A long time ago (about 20 years ago) in a galaxy far, far away (the outskirts of Atlanta, GA), I started playing a then-little known game called Magic The Gathering. Since then I have been dealt a few Fireballs, or uh curveballs, been Lost in the Woods, had some Harrowing and Profound Journeys and eventually found and follow my own Tranquil Path. One of two favourite constants, besides my fantastic significant other, has been Magic; the other is cooking, but that’s another blog!

Magic has been so constant that I have decks that are almost as old as some of my current playgroup. I think have around 100 decks built currently; at one point, that number was upwards of 120. So yeah, I like to play and I have collected a few cards over the years.

As I’ve been playing for so long, I have a bit of experience with a wide variety of deck and play styles. But I feel I need to get this out of the way – I’m not a huge fan of tournaments. I don’t have the right mind set – the crush ‘em quick style. I have built a fair share of Aggro decks that could potentially compete. Unfortunately, I like to play with all of my cards and I do mean all of my cards, even the banned ones!

So over time, I have come to realize that I love utility cards for their value in combo decks especially in large multiplayer games. I buy a box of cards with almost every expansion and the cards I don’t want (high dollar tournament staples), I trade for the long-game utility cards. You see I play combo – the five-colour 85-card behemoth kind of combo! And there are cards that are staples in my Utility Box.

Favourites like Howling Mine or Mana Flare/Heartbeat of Spring will see my trade quicker than a Serum Visions. I once purchased 10 Mines and within five minutes all of them disappeared into different decks.

So it’s rare for me to not have some sort of mana or draw acceleration in my decks and that’s what I love to see. While I play combo, I also realize that I need those resources potentially quicker than others do. I can’t have enough cards like Rites of Flourishing or even something as simple as the common dual lands like Izzet Boilerworks, which happens to be a pairing I play in multiple decks.

Another aspect of cards that I highly value for my Utility box are the cards that have triggered abilities/effects that cost you little to no mana. Again, those Mines and Flares rock; pay once and they keep on giving.

Then using the Mine and Flare, I could draw and play into a combo of Pyrohemia with a Stuffy Doll and a Death Pits of Rath. I would use the Pyrohemia much quicker than just about any other mass damage effect spell. With one mana, you wipe the board turn after turn while doing damage to everyone! The Pits were bad enough, but add in a Dingus Staff and you will definitely have a target on your forehead.

My Utility Box loves Tribal as well. My favourite tribe are those fiery, fantastic, ferocious beasts of formidable knowledge and carnage. And don’t get me started on my EDH version, which has most of the OG Elder Dragons like Nicol Bolas back before he became, er sparky?!

Dragons are sexy and usually multi-coloured, which means I need mana fixing and fast. Of the four Dragon decks I have, I can hard cast all of the dragons because I have the mana fixers. I also have stuff like Sneak Attack and Zirilan of the Claw to drop dragons specifically into play. But some of my fave tribal Utility cards include Urza’s Incubator, Krosan Drover or Door of Destinies.

Now you know a little about my play style, however you are asking yourself “why does this matter?” I will be taking a look at the new cards as they come out to see ways to break them with older cards in all of their combo-rific glory for the Strictly Casual player. This Exploration will hopefully garner a few cool combos from the hallowed halls of cards gone by and maybe we’ll find a new Utility card or two for the Utility Box.

— Nicol Billas

Originally published April 1, 2015 @ amusengames.ca