Casual Friday-Planechase Edition

Today marks the release of the latest in casual Magic: Planechase 2012. It also marks the return of Casual Friday where I will be looking at the most fun casual cards every week. This week I thought I’d give the rundown on the 4 planechase decks that will be available to play. They all look very cool and are reminiscent of planes old and new. Each one focuses on one or two abilities and look to be a lot of fun, especially with a a few additions.

Chaos Reigns

‘Chaos’ is definitely the best way to describe this deck which makes the most use of all 5 colors and the cascade mechanic from Shards of Alara. The decks ramps up the mana to play tons of 2-for-1 cascade spells. As it is it plays a pretty simple strategy that uses cascade to play more spells than the opponent and gradually gain the advantage. Of course, the deck also comes with an assortment of planes to add even more chaos to the battlefield.

This deck seems to really embrace the idea of chaos, perhaps a little too much. All the planes look pretty neat, especially OrzhovaOrzhova which will return all creatures from the graveyard to the battlefield. But that plane, and many others, don’t really help the strategy of the deck which is cascading into multiple spells each turn.  My favorite plane from this deck would have to be Windriddle PalacesWindriddle Palaces. It’s like Future SightFuture Sight that everyone can play, giving you more options for cards to play or a hint at what card you would play with cascade.

But Cascade is a pretty strong ability on its own so creatures with it don’t really have many other strong abilities. You’ll have to rely a lot on your planes or other spells to really pull of some cool stuff. A lot of creatures in this deck do have flying though, with evasion being the best way to deal damage other than a Mass MutinyMass Mutiny to end the game.

Like any preconstructed deck it could use some new cards to make things more interesting. A couple planes, Izzet Steam MazeIzzet Steam Maze and MinamoMinamo, could really help you get the most out of casting multiple spells with cascade. For the deck itself, it could really use some stronger spells to make cascade really useful. It’s hard put some order into the deck but you can at least make some guarantees by controlling the type of cards you have for two mana or less. If they’re all kill spells then you know that every time you play something like Shardless AgentShardless Agent you get to kill something. It’s a neat trick that could be made the focus of the deck by adding more 3 mana cascade spells and more strong 2 mana spells.

Night of the Ninja

A lot of people have been fascinated with ninja and I know a few people that really liked their brief appearance in the Kamigawa set. Starting long after Kamigawa, I never had the chance to check out this neat ability. Betrayers of Kamigawa sets were never available at my local card shop. With 2 brand new ninja this deck includes all 10 cards with Ninjutsu, along with plenty of cards to help them take out your opponents.

The Ninjutsu ability allows these creatures to swap replace an attacking creature if your opponent declared no blockers. The ninja comes in unblocked as well, allowing you to sneak some damage and a pretty strong ability after damage is dealt. Thus this deck is centered around two key mechanics: having unblocked creatures, and creatures with “enter the battlefield” or “leaves the battlefield” effects. With cards like Baleful StrixBaleful Strix you can easily draw a card from playing it, fly over defenders, Ninjutsu something awesome into play, then playing the Strix again to draw another card.

Most of the planes in this deck do real well with this strategy. The top planes for this deck are probably TakenumaTakenuma, drawing you cards when you Ninjutsu, and Bloodhill BastionBloodhill Bastion, giving your ninja double strike giving you double their effects. Other planes are great as well, but I’m not sure why the Zephyr MazeZephyr Maze was included in this deck. While the flying creatures in here would become a threat, there are only a few and they should be swapped with Ninjutsu after attacking. This also makes the smaller ninja pretty useless as their abilities won’t activate if they don’t deal damage.

As for the regular 60 card deck, I feel it’s pretty well put together aside from a lack of power that comes with all preconstructed decks. I think the biggest weakness with this deck is the inclusion of all the ninja, of which only a few are really great. The most versatile are probably the classic Ninja of the Deep HoursNinja of the Deep Hours and the new Sakashima’s StudentSakashima’s Student. The strongest, particularly Silent-Blade OniSilent-Blade Oni, can be difficult to play with their high cost. It could probably also use a couple more cards that make the ninja difficult to block once they are on the battlefield. Whispersilk CloakWhispersilk Cloak and Vela the Night-CladVela the Night-Clad are the only cards in this deck that help with that.

Primordial Hunger

This deck uses another ability from Alara: Devour. It’s clearly a JundJund deck, even including the card in the planar deck. The deck also throws in a bit of Selesnya from Ravnica too, making creatures more than just the means to obtain the strongest creatures. It’s still not the Jund that dominated standard during Shards of Alara, but it should prove pretty fun.

The planes look to be pretty neat, with Jund giving every creature devour 5 and providing some token generation. This feels like a really strong ability when combined with this deck. MycolothMycoloth and Preyseizer DragonPreyseizer Dragon really benefit on Jund, really pumping their devour power. The inclusion of the Selesnya Loft GardensSelesnya Loft Gardens is also sure to be a big hit. This plane is a Doubling SeasonDoubling Season on it’s own, with the chaos ability also doubling mana.

It’s going to be real tempting to wait for Selesnya to appear to make all your tokens and devour all the creatures. There are a lot of cards in this deck that are real exciting for a player like me that wants huge game-ending effects. Some great cards include Warstorm SurgeWarstorm Surge and Hellion EruptionHellion Eruption. They are lots of fun to use on their own but together with some tokens the game is over with 5 creatures. The great thing about casual is that this is a combo that is a bit easier to pull off. The Kilnspire DistrictKilnspire District can also help provide the mana for these awesome combos.

This deck also comes with my favorite new card in this set: Thromok the InsatiableThromok the Insatiable. It’s a simple card, a 0/0 with devour X. His power increases exponentially so you want to devour everything once you play him. This deck doesn’t look like it has enough token generation to make him more than a 25/25 at max, but the potential for awesome is there. He might make a really cool Commander for a red-green deck.

Savage Auras

Enchantments are the focus of this deck with a lot of the coolest enchantment cards from Zendikar. and some great new ones. The deck is light on creatures and heavy on enchantments but a lot of those have Totem Armor, including the new Felidar UmbraFelidar Umbra. This enchantment is easily moveable allowing you to protect any creature. It can also be used to move this enchantment to something like Bramble ElementalBramble Elemental or Krond the Dawn-CladKrond the Dawn-Clad that may show up later in the game. Felidar Umbra can keep your creatures alive at instant speed and can protect you with Lifelink.

For planes, the real star of this deck is AkoumAkoum, giving all enchantments flash and allowing you to destroy creatures without an enchantment for its chaos ability. In this deck there is nothing better than surprising an opponent by blocking than throwing down a Spirit MantleSpirit Mantle or Indrik UmbraIndrik Umbra to take out an attacker. For those that like putting all their enchantments on one creature, Astral ArenaAstral Arena should be real great.

Like all of these preconstructed decks there are some weird additions to the planar deck as well. KessigKessig is thrown in here even though there are no werewolves anywhere in this set. It’s a little weird, but it’s also nice that there are planes that can be used in decks with more specific themes.

This deck is probably my favorite overall in this set and would be my first pick at the release event. However each deck has something really awesome, including a new mythic rare legendary creature for fans of Commander. What do you guys think about the new set and the new cards?

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