Bruce’s Combat Phase: Shadows over Innistrad Pre-Release

SOI_MTGWow, how the Magic world has changed.  Standard has been turned on its head as Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged are rotating out and we get Shadows over Innistrad.  However, before we get a first hand look at what Constructed looks like, we all got a taste of what Sealed has to offer with this newest set at the Pre-release.  I figure now is as good as a time as any to go over how I fared out there is wilderness, slinging spells, and generally getting my Magic on as well as any lessons I may have learned in the process.

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My Love/Hate Relationship with Pucatrade

If you are at all interested in Magic you’ve probably heard mention of a word.  The word started as a whisper not all that long ago and only hipsters and the most tapped in of Magic player were aware of it.  Over time, the word has grown to the point where it isn’t a whisper but is now more a roar.  Everyone who plays Magic knows that this is now a thing…and that thing is Pucatrade. I love Pucatrade! But in that same breath, I hate Pucatrade.  How can this be?  Let’s have a look at Pucatrade and why it can such a blessing and a curse.

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The REAL best card in Standard

Co CoA couple of weeks ago Wumpus wrote an article right here on MTGYOU about the best card in Standard. He came down to the conclusion that Ugin, the Spirit Dragon was the best card in Standard, and it is hard to refute his logic. However, Standard changes and the format has evolved I can only conclude that Ugin isn’t all that he’s cracked up to be. I think there is a new best card in Standard. Say hello to the new best card in Standard: Collected Company.

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Bruce’s Combat Step- Pauper League

PauperHey folks! I hope you have started 2016 off well and are in full  swing for the new year.  I want to apologize for not adding much to the site  for a while.  It’s been a slow start to the year for me, but I’m getting things back in line and am starting to get back into the business of writing again.  With that said, I wanted to add my two cents to the recent combat phase that the boys were going on about because I too have been battling some Magic.

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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
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)
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