Grab Bag!

Magic is pretty sweet right now, and has a lot of cool things competing for our attention – Vintage Masters, Magic 2015, Conspiracy, what’s not to love? Bennie shares his thoughts on a wide variety of things that have struck his fancy lately…

I’ve got a ton of different things Magic-related I’d like to write about this week, so I figured a grab-bag style of article would be in order. Hopefully I’ll touch on a little bit of something you might find interesting…


I got to do another Conspiracy last Friday, and boy was it epic — we voted on doing one big twelve-player draft rather than breaking it into two six-player drafts, and it was a load of fun. The previous week I didn’t end up drafting many Conspiracies, but I the end of the table I was on didn’t seem to value them very high so I got quite a few of them passed to me and ended up snagging a bunch and a decent deck besides. Here’s what I played:

Stave Off
Reito Lantern
Warmonger’s Chariot
Courier Hawk
Moment of Heroism
Plea for Power
Kor Chant
2 Vow of Duty
3 Crookclaw Transmuter
Canal Dredger
Fact or Fiction
Coercive Portal
4 Custodi Squire
Lurking Automaton
Jetting Glasskite
2 Shoreline Ranger
8 Island
9 Plains

The Lurking Automaton was drafted as a 7/7. The Conspiracies were: Secret Summoning (Custodi Squire), Brago’s Favor (Custodi Squire), Muzzio’s Preparations (Custodi Squire), Muzzio’s Preparations (Crookclaw Transmuter), Double Stroke (Plea for Power), Sentinel Dispatch.

Yep, so my four Custodi Squires were each 4/4 flying Squadron Hawk Eternal Witnesses for four mana, and with two ways to put cards from my graveyard back into my library, I had pretty iron-clad inevitability if I lived long enough.

Playing Coercive Portal twice was pretty sweet. I end up winning a long, grindy game in the first round by a squeaker after everyone exhausted their cards nullifying the Custodi shenanigans I was attempting to pull. Yes, there are some gross decks you can pull together in draft, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how balanced this set is: even if someone’s got a crazy deck the tools are there to stop it if people work together to do so.

In the second round I slapped a Vow of Duty on a troublesome flier controlled by one opponent who then went on to do a lot of damage to the other two players with it over the course of the game. One of those guys gets a series of poor draws and I went ahead and took him down rather than wait for him to draw out of his slump. I’m in reasonable shape, though the guy with the Vow on the troublesome flier has built up an impressive army along with his bomb Altar of Dementia. I’ve got a Reito Lantern in play to prevent it from being a total kill for me, but the other guy is pretty much dead to it. Altar Boy is low on life and being cautious, but I’m pretty sure I can figure out a way to deal enough damage to kill him if he blinks… but then the other guy left standing, who’s in a position where either of his two opponents can kill him if we want to, decides to make a move. I guess he sensed that I was feeling pretty confident so he came at me with Compulsive Research, copied with the Conspiracy Double Stroke, and played another Compulsive Research with all spells and copies targeting me. Yep, I just drew 12 cards with 11 cards left in my library, but luckily I had three mana open to activate my Reito Lantern. He then plays a spell with Parley — bam, I lose! I had to shake his hand for quite the spectacular kill there.


Brett Christopher asked in the comments of one of my columns if I’d provide a post-Journey into Nyx update to the RUG deck that I’d had some tournament success with. Truth be told I haven’t played it in a while, but I’m happy to provide the current decklist which I might be playing tonight if I make it out to Friday Night Magic:

I like the singleton Sigiled Starfish, which is more useful sometimes than a second or third Kiora’s Follower.

I can’t promise this is a well-tuned machine, but I like where it’s at currently. The goal is to just basically draw the crap out of cards from the top of your deck and let the card advantage overwhelm your opponent.


Sometimes I feel so nice, good lord

I jump back, I wanna kiss myself
I’ve got soul, huh, and I’m super bad, hey

–James Brown, Call Me Super Bad

When I first started playing Magic, the thing that hooked me were big, bad creatures. In the first starter deck I opened, I saw Force of Nature staring back at me. A couple years later, Lhurgoyf was one of my favorite multiplayer cards. I loved giant creatures that commanded respect on the battlefield. An old friend of mine sketched out a cartoon for me once that illustrated the problem with playing these cards. On the first page was a huge monster raising up and looking intimidating, saying “I am the great and powerful Lhurgoyf!” Behind him was a small, shadowy dude that was reaching out to tap him on the shoulder. The next pane was a close up of the shadowy dude with a mailman’s hat holding up a Magic card and saying “Terror-gram for Mr. Lhurgoyf!” Cheap, efficient creature removal was ever a thorn in the side of countless big, bad creatures over the years.

When Wizards debuted the core set Titan cycle, creature fans around the world rejoiced! These big, bad creatures commanded respect on the battlefield… but even if they got handled by cheap, efficient creature removal, you still had already benefitted from the enters-the-battlefield effect. Still, these bad boys had been pushed to the point where they pretty much dominated the Standard format, trumping just about any other potentially playable card that cost six or more mana. If you could play a Titan in your deck but weren’t, you were probably doing it wrong. Primeval Titan was so good it got banned in Commander. Wizards concluded that the Titans were probably a bit too good for Standard and retired them from the core set after two printings, and we haven’t seen their like since… until now! We even get a bonus artifact one in honor of the old “sixth Titan” Wurmcoil Engine.

I love how these guys are “fixed” Titans — they are obviously a step down from the power level of the original Titans, and yet they are still pushed enough to be exciting! 6/6 creatures for six mana with a static ability, and if you get to untap with them you’ve got a potent activated ability to sink your mana into. But what a great design to make sure they still have an impact if they get killed before then, since you can still buy the activated ability once from the graveyard.

The first card that came to my mind when looking at the Souls was Prophet of Kruphix. Notice that three of the Souls’ activated abilities cost five mana, which is the same cost as Prophet of Kruphix. Assuming you’ve somehow pitched copies of the Souls into your graveyard for profit along the way, you can cast Prophet, untap during your opponent’s turn and be ready to fire off a Soul’s ability, or cast a creature at instant speed, or play some other instant spell. It’s awesome to have lots of options in Magic! My hunch is that the Soul of New Phyrexia will be a godsend for those of us who love our permanents so much.

One such card that likes pitching creatures for profit is Lotleth Troll. He’s pretty much lived in the shadow of Pack Rat lately but I think we might have to reevaluate that, especially in light of Soul of Innistrad. How about that crazy activated ability, getting back three creatures that you could pitch again? That’s good for seven +1/+1 counters on your 2/1 regenerating trampling Troll.

How about Prognostic Sphinx? He’s already dang near impossible to kill with a targeted spell, if you could pitch a Soul of New Phyrexia and make him indestructible to Supreme Verdict too? Oh man, that’s cooking with fire!

Let’s also not neglect to recognize the cool flavor of these as “souls” of the various planes that have been popular Magic destinations over the years. Nostalgia for most of us, and a curiosity gateway for new players who might not have otherwise heard of these places.


In case you missed it, @kcsnipesalters on Twitter is doing some awesome alters of the new Squirrel token. Here’s a few to wet your whistle, but be sure to go over and check out his twitpics for more:

Jackhammer Squirrel!
Squirrels can ski?


Over on Twitter @JohnJr_77388 asked me if I had any updates to my Phage Commander deck since she’d been changed in a recent errata update from being a Zombie Minion to an Avatar Minion. I originally wrote about her back in 2012 (Commander with Kid Gloves) when I realized that Sundial of the Infinite gave us a third way to actually be able to play Phage from the Command Zone without killing ourselves. Common wisdom is that Phage is “unplayable” as a Commander because she would normally kill you if she comes into play from anywhere other than your hand (such as the Command Zone), but I think having three ways to circumvent that gives her big style points. I haven’t played her in a while, but with Theros block’s devotion to black perhaps I should revisit her soon.

Anyway, I originally put seven cards in the deck to take advantage of a little Zombie tribal since Phage was a brief member of that tribe (Unholy Grotto, Stronghold Assassin, Undead Gladiator, Corpse Harvester, Zombie Master Graveborn Zombie, Withered Wretch), but given her new Avatar Minion status I’d cut those cards and add these instead:

Cut: Unholy Grotto, Add: Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx

Withered Wretch… Ah, what the heck, let’s keep the Wretch. It’s just good.

Cut: Stronghold Assassin, Undead Gladiator, Zombie Master, Add: Hero’s Downfall, Underworld Connections, Loxodon Warhammer

Cut: Graveborn Zombie, Add: Erebos, God of the Dead

Cut: Corpse Harvester, Add: Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon

So there you go… man, there sure is a lot of cool Magic stuff going on! I didn’t even get a chance to write about my Vintage Masters draft, where I nabbed a Timetwister — woo hoo! Conspiracy, Magic 2015, Vintage Masters — what new cards have got you excited?

New to Commander?

If you’re just curious about the format, building your first deck, or trying to take your Commander deck up a notch, here are some handy links:

My current Commander decks
(and links to decklists):

Karona, False God (God Pack)

Child of Alara (Land Ho!)

Doran, the Siege Tower (All My Faves in One Deck!)

Karador, Ghost Chieftain (my Magic Online deck)

Karador, Ghost Chieftain (Shadowborn Apostles & Demons)

King Macar, the Gold-Cursed (GREED!)

Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind ( Chuck’s somewhat vicious deck)

Roon of the Hidden Realm (Mean Roon)

Skeleton Ship (Fun with -1/-1 counters)

Vorel of the Hull Clade (Never Trust the Simic)

Previous Commander decks currently on hiatus

Anax and Cymede (Heroic Co-Commanders)

Aurelia, the Warleader ( plus Hellkite Tyrant shenanigans)

Borborygmos Enraged (69 land deck)

Bruna, Light of Alabaster (Aura-centric Voltron)

Damia, Sage of Stone ( Ice Cauldron shenanigans)

Emmara Tandris (No Damage Tokens)

Gahiji, Honored One (Enchantment Ga-hijinks)

Geist of Saint Traft (Voltron-ish)

Ghave, Guru of Spores ( Melira Combo)

Glissa Sunseeker (death to artifacts!)

Glissa, the Traitor ( undying artifacts!)

Grimgrin, Corpse-Born (Necrotic Ooze Combo)

Jeleva, Nephalia’s Scourge ( Suspension of Disbelief)

Johan (Cat Breath of the Infinite)

Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer (replacing Brion Stoutarm in Mo’ Myrs)

Karona, False God (Vows of the False God)

Lord of Tresserhorn (ZOMBIES!)

Marath, Will of the Wild ( Wild About +1/+1 Counters)

Melira, Sylvok Outcast ( combo killa)

Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker ( Outside My Comfort Zone with Milling

Nefarox, Overlord of Grixis (evil and Spike-ish)

Nicol Bolas (Kicking it Old School)

Nylea, God of the Hunt ( Devoted to Green)

Oloro, Ageless Ascetic (Life Gain)

Oona, Queen of the Fae (by reader request)

Phage the Untouchable ( actually casting Phage from Command Zone!)

Phelddagrif (Mean Hippo)

Polukranos, World Eater (Monstrous!)

Reaper King (Taking Advantage of the new Legend Rules)

Riku of Two Reflections (

steal all permanents with
Deadeye Navigator + Zealous Conscripts


Roon of the Hidden Realm ( Strolling Through Value Town)

Ruhan of the Fomori (lots of equipment and infinite attack steps)

Savra, Queen of the Golgari ( Demons)

Shattergang Brothers (Breaking Boards)

Sigarda, Host of Herons ( Equipment-centric Voltron)

Skullbriar, the Walking Grave ( how big can it get?)

Sliver Overlord (Featuring the new M14 Slivers!)

Thelon of Havenwood ( Campfire Spores)

Varolz, the Scar-Striped (scavenging goodness)

Vorosh, the Hunter ( proliferaTION)

Xenagos, God of Revels (Huge Beatings)

Yeva, Nature’s Herald (living at instant speed)