After drafting triple ISD roughly a zillion times, I’m starting to tire of it. The set is great, and I imagine that Dark Ascension will only add to the success of Innistrad when it arrives in a few weeks. Until then, however, I need to occupy my time with something new before I burnout on the whole block. At the same time, I have been playing more and more MTGO at night, building wacky ISD Block or Standard decks. As mentioned a few weeks ago by several writers, there is untapped fun out there on MTGO, particularly when the ‘Block’ is so small, and highly specialized decks can have success. Just as an example, I spent like $20 on some random cards, and now have a block deck with Stromkirk Noble, Invisible Stalker, Silver-Inlaid Dagger, and Spectral Flight. I’ve actually played against someone in the 2 man queues playing almost the same deck, so I know I’m not that crazy for thinking it up. I could also pick up a weird four color Spider Spawning/Unburial Rites deck that cost me something like $10 to make, and has several 3-1 and 4-0 results in the daily events. I’m going to talk a little about all three ISD decks I’m running on MTGO next week(if I’m not too busy getting married :P), but if you don’t wanna wait, these two articles do a fair job of talking block. Incidentally, both articles are free to view, so lucky you:
Besides ISD funsies, I’ve become totally fascinated by a strange format that only exists on MTGO. A collated Masques Block pack, in case you are like how I was and have no idea, is a normal booster containing a smattering of cards from the entire Mercadian Masques block. It is truly a frankenstein of magic cards, and makes for some VERY strange drafts. Since I’ve always considered myself someone who can quickly pick up a format and hopefully gain a short term advantage over someone else who is just learning the block, I wanted to try out drafting this set to pass the time and maybe gain some extra tickets if I happen to open a sweet rare, some of which sell even to bots at 40+ tickets. These drafts also only require 3 MB packs or 12 tickets, making them a little cheaper to run. Sadly, they only offer 4-3-2-2 versions, so it’s pretty hard to go infinite, but it’s easy to cheaply play as losing in the finals is no longer -$2. I chose my third draft to post here, not just because I lost the first two in round one, but because I just didn’t understand how the games play out yet. I watched Conley’s one draft on CF( http://www.channelfireball.com/articles/channel-conley-masques-block-draft-1/ ), and I’m not convinced he really knew what was going on either. Sure, you need a curve of sorts, and maybe a combat trick or two, but decks were just different then. Hell, creatures were flat different then. Three mana 3/3 with drawbacks were amazing. A 1/1 for one with a relatively weak ability that requires tapping and discarding a card can be a game breaker. Counterspell, ACTUAL Counterspell, is a common. It’s a very different world, as evidenced by the draft below.
See how BAD most of these cards are? It really slows the pace of a game down. As shown below, you can almost deck someone without any milling effects at all if your stuff all just neutralizes theirs. I considered Close Quarters, Fault Riders, Rushwood Herbalist, Ensnare, and Rhystic Scrying here. Real card drawing is something I dearly miss in ISD block(see Altar’s Reap), so I couldn’t pass it up, though it’s hard to say if Close Quarters was better, since one damage is very relevant when dealing with spellshapers and other annoying stuff.
Pack 1 pick 2:
The same reasoning applies here. Being able to ping is a long lost art in Magic, and having a decent butt makes it a pseudo removal spell as well as a threat. Note that this pack only has like three other playables in Tidal Bore, Deepwood Tantiv, and Keldon Berserker. Also realize how much better all the Prophecy cards like Berserker are now that mana burn is gone. Zerk is a 5/3 for four on offense, which is WAY above the curve in this block.
Pack 1 pick 3:
In my first two drafts, I very quickly learned that you should never pass removal. I understand that is sort of the standard in most people’s minds, but the reality is that in modern sets like ISD, often times a weak removal spell is not as good as a solid threat because of the speed of the format and the ability to just run over or overpower someone with a flood of dudes. Lunge doesn’t seems very good, but when you see removal, you take it, even over two excellent blue fliers. Again, I cannot state it enough times that in Masques, board position is often thought of in terms of control of a game, NOT having a super fast clock, and Lunge helps turn the tide, while a dude might actually do nothing thanks to a stupid 1/1 like Charm Peddler or Trickster Mage.
Pack 1 pick 4:
I was worried this was a bad pick. Oh man, was I wrong. This guy was insane. Opponents essentially played under Sphere of Resistance, and I could always just tap out to block if I wanted. 4/4 is titanic here, and I would slam this dude first pick if I saw him again…but maybe not over Lunge or Thunderclap. The Blue and Red are coming, while aside from a Vendetta, White and Black are absent, which is predictable because of Mercenaries and Rebels. It seems so overdrafted that the only common Rebel I would first pick to justify the risk/reward is Defiant Falcon. The others just aren’t good enough since the chance of actually BEING that deck are so slim.
Pack 1 pick 5:
Holy crap, get the hell outta here. Who can even beat this card? I don’t relish the thought of playing White, but if a color gets cut in pack 2, at least we know where to go from here. Yes, all it does is neutralize a clock, exactly the thing I said doesn’t matter, but control of a board often entails having the ground locked up and one guy getting through for a pittance each turn. This card actually lets you go over the top powerwise and actually clocks them with so much life they can’t kill you before they get decked. It is a must answer one way or another. The best part about this pick is that I’m only giving up Outrigger, a card I’ve decided I just don’t like despite it being 5/5.
Pack 1 pick 6:
This must have been an amazing pack. Charm Peddler, Crusher, Cackling Witch, and Deepwood Ghoul, all solid dudes, are still here. Even Saprazzan Heir might be ok somewhere, since they are very unlikely to spend a valuable removal spell on it, and will have to block eventually. I took Crusher because it’s a large man mostly, but I worried about maybe being U/B with Lunge or something like that. I even thought about Flay, a card that generally sucks but has totally blown me out before.
Pack 1 pick 7:
I don’t think I like this card anymore. I had a deck with three of them, and I could never finish because I lost board presence. Maybe in a control deck it can help push across that last six damage, but if I had to pick again, I might seriously pick the Sprite since it actually sticks around.
Pack 1 pick 8:
Wow, what an incredible gift! A stalemate breaker and bomb neutralizer. It also goes amazingly well with Seal of Removal, Withdraw, and Waterfront Bouncer. I hesitate to say it’s a clear Blue signal since people don’t value things the same way here, but I’ll take it regardless.
Pack 1 pick 9:
This card is actually very interesting. It has the obvious versatility with spellshapers, and is a general combat trick that is free(and thus difficult to read someone for, something that people have to be aware of playing this block). It can also serve as a one time mana boost if you miss a drop. In the coverage, I’ll speak on how great this card is at length.
Pack 1 pick 11:
I don’t recall Flowstone Strike being in this pack. I would have considered trying to table the Giant since people will read the ability and scoff. The land is usually irrelevant as long as you don’t run him out on four, and he’s a big man to boot. I’m not super happy with the pick, but I could table something like the Runner.
Pack 2 pick 2:
It’s too late to swap now. Arrest is great, but splashing isn’t easy, and even if games go long, you don’t want spells stranded in your hand. The Peddler helps assemble a little Voltron action with my larger creatures, who can go over the top and grind out a win.
Pack 2 pick 3:
Easy pick over Seal of Removal. I’m not a tempo deck, and the ability to counterspell with no mana up is unreal. It also gives you fuel for spellshapers or a Rhystic Scrying that an opponent pays for.
Pack 2 pick 4:
Shock Troops sucks pretty bad now with the modern ruleset, and it’s likely I should have just taken Gush here, but a four mana Shock than might be able to attack is better than no Shock at all.
Pack 2 pick 5:
Daze is almost as good as Thwart, but Kris Mage is a beating. She turns all those extra lands into damage, and kills most dangerous spellshapers dead. It’s an obvious pick since the pack is dry aside from Daze, but I mention it because it was actually the 3rd best card in my whole deck during the rounds behind Veteran Brawlers and Rhystic Scrying, and it came 5th pick.
Pack 2 pick 6:
I remember playing Thwart and Foil in the same deck back in the day. It was a pretty frustrating ‘combo’ to play against, and honestly, playing either for four mana is fine. All I’m giving up is Flaming Sword for a control deck.
After some thought, I should have taken Laccolith Rig. Citadel of Pain was chosen only because it could enable my Scrying, and keep spellshapers and other annoyances off my back during my turn. I could enchant my opponents creature with Rig, and it essentially cannot attack anymore. Rig is actually probably a fine ‘removal’ spell overall.
Red Men hate the Lawbringer.
Flowstone Strike should have been the pick here, even though it wouldn’t have made the final decklist.
These other cards suck, and Rager was actually awesome.
Nothing much to say here. It’s like taking Brimstone Volley from a weak pack. If it wasn’t here I would have taken…uh, Drake Hatchling I guess. Good thing it was, huh?
My deck cannot beat this card, period. However, I gave serious thought about Searing Wind. In the end, I decided my spellshapers would use the excess lands I drew, but it would have been an ok choice.
Could have been the Hornclaw, but just like last pick, I have uses for my excess lands, and this guy blocks very well in conjunction with my Barrier and Kris Mage.
Unfortunate, but the removal spell is far more important than even Counterspell.
Woo! This card is clearly underrated in Limited. It makes everything you have into a Fireball of sorts. Getting it 5th pick is a HUGE gift. Perhaps the pack was really stacked since there are two solid spallshapers hanging around .
The lowly 1/1 Cutpurse won out for curve considerations. It can be pretty mean early on, but I wouldn’t fault someone for picking the Kitty Giant.
I didn’t respect the Ridgeline Racer, and this creature is just bad outside of letting my Brawlers get in there.
Pack 3 pick 11:
- 2 Trickster Mage
- 1 Kris Mage
- 1 Cloudskate
- 1 Kyren Glider
- 1 Veteran Brawlers
- 1 Balloon Peddler
- 1 Ridgeline Racer
- 1 Rishadan Cutpurse
- 1 Hired Giant
- 1 Jolting Merfolk
- 1 Lightning Hounds
- 1 Shock Troops
- 1 Stinging Barrier
- 1 Flowstone Crusher
- 1 Tidal Bore
- 1 Lunge
- 1 Rhystic Lightning
- 1 Thunderclap
- 1 Rhystic Scrying
- 1 Foil
- 1 Thwart
- 1 Puffer Extract
- 9 Island
- 8 Mountain
I really wish I recorded my drafts; these games were epic, complicated, and difficult to recall in great detail. Still, I’ll try to recall some useful bits.
In Round One I played against G/W. Game one went an astounding 23 turns, with both of us drawing a ton of land, which was really important since my opponent played Pangosaur(6/6 for GG2 that bounces when a player plays a land). He didn’t realize I could tap out to block with Brawlers and lost a key creature early, and after that I bided my time, taking a few hits from Pangosaur while I tried like hell to draw a Counterspell for the inevitable Wild Might that was coming when I went to double block the Dinosaur. I drew Thwart, and blew him out by making him feel safe by tapping down to block with Brawler and Thwarting some lands up to feed my two spellshapers. I finally drew Puffer Extract and killed him in two attack steps.
Game two was a different beast. He opened on a small rebel chain, while I had Kris Mage, Trickster Mage, and Stinging Barrier. With him at 18 and me at 15, he played Squallmonger. Over the next five turns, we jockeyed for life position, me using my pingers to get ahead. Once I was ahead, and him with no cards in hand, he drew Soothing Rains or something, and gained six life, putting him way ahead again. As the Monger took out three or four life a turn from us both, I tried to catch up, and even after accidentally throwing away a land to a Trickster activation that didn’t win the game like I thought(I had calculated he would use Monger, but then saw that if I attacked, he wouldn’t do it until he swung back and took the lead.), I finally drew a Jolting Merfolk and put the game away with us having a combined 4 minutes on the clock. Whew!
Round two was equally exciting, but for the life of me I cannot recall how I lost game one, and in fact, I can’t recall if I lost in two or three games. Either way, the key game involved me mulling to five on the play, opening with Kyren Glider, and him playing some 1/3 flyer that was free if he had a Forest and I had an Island, so it was sort of a mull to four. When things looked the worst, I drew Scrying and suddenly was back in the game. His U/G dude deck seemed to have a clunky draw, and I was actually catching up with Ridgeline Racer and the Glider, although I F2’d past firebreathing for two one turn, and it would bite me later. I had been thinking the whole game that he had some kind of Counterspell, and after ripping a few times to chump the now 2/4 flyer and swing back with the Glider, I was at 1, and him at two. I still only had two Islands and a zillion Mountains, holding Thwart, when I drew the Tidal Bore that could win the game. He had just played his second Island last turn. Here, I made a terrible error that I blame on just not having used these mechanics enough. I failed to float mana off my Island when I returned it to Tidal Bore, thinking somehow I would be able to replay it before he had a chance to cast anything. He promptly Misdirected it and I died with Thwart in hand. So I made two terrible errors to lose that game, but all in all the deck was a total blast to play. It might seem really random, but these Collated Masques drafts seem really skill intensive with all the small decisions to make, and instants form your opponent not always costing mana. I’d like to do more, but I’m getting married in seven days, and I have SWToR to play as well. See you all next week if I squeeze in an ISD post.