the front of the line for sure.

Ringwarden Owl is just a fancy version of Hedwig. Cute as he is, I’m not a big fan. I do appreciate the Mage Ring in the background, and the lighting is pretty sweet, but my focus is on the rather bland owl in the foreground. He could have been made so much cooler, but take away the card frame and this would be a lovely oil on canvas piece for the walls of my parents home.

Bellows Lizard is equally unexciting. A big red crocodile is pretty unexciting. If you like it, that’s great, but he’s pretty underwhelming in my mind. Also, how is this rather large crocodile a 1/1 when the owl is a 3/3?  I would be much more frightened of the croc getting a hold of me than swatting down Hedwig. Whatever. Not a huge deal, but a bit of a head scratcher.

Topan Freeblade is one of my favorite cards because it can be such a ridiculous threat and just beat down so early and so hard. But the art is slightly on the strange side. The lighting behind our creature makes it very difficult to get a real good look at her and the perspective is very in tight and looking up. Don’t get me wrong. I like this art because it is so different and interesting to look at, but every time I look at her I feel like I’m going to be blinded by the sun behind her back. Also, one aspect I’ve grown to like is that initially your eyes are drawn to her blade she is holding out front, but don’t forget the second blade she is wielding behind her head/shoulder. That second blade will get you every time! This goes to the front as one of my favorites too.

Returned Centaur is pretty blah. Grey background. Black and grey centaur. I mean, it looks like the name, but I’m not rushing around looking for this card art and I’m not picking this first.

Skysnare Spider is a pretty frightening spider. I guess my opinion is helped by the fact I don’t much like spiders in most cases anyway. However, when a spider is the size of this one I have to say I am extra creeped out. The prey of this particular spider looks to be of a pretty good size meaning this is one massive spider. Also, what makes this extra scary is the fact that it clearly gets the drop on its prey from up above which is one nasty surprise. I think I like this art more than most because it is an action shot. Most of the other cards in this pack have been stationary photos of the creature or spell, but this one is in mid action catching its prey. Also, that is one big, gross spider with the green accents and that can’t be something good. So, this card gets a good ick factor and is a chill action shot which sets this apart from the other cards in this pack.

Runed Servitor is just a creepy moving box. It kind of looks like a face hugger from the Alien movie franchise. I saw that movie as a kid and the face hugger still gives me the creeps now.  The card is perfectly playable in draft, but the art does little to make me want to pick it an art draft. Thanks, but no thanks.

Quite honestly the best thing about Bounding Krasis is the creature type. Come on, who doesn’t love fish lizard as a creature type? Now, the art on this is good. I like the creature and he looks in keeping with the other krasis critters the Simic seem to breed. The background looks like it could be Ravnica meaning that they have been true to where this guy is from and it just “feels” right. Even the colors look right. No. You know what sinks this guy is that flavor text. It’s the part about being as destructive as a tidal wave. On a 3/3? So, what is Lorthos then?  No idea, but if this is the criteria for a tidal wave I don’t like what comes next. Way to go flavor department on spoiling a rather good piece of art with a silly quote that doesn’t make sense. The quote doesn’t make it unpickable, it just hampers it enough that I’m less inclined to pick it first.

Demonic Pact is a cool card that makes use of some rather new design space. That said, the art doesn’t match with how cool this card is. The art shows Liliana with all her Runes that light up when she is using her powers, and you can see the hordes of zombies behind her in the background, but it looks like it could have been an alternate art for another planeswalker card and not this super cool designed card. I’m not going to slag the art, but I don’t think it really does this card justice.

Top five cards
Topan Freeblade
Skysnare Spider
Bounding Krasis ( bad quote and all)
Disperse
Demonic Pact

In my mind today the top two contenders are the Freeblade and the Spider. I think my vote today is for the spider because I like how the art captures this massive spider in action. I think the action shot  separates this from the other cards enough to have it be first pick. I also think the artist did a great job of capturing the size of this thing to make  the stats match up with the art. I think that sort of continuity really helps to strengthen the art on the card because everything lines up from art, to stats, to the quote. Everything comes together on the spider and makes him pick number 1 for today.

Thanks very much for stopping in to have a read. Let me know what you think. Do you agree with my choices? Do you face other cards that you like better on account of the art. Let me know in the comments below or by hitting me up on Twitter @bgray8791. Thanks again and have yourselves a great mtg day.

Bruce Gray
@bgray8791

MTGYou #81- Jeskai Black, Atarka Red? Oh My Colorful Standard!

image4604This Week In Our Main Phase:

What is up with all the colors in Standard right now.  We cover the top decks in Standard, so you know what to look out for.  Plus, all the other goodies you get from MTGYou.

Read moreMTGYou #81- Jeskai Black, Atarka Red? Oh My Colorful Standard!

Battle of Wits

Battle of wits“The wizard who reads a thousand books is powerful. The wizard who memorizes a thousand books is insane.”

Battle of Wits is a curious card. It invariably lends itself to a certain type of deck, and though it is never consistently powerful, can win games early (upkeep on turn 4 is not difficult,) and can be difficult to interact with.

Battle of Wits.dec

Creatures

4 Elvish Mystic
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Thought Courier
3 Survivor of the Unseen
4 Prognostic Sphinx
4 Sigiled Starfish
4 Bringer of the Black Dawn
4 Laboratory Maniac
2 Opaline Unicorn

Artifacts

4 Chromatic Sphere
4 Aether Spellbomb
4 Darksteel Pendant
4 Serum Powder
4 Traveler’s Amulet
1 Terrarion
2 Azorius Cluestone
1 Aligned Hedron Network

Spells

4 Dawn’s Reflection
4 Treasure Trove
4 Battle of Wits
4 Sprout Swarm
4 Think Twice
4 Peek
4 Perilous Research
4 Telling Time
4 Anticipate
4 Holy Day
4 Reminisce
4 Enduring Ideal
4 Enter the Infinite
4 Sleight of Hand
4 Forsee
4 Train of Thought
4 Tunnel Vision
4 Counsel of the Soratami
4 Divination
4 Diabolic Tutor
4 Rampant Growth
4 Edge of Autumn
4 Sign in Blood
4 Read the Bones
4 Curse of the Swine\
1 Extinguish All Hope
1 Duneblast
1 Phyrexian Rebirth
1 Divine Reckoning

Lands

14 Plains
15 Island
15 Swamp
14 Forest
4 Evolving Wilds
4 Terramorphic Expanse
4 Jungle Hollow
4 Dismal Backwater
4 Thornwood Falls
4 Scoured Barrens
4 Tranquil Cove
4 Blossoming Sands

I’m not sure there is a comprehensive write up on Battle of Wits out there, and the beauty of having to have so many cards in the deck means that you can stuff in any secondary strategy you have the cards for, which is a strategy I recommend. After all, sometimes you run into that one guy who is running Traumatize. Or maybe you’re holding off an Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger with Sprout Swarm tokens.

I decided that if my main win condition relies on having the fullest library, my secondary win condition would rely on having an empty one. Even if Battle of Wits is still live, with the mana available, I’ll pretty much always jam Enter the Infinite, since it’s just a much cooler way to win. Also, I like drawing cards.

Which is why I have gone super heavy on grinding through the deck trying to find combo pieces. A full 78 cards in the deck either say “draw x card(s)” or otherwise put a card into your hand. That way, I am never at a loss to find a Peek or a Think Twice after resolving Enter the Infinite and a Laboratory Maniac.

I often get asked why I run four colors and not five. The answer is that red does not do anything to justify the splash. The best choice of tutors red offers is Gamble, and I don’t want to discard a combo piece by accident. Black just offers more reliable effects in Diabolic Tutor and Bringer of the Black Dawn, and if you turn to Vintage, Vampiric Tutor and Demonic Tutor would be good additions. Green justifies its presence by enabling fast ramping kills on occasion, and provides color fixing to make sure you can hit the tricky double color costs.

So, black has tutors, green keeps my mana good, blue has all my combo and most of my card drawing tools, but what about white? There are certainly enough Damnation and Languish effects in black to take the sweeper slots, and Darkness got printed in Time Spiral, so there’s no reason Holy Day is that important. No, there is one card and one card only that justifies playing white, and that card is Enduring Ideal. Four copies makes for effectively four extra copies of Battle of Wits. Even better, if it resolves, you’ll get another copy of Battle for every turn your opponent manages to avoid losing.

Battle of Wits is in an unfortunate position, because despite how truly terrifying it can be, the Eternal formats are such that no amount of tutoring and card draw will be fast enough to dig it out of such a large pile of cards. Which maybe is for the best. An enchantment that read “at the beginning of your upkeep, you win the game,” and costed at 3uu would be played in pretty much every Legacy and Vintage deck that plays blue.

Even if it never sees tournament play, this can still be a fun deck to pilot, and makes for a neat object lesson when a new player starts asking about why you should stick to the 60 card minimum.

Just don’t forget where you put the poison. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9s0UURBihH8

MTGYOU Visiting with Vorthos- Hedron Alignment and At Any Cost

    IfBattle-for-Zendikar-Art-3 you have been following the storyline on Zendikar you are likely very familiar with the plight of the Zendikari.  They are at the edge of their very existence.  Ulamog and his Eldrazi spawn have run rampant across the plane, Sea Gate has fallen, and the people of Zendikar are facing extinction. However, Gideon and his army have mounted a mighty counter-offensive and started to push back and take back Zendikar.  With the help of some unexpected allies and some old friends Zendikar has fought back and has a chance to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. The latest installments of Uncharted Realms see Gideon and his army having reclaimed Sea Gate and making plans to ultimately stop Ulamog and the Eldrazi onslaught.  Gideon gathers his allies which include Nissa, Drana, and Kiora to discuss what the next steps should be.  Shortly after they meet Jace arrives with knowledge about how to trap Ulamog using the Hedrons setting up a plan to trap the Titan and save what is left of Zendikar.

Read moreMTGYOU Visiting with Vorthos- Hedron Alignment and At Any Cost

MTGYou #80 – Let’s Talk About… Star Wars?

bitmapThis Week In Our Main Phase:

We take a step back from Magic to talk about another interest of ours… Star Wars and the new movie coming out.  Plus, all the extra goodies you get from MTGYou.

Read moreMTGYou #80 – Let’s Talk About… Star Wars?